We're excited to welcome guest blogger and APPI Unite Health course educator, Eva Heraud to share her favourite equipment routines with us! Don't miss our upcoming Equipment courses, explore more HERE.
These are a few of my favourite Pilates Equipment Exercises!
Woohoo for those out of lockdown enjoying the full myriad Pilates equipment has to offer or those with Pilates equipment at home. Cadillac, Wunder chair (Split pedal chair), Reformer… Thank you, Mr Joseph Pilates. I’ve been reminiscing in lockdown, on a few of my favourite Pilates exercises and thought I would share:
Reformer Side Plies - modification thigh strap (Taught on APPI Pilates Equipment Level 1)
I love this APPI Pilates exercise for a bit of “good old reciprocal inhibition”. Allowing me to really tap into my glutes.
**Reciprocal inhibition - the process of muscles on one side of a joint relaxing to accommodate contraction on the other side of that joint.**
The goal is to keep the carriage completely still whilst lifting the top leg. To do this you have to work the hamstring and posterior thigh. The quad and anterior hip muscles (hopefully) don’t get a look in aka reciprocal inhibition. And voila your glutes get to work without the ever so helpful quads and tensor fascia latae.
Our functional body is a team effort. When you are more “quad” dominant in general and your hip flexors scream at you this is a great way to give them a much-needed break in the comfort of… your reformer. Nice to isolate to remind the brain of how useful the glutes really are.
Set up - 2 red springs or 1 red 1 blue - aim for heavy loading to allow the reciprocal inhibition.
Ensure length through the torso with some space under the side of the waist. Insert your imaginary blueberry in-between your side waist and the reformer.
Head position - cheek parallel with the ground and long through the back of the neck.
Rib position - it is common for the ribs to flare (protract) to assist in stabilising through the torso, think about softening at the front of the ribcage to achieve correct alignment.
Pelvis position - stacked pelvis - encourage a slight anterior tilt with slight lumbar spine extension.
Action - Lift the leg to hip height - ankle and knee remain level - parallel to the ground. Lift the leg up above hip height and back to hip height maintaining alignment of a stacked pelvis.
Get creative with this exercise:
- Holds - at hip height
- Circles of the knee
- Squares of the knee - up, back, down, forward
- Internal and external rotation with the knee steady at 90 and hip height - I call this “windscreen wiper”
- Donkey kick - knee remains flexed at 90
- Don’t forget to breathe
Watchpoints - Pelvis position remains stacked.
Indications - A good exercise to focus on rotary pelvic stability once stability in the sagittal plane has been established. A good exercise to progress dynamic lumbopelvic stability. Retrain hip extensor and abductor activity.
Objective Assessment - Check Thomas test and single-leg squat pre and post-exercise. Thomas test identifies tightness through the anterior thigh. Single leg squat looks at the control through the lower limb, pelvis, and spine.
The glute med helps to stabilise the pelvis when standing on one leg and you may see either a pelvis drop (Trendelenburg) or a torso lean when this muscle is weak.
Click HERE for more info on the infamous Gluteus Medius.
Contra-indications - Acute LBP or SIJ injury
- How might you do this exercise on the caddy?
- What other variations can you think of?
- What standing exercises would you use next to go “functional”?
Half Roll Down on the Cadillac (Taught on APPI Equipment Level 3)
Oh hello, spinal articulation Think of that wonderful string of pearls. 1 by 1.
With the ever-helpful springs to help you experience them without the body working too hard. So many ways to move a spine in APPI Pilates and APPI Equipment Level 3 is all about the spinal articulations.
I love using the springs to support my movement. I can pay attention without the extra work of my core muscles. I am quite stiff in my low back and have very helpful erector spinae. Lengthening them gives them a break too. Notice how my faves so far are all about letting parts relax! How much of what we do in Pilates is learning to switch off overactive areas to “share” the load.
Set up - Long springs with the caddy bar attached to the upper bar.
2 x purple (easier as stronger springs)
2 x yellow (harder as lighter springs)
Start Position - Long sit, pelvis and spine in mid position. Head position - back of the neck long. Rib Position - let your ribs soften. Pelvis position - moving from a mid position to posterior tilt
Action - Breathe in to prepare and exhale to…Posteriorly tilt the pelvis and flex the lumbar spine. Roll down - segmentally flexing the spine from the tailbone to the crown of the head.
Arms remain extended. Push hands down onto bar to assist in activating through the torso. Roll halfway - hold. Breathe in - Breathe out and restack the spine maintaining a C curve with the ribs soft.
Watchpoints - Upper cervical protection instead of lumbo-pelvic flexion on the initiation of the movement. Tilting spine like a block. Flaring rib cage. Doming of abdominals on roll-up
Indications - Poor thoracic and lumbar flexion ROM. Overactive erector spinae. (Learn more about the erector spinae HERE)
Spinal instability into flexion.
Pregnant clients - stronger spring load and ensure to maintain half roll down only.
Objective Assessment - Lumbar spine flexion. Are they able to flex segmentally or do you see a “block of movement”?
Tips - Feet under the foot strap if “helpful” hip flexors.
Foam roller across the end of caddy for feet connections and hip alignment.
- How might you do this exercise on the reformer?
- What about as a home exercise? Hint - Theraband
- What other Pilates equipment exercises could you use to help with segmental spinal flexion? Hint - consider what is going on above and below.
Mermaid in sitting - Wunda Chair (split pedal chair) (Taught on APPI Equipment Level 3)
“I’m a little teapot” to start. Great for lateral spinal articulation and rotation.
All the “side feels” in one beautiful exercise. Oh and your ribs. Those tiny little bones all together with the thoracic spine. So many amazing things happen within the ribs protective cage. Movement of the ribs is vital to support function.
Movement - full stop - is vital to support function. Rib mobility is key in Pilates. This Pilates exercise brings it into the mix with some lovely spinal movement alongside. Delicious.
Set up - 1 black spring
Starting position - Sit on the chair side on. One foot anchored to the ground - the anchor point helps you lengthen away. (Length is where the magic happens).
Action - Breathe in, breathe out. Lengthen up through your spine.
Remain lengthened as you reach your hand towards the pedal lateral flexing your spine. Let your opposite hand reach over in a large circle.
Add in rotation by bringing the top hand over to meet the opposite. Hold - breathe in and breathe out.
Return the arms and...Restack your spine. Option to side flex to the opposite side in this position.
Watch Points - Rib flare
Extension of lumbar spine
“Collapsing” rather than lengthening - cue a fountain of water - up and over.
Indications - Lengthen Latissimus Dorsi, Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumboram (QL)
Learn more about the QL HERE.
Scoliosis, hyperlordotic, overuse of the global muscular system.
QL overuse - pelvic instability, hip joint instability
Mobilisation thoracic and lumbar spines into lateral flexion eg scoliosis reduced thoracic spine mobility.
Objective Assessment - Side flexion. Is it the same left to right? What is the quality of the movement?
Contra-indications / Precautions - Acute LBP / SIJ pain
- How might you do this exercise on the Cadillac?
- How can you modify this exercise for home?
- What's your favourite Pilates repertoire on equipment?
A note or two:
Always aim to progress to functional standing exercises where possible.
Aim for increasing load and challenge whilst respecting the foundations.
I’ll just leave this here. There is no such thing as advanced only the basics mastered
The APPI course content weaves clinical reasoning with an effective repertoire. The Pilates equipment is your easel and the exercises of your art. Get creative as you like whilst remembering the foundations and the why.