The Universal Reformer: Elephant vs. Tendon Stretch

The Universal Reformer: Elephant vs. Tendon Stretch

In this week's post I put 2 Reformer exercises to the test:

The Elephant and the Tendon Stretch.

These 2 exercises are often related to each other and I wanted to see just how helpful they are to work on in tandem.

I'm curious.

Hold on tight to your Pilates mantra…

The Universal Reformer: Elephant vs. Tendon Stretch

Let's take a look at the key players…

1. The Elephant

One of the first exercises we learn on the Reformer, the Elephant is part of our fundamental exercises.

The skill we cultivate in the Elephant will carry us forward into more complex exercises like the Tendon Stretch, Snake/Twist and even into circus-caliber exercises like the Flying Squirrel.

Hey, that sounds important (it is).

2. Tendon Stretch

The Tendon Stretch shares the same body shape as Elephant. The points of contact with the apparatus (hands and feet only) are also the same as Elephant.

However the starting position of the Tendon Stretch is decidedly precarious.

That's the not-so-basic part. Usually you don't learn to do Tendon Stretch for a while.

While the skill of the Elephant is paramount to closing the carriage in the Tendon Stretch, the 2 exercises are different animals.

Now let's wrangle them.

Elephant vs. Tendon Stretch


The good news… this is a straightforward and symmetrical exercise.

The bad news… with regard to the shape of the back, it's not the best vantage point to see what you're doing back there.

Tendon Stretch

The good news… the shape is familiar.

The bad news… the starting position is precarious. The position of the foot is not fully supported.

Also the whole not being able to see what's going on up there on your back… that too.

Spoiler Alert!

The battle was epic for me. So much so that I just couldn't stop myself from adding in a teensy bit more.

There's an extra part in the video below that I found helpful and illuminating.

Can you guess?

Elephant and Tendon Stretch also share a 1 leg variation!

You know how much I love those.

Enjoy this epic battle of 2 worthy Pilates exercises. 

Here's another help for that pesky tendon Stretch with 1 leg. How does that leg get out there anyway?

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  1. Thank you Andrea this is very helpful!! can’t wait to implement it!

  2. Yay love this too Andrea…. Just what I have been practicing ????????

  3. YES! These Epic Battles are going to be the bee’s knees! I agree with your findings! One Leg Elephant, tough but can find the connection and keep everything “sorta” in control and in the same line as you reach one leg out (must keep toes relaxed and pointed, I always want to flex the foot!). One Leg Tendon Stretch, completely lose the connection to the carriage with one leg on and the other leg…where did it go!?! So, if one is losing the connection to the carriage (like, I feel like I can’t bring the carriage all the way in because the leg “pressure” is gone) is that lack of center or more lack of bum? Or maybe a shift in overall position? Hmmm. Must keep battling OLE vs OLTS. EPIC thanks! xo

    • I knew you would enjoy this one Corrie!

      In answer to your question of what goes away when we take a leg away – I would say the apparatus gives you support and assistance to find your muscles. When you take the support of the apparatus away – by reaching one leg away – you must create an “imaginary apparatus” to “push into.” So you are continuing your connection into the apparatus even though it is no longer there. I find it is helpful to will yourself not to shift anything side to side when taking a leg away. And you are right, it is the bum which runs away the fastest… LOL Thanks for battling with me and stay tuned for the next installment of this series 🙂 xo

      • You’re RIGHT!! Ok, I def. need to work on this but I fiddled again with this battle. First I scooted the reformer closer to the actual wall so I had something to push that side leg into just to see what that would feel like. I scooted it back and as I lifted the leg away I pretended to push my leg into the wall on the side (a very lowly placed wall in my case 🙂 and sure enough, the bum fired which helped keep the connection of the other leg to the carriage!!! Def. have a long way to go on this One Leg Tendon Stretch but…I see what you are saying loud and clear! Jeeeez, I love this stuff, so eye opening, always fascinating. #never.bored.

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