The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

For Jacqueline

Hello and welcome to a short video tutorial on my former nemesis exercise: Snake/Twist.

Snake/Twist is truly a Pilates love story complete with drama, false steps, misunderstandings and hot makeup sex.

Three years ago I visited the Snake/Twist as a Pilates Project in one of my most popular posts. Clearly there are many of us who struggle with this bear of an exercise.

So if there's an exercise you just can't stomach right now, persevere!

What's going on here anyhow?

The Snake/Twist is a complex exercise. Joe Pilates threw a little bit of everything into this challenging exercise:

  • It's one-sided.
  • Your orientation on the Reformer is not straightforward. You'll need to find a diagonal line as you approach the carriage.
  • The basic iteration will move through 3 body shapes: Round, Arched and Twist. Later we'll add the one arm version and include a Side Bend as well. OMG, something for everyone.
  • Oh and it's a breathing exercise…

When Joe Pilates was making all the other exercises, he had a few things left over and thought, “Why not?”

In 10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake I mention the order of the Reformer exercises and how I use Corkscrew, the subsequent exercise, as a “Snake recovery system.”

I now realize in my execution of the Snake/Twist I couldn't really keep myself together. Body parts were falling out all over the place. Enter the Corkscrew to fix me all up again.

And that's fine.

I wasn't hurting myself. I just needed to put in my 10,000 hours of Snake/Twist.

Now 3+ years later I am learning how to keep myself together. And what do you know? I need the Snake/Twist so desperately.

Reunited at last!

I'm a bit twisted myself. No worries. Every Twist exercise I despise is just looking out for my best interests. Thanks, Joe.

What Smart Tools Do I Use Today?

Ultimately the best preparation for the Snake/Twist lies in all of your other exercises. Find what speaks to you that you do well and with confidence and you can't go wrong.

Remember your mantra:

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

My favorite Snake/Twist helper exercises:

Up Stretch Combo

The Universal Reformer

This one is a must. Perhaps the most similar to the Snake yet done in a straightforward manner.

Woo hoo!

Make sure to include this one in your workout if you're planning to add the Snake/Twist.


The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

If you want to return the carriage you'll need our trusty old friend to help. If you're adding the One-Leg Elephant as well, even better.


The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

I find the Swan helpful as I move into the arched position of Snake. It's easy to forget about connecting your feet into the center as you move away from them, opening the carriage.


Swan helps me find length instead of dumping into the low back.

Scissors on the Small Barrel

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

This just in folks: you can open your body from the center instead of riding out too far with the carriage. What?? More on this skill in the video below.

Connection Prep

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

Take support from the apparatus to connect all the limbs into your center. Use all 4 springs to hold the carriage in. Now you'll have time to perfect the crucial starting and ending position.

This is great prep. It's safe and effective and could really supplement the exercise for a while.

Step 1

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

Getting up into the starting position without moving the carriage is an exercise itself. Part Pull Up on the Wunda Chair and part Elephant, you'll need this skill before you begin the full exercise.

More Snake/Twist, please!

If you're a Pilatesology member, view my Pilates Project on the Snake/Twist here.

If you'd like to become a Pilatesology member I hope you'll use my affiliate link to join. Just click on the Pilatesology banner in the sidebar on the right. Full transparency: please know I do receive a small commission if you sign up via my link.

Check out a free preview of the post via YouTube.

Enjoy this short video tutorial.

Thanks for watching! 

Wanna experience the blog live and in person?

Join me this fall!

Upcoming Fall Workshops

Sunday November 27, 2016 Studio B Pilates+Barre, Tyler TX

You’ll love this jam-packed day of Pilates Continuing Education: I’ll be offering private lessons, a Mat class plus 2 workshops: A Cadillac Refresher – the Unsung Heroes(3 PMA CECs) and Strategies and Exercises on the Wunda Chair (3 PMA CECs)Register today

Thursday-Saturday December 1-3, 2016 Excel Pilates, Washington, DC

Join me for my post popular posts Live! and in person: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises (4 PMA CECs) and On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises (2 PMA CECs). I’ll be teaching my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and Progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs) as well as a Mat class, private and semi-private lessons. Register today

Saturday December 17, 2016 LauraBPilates Studio, Raleigh, NC

In Raleigh we’ll have a full day of Pilates Continuing Education: private lessons and my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs)Register today

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  1. Wow you out did yourself on that tutorial Andrea! The preps and pre exercises were really helpful, and I especially liked the idea of holding the snake starting position with 4 springs.

    I could actually feel my body working as I sat at my “desk” listening to you because your words were so descriptive’ e.g. When you talked about the limbs reaching away I could really feel it! I am armed (bad pun) with some really good tools to tackle those two exercises! Thank you Andrea!

    • Thanks so much Laura. I agree. I find the 4 springs version to be super helpful. And thanks so much for your kind words and feedback on this post and video 🙂 Super appreciated! I hope we can see each other soon – xox

  2. Damn. Nice Upstretch Combo yo. This was a most excellent tootorial! You pretty much hit all of the points to focus on that I struggle with. Lift, check. Reach, check. Lengthen, check. This is small, but the word “clutch” in relation to the carriage somehow has helped me get that connection in the back and waist! Clutching is very different than grasping, pushing or holding on for dear life. And yes, when to stop the carriage; I’m so glad you really highlighted this as it seems to totally make a difference (er, um makes it harder) in where this exercise challenges the body. To Twist without carriage movement = intense…but holy sh*t you did it!! And suddenly the Snakey part makes sense watching you kern up into Swan…hmmmm this is fascinating. Question. With the leg on top, are we pushing it into the other leg to keep the inner thighs wrapping? Or is it more of a bum engagement? Or… Cheers for breaking this ever so tough exercise down; lots of work to go! xoxoxo

    • Awesome! Words really do communicate I think – I’m not really sure why I ended up using the word ‘clutch’ but it’s just what I think of when I grab onto the carriage – almost like I could pick it right up off the Reformer LOL. And yes, holy Sh*t, that Twist with the carriage in is crazy twisty! Good feeling yet impossible at the same time – ha ha just like I like it 🙂

      Your question is a good one. The leg that crosses over in the Snake/Twist – the one you’re not standing on – this part I didn’t go over actually – sorry about that – I find it helpful to start working on it with the knee a bit out to the side – Jay calls it a ‘rudder.’ With the knee out to the side the ankle can press firmly into the front of the shin of your standing leg – I find this helps to engage the seat and help the foot not cheat and try to wrap itself around the other leg or the footbar. It also helps you “face” the Reformer more squarely at first. We can discuss this more when I see you next. Eventually you’ll be able to have the inner thighs more together throughout both exercises.

      Thanks for being a fantastic Pilates student and for our lovely conversations here! xox

  3. Hey there! Totally agree with Cor above!! #pilatesfriends???????? glorious demo of snake/twist????????
    I’m still dreaming of snake…. hell, I’m still dreaming of up/down combo thingy???? , but nice to have some inspiration!! Well done Cor for attempting/practicing these tricky moves!! ????????????????
    It’s great, though, to see how the foundational exercises build into those more complex maneuvers! My take out from this post was when you fleetingly mentioned that the springs are working the muscles of our centre….a lightbulb suddenly switched on in my somewhat befuddled brain!!
    Anyhoo….here’s to you Andrea and your thought provoking posts???????????? keep it coming….we love it!
    #rockon ????

    • #pilatesgeeksuniting I’m still dreaming of correctly performing the Upstretch Combo too 😉 Love it and anyone that uses a martini emoji in a Pilates discussion is my kind of gal. #rockonpilatespeople

    • Alessandra – and Corrie – I loved following your martini conversation here this week. I smell a reunion party in San Diego in 2017 LOL. And yes study up on your Elephant – it all makes for an even more fabulous Snake 🙂

  4. Thanks Andrea, this is brilliant.

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