Pilates Reformer Key Movements

By Charmaine Cardenas, Programme Coach, Mudon Community Club, Fitness First

Our daily routines, habits and even our exercise regimes can cause us to disuse, misuse or even overuse certain muscle groups. Over time this can lead to poor posture and alignment and can negatively affect daily activities such as standing, walking and lifting. Another cause of muscle imbalance and faulty body mechanics is injury. Regardless of the cause, our muscle imbalances follow us into exercise, and if left untreated, may translate into further deterioration. Pilates Reformer exercises, integrated with proper stretching, strengthening and straightening will help to combat misalignments and restore balance to the body. It will challenge you also to build stamina and power, while also helping develop your mind-body awareness through coordinated, efficient movement patterns.

Supine Arm Series :Reach/Pull/Arm Circles

Spring setting:2-4Headrest:UpFootbar:DownShoulder blocks:Up Loops:Long

Exercise benefits: Strengthens the stabilisers of the shoulder girdle, tones the arms and illustrates how to move the arms correctly from the back.

How to perform :

  • Lift your hands up to shoulder level
  •  Lift your legs up in the table top position, hips into the mat, hold your abdominals in and keep your spine anchored onto the mat
  • Press the arms to your hips using the abdominals (INHALE)
  • Return the arms upwards whilst keeping tension on the straps (EXHALE)
  •  Keep your elbows straight without hyper-extending them.

Supine Leg Series: Frog/Lower Leg Lift/Leg Circles

Spring setting:2-3Headrest:UpFootbar:DownShoulder blocks:Up Loops:Long

Exercise benefits: Challenges the “Powerhouse” to stabilise the pelvic girdle and improves symmetrical alignment to the legs. This increases circulation to the lower body and lubricates the hip joint.

How to perform:

  • Bring both knees to your chest, keep hips flat on the mat
  •  Heels together, abdominal in and up, chest open
  • Manouvre legs to the midline of the body (INHALE)
  • Press legs firmly and evenly together » Return heels to buttocks (EXHALE).



Short Box Series:Tree Stretch

Spring setting:2-3Headrest:UpFootbar:DownShoulder blocks:Up Loops:LongShort box: Postitioned sideways over the shoulder blocks,one foot secured under foot strap

Exercise benefits: Stretches the hamstrings, lower back and hip flexors; strengthens the pelvis stabilisers and improves leg alignment.

How to perform:

  • One foot secured under the foot strap, extended leg under foot strap is in the midline
  •  Hips are one hand width from the back of the box, hug legs into the chest, sit up tall
  •  Open the leg without shifting the hips, bring hands all the way to the ankle, back rounded and start to roll all the way down
  •  Lift the head to come up, bring hands to the leg, position the foot on the mat and give the body some side twist.


Long Stretch Series: Long Stretch With Press Up

Spring setting 2 Headrest Up Footbar Up Shoulder blocks Up Non slip pad Postitioned in headrest

Exercise benefits: Strengthens the powerhouse and stabilsers of the spine and also tones the arms.

How to perform:

  • Pilates stance, heels lifted in line with the shoulder blocks
  • Abdominals drawn toward the spine for support
  • Thumbs with fingers on the footbar
  • Press the carriage out (INHALE)
  • Anchor the shoulders on the back, keep the neck long
  • Return the carriage all the way (EXHALE)
  • Initiate from the powerhouse and do press up/push up (variation).