Workout by Lili Viola • Edited by Amanda Altman
As a child of the 70s, I grew up watching and reenacting Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. I wanted to be a strong Amazonian warrior princess who could fight for justice and defeat evil. Now I’m all grown up, and pretend games are a thing of the past, but as a business owner and mom of three kids, ages 10 to 16, there are times when I wish I had superhuman powers. Working out helps me feel strong and empowered, able to overcome obstacles, and stay focused and resilient. When I’m doing Pilates, I feel like the best possible version of myself. And so, to pay tribute to the Wonder Woman in all of us, and to Joseph Pilates and his Wunda Chair invention and repertory of exercises, I came up with the concept of this Wunda Woman workout.
The routine targets many areas of the body. It strengthens the stomach and glutes, challenges the inner thigh connection, stretches the chest, back and sides of the body, and provides a sensation of being weightless and light on your feet. Wonder Woman was so strong, she could pull a steel door off its hinges, run at 60 mph, and leap from a building and land on the balls of her feet. Sounds like the type of strength, endurance and balance that comes from doing Pilates!
The Wunda Chair is a gift and a curse—it’s not an easy piece of apparatus to start on! To correctly execute the exercises, a lot of concentration, control and powerhouse engagement are required. I recommend beginners work up to doing the following exercises with the guidance and assistance of a certified Pilates teacher. For seasoned practitioners, I would classify this workout at an intermediate level. There are most definitely modifications to help make these exercises more accessible for newbies, and progressions to challenge you stronger readers.
Please remember to always draw your abdominals up and in, tighten your glutes and inner thighs whenever your legs are together, and connect your arms into your back to avoid tightening your neck and to deepen your powerhouse connection. Incorporate parts, or all, of this workout into your routine to super-charge your body to superhero-strong! PS
TWISTED SWAN II (LEGS APART)
Spring Setting: 1 middle (medium)
Purpose: strengthens the hips, glutes and obliques (waist); promotes oblique rotation; stretches the psoas; opens the chest; challenges balance and stability; works the weaker side
Setup: Facing sideways to the Chair, lie on your side on the middle of the seat. Scissor your legs, reaching your top leg back and bottom leg forward, and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the pedal, trying your best to square your shoulders to the floor. Push the pedal all the way down.
1. Inhale, scooping your abdominals in and up, and lift your trunk, bringing the pedal up without bending your elbows.
2. Exhale, keeping your abdominals lifted as you return to the starting position. Do 3 reps on both sides.
Tips: Don’t let your legs drop as you lift your upper body; try to keep them stationary by really engaging your glutes. When lifting, initiate from deep in your abdominals to prevent your lower back from overextending and feeling strained. When returning to the starting position, keep drawing your abdominals up, and reach your body forward in a long line; do not collapse down or drop, rather, resist the pedal.
Modification: Keep your legs stacked instead of scissored.
Spring Setting: 1 middle (medium)
Purpose: strengthens the deep powerhouse muscles; stretches the back of the legs and spine
Setup: Facing the back of the Chair, stand tall, with your feet in Pilates stance, toes touching the edge of
1. Inhale, reaching your arms up, palms forward, pulling your abdominals in and up.
2. Exhale and keeping your arms close to your ears, round forward toward the pedal.
3. Continue to exhale, reaching down while lifting your abdominals up, and press the pedal down with the heels of your hands.
4. Scoop your abdominals in deeper to lift the pedal up with resistance, keeping your arms straight.
5. Pump the pedal, bending and straightening your elbows, for 3 reps, breathing naturally throughout.
6. Stabilizing your body with your powerhouse, begin to roll back up through your spine, and lift both arms off the pedal at the same time.
7. Continue to roll up, keeping your arms by your ears, until you are fully upright, then reach your arms out to your sides to lower them back down.
8. Do 3 reps of the entire sequence.
Tips: Keep pulling your abdominals in and up toward your spine, and tuck your tail underneath to recruit your glutes. Avoid making contact with your thighs and the back edge of the Chair. Balance the weight of your upper body reaching forward by keeping your lower body firmly rooted to the ground; this will keep you from tipping forward.
Modification: Face the front of the Chair, feet about 1–2 foot lengths away (far enough so that when your hands are on the pedal, your hips remain directly over your heels).
Advanced: Progress to Pumping on the Knees, kneeling on your seat.
Spring Setting: 1 top, 1 bottom (light)
Purpose: strengthens and tones the glutes, hips and back of the legs and arms; stretches and opens the thighs and chest
Setup: Facing the pedal, sit on the middle of the seat, with your hands on the back edge, palms facing your body. Place your toes in Pilates stance (heels firmly pressed together, toes slightly apart) on the pedal, keeping it in the up position.
1. Staying light on your feet and using your low abdominals and glutes, curl your tail up to Tabletop position without pushing the pedal down, keeping your shoulders directly over your wrists.
2. Push the pedal down with your toes, keeping your hips up and open, and your trunk still.
3. Briskly pull the pedal back up to return to the starting position, pumping the pedal for 10 reps.
4. Engaging your abdominals and glutes, lower your hips back down, keeping the pedal all the way up.
5. Do 3 reps of the entire sequence, breathing naturally throughout.
Tips: Direct your eyes forward at eye level; don’t let your head hang back. Avoid arching your lower back—pull your pubic bone toward the ceiling to stretch the front of your thighs and keep your back long, recruiting your glutes and low abdominals more efficiently. Keep your heels squeezing together to maintain the glute-to–inner thigh connection.
Modifications: Omit step 3, and simply work on curling your tail off the seat and lowering back down without pressing the pedal down. An even easier variation is to press the pedal down while sitting on the seat; keeping the pedal down, work on curling your tail off and lowering back down to the seat. Increase the resistance to 2 top springs.
Advanced: Once you are strong enough to keep your hips square, lifted and open while pumping the pedal, you can add lifting one foot off the pedal and reaching it forward at hip height, toward the ceiling, or out to the side in a turnout, while you pump the pedal for 10 reps on both sides. Make sure your hips stay square throughout.
To get the rest of the exercises, this story was printed in the September/October edition of Pilates Style. Get instant access to the magazine on your tablet or mobile device—packed with more great features—by purchasing our app edition!