Battling back pain as the result of scoliosis, actress Sarah Michelle Gellar turned to Pilates and has never looked back. The multitasking mom of two and cofounder of Foodstirs, an organic baking kit and subscription company, doesn’t let her busy life get in the way of her practice. Here, the former Buffy the Vampire Slayer star shares the Reformer workout that keeps her pain free and in fighting shape (20 years later!), her go-to smoothie recipe and why there’s no demon on earth that will make her stop doing Pilates.
By Amanda Altman • Photos taken by Rod Foster at Mighty Pilates
This mini Reformer routine, created by Sara Tull, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s trainer at Mighty Pilates in Santa Monica, CA, for more than a year, combines open- and closed-kinetic movements to condition your entire body from head to toe.
PROPS: Sitting Box; Magic Circle;
set of 3-pound weights; looped resistance band
BREATH: See guidelines throughout, but feel free to change things up based on what works best for you.
REPS: Play with the reps; if you have the muscle control, you don’t need to do as many.
TIP: Do this workout two to three times a week, focusing on keeping your core active throughout.
PURPOSE: unilaterally strengthens the quadriceps and glutes; deeply stretches the hip flexors
SPRING SETTING: light–medium
SETUP: Place the Long Box beside the Reformer, in line with the footbar. Stand tall holding a Magic Circle in front of your chest with your elbows wide, outside foot on the Box near the footbar, and inside foot against the shoulder rest in a high half-toe position.
1. Inhale, coming into a lunge by bending your front knee, allowing the carriage to move as you reach your arms slightly forward and squeeze the Circle.
2. Exhale, extending your leg and returning your arms to the starting position. Do 10–20 reps; on your last rep, stay in the lunge, drop the Circle and hold onto the footbar for a stretch.
3. Repeat on your other side.
TIP: Keep your pelvis square and weight on your standing leg in the center of your foot (and not too far over your toes).
VARIATION: Omit the Circle, extending your arms by your ears as you lunge.
Short Box Series
PURPOSE: strengthens the core in a posterior pelvic tilt with arm coordination
SPRING SETTING: medium–heavy
SETUP: Place the Short Box on the Reformer in front of the shoulder rests. Sit on the Box with your feet in the foot strap, knees slightly bent and spine neutral. Hold the weights in your hands at shoulder height, palms up.
1. Inhale to prepare, then exhale, tucking your tailbone and rounding your spine halfway back, keeping your arms at shoulder height.
2. Holding the rounded position, exhale, bending your elbows into a bicep curl; inhale to extend your arms, keeping your elbows at shoulder level throughout. Do 10–15 reps.
3. Roll up to the starting position, rest for a few breaths, then round halfway back again.
4. With your elbows bent and narrow by your sides, open your palms toward the ceiling. Exhale, opening your forearms out to the side; inhale to return. Do 10–15 reps.
5. Repeat the sequence with your back flat throughout.
TIP: Keep your rib cage connection with your shoulders down, especially while lifting your arms to shoulder height.
MODIFICATION: If you experience neck strain, lower your arms or decrease the resistance of the weights.
Standing Side Splits in Squat Position
PURPOSE: works the inner and outer thighs; strengthens the glutes to support the pelvis
SPRING SETTING: light
SETUP: With the band around your calves, carefully stand with one foot on the platform and your other foot on the carriage in parallel. Get into a squat position with your spine neutral, bending your knees and flexing your hips back with your weight in your glutes. Interlace your fingers in front of your body, elbows bent.
1. Exhale and with control, move the carriage about halfway out, maintaining your squat.
2. Inhale, returning the carriage home. Do 10–20 reps.
3. Repeat on your other side.
TIPS: When pressing the carriage out, make sure you use the platform leg just as much. If you don’t have an instructor to help with the band, sit on the Short Box (in front of the shoulder rests) to position the band before coming to standing.
MODIFICATION: Place the band above your knees and/or decrease your range of motion.