The Athlete’s Workout

The game plan a Wunda Chair series that builds total-body strength, balance and stability. We’re rooting for you! By Steve Vicera • Edited by Amanda Altman

By Steve Vicera • Edited by Amanda Altman

Long before I became a Pilates teacher, I was a bodybuilder, earning championship titles in prestigious competitions like Superbody Body Building and Fitness and also Mr. Philippines. But all that training came at a cost, and eventually, I developed spondylolisthesis, a painful spine condition.

Thankfully, I found Pilates, a career I find so gratifying because it gives me the opportunity to help others, like myself, physically transform into healthier people. Although many of my clients are ordinary people who want to progress their fitness levels despite their limitations, I regularly train professional athletes who enlist my services to improve their performance or rehabilitate from an injury.

Vicera flexes for the camera at the Superbody Body Building and Fitness competition in 1989.

I created this routine for athletes, men and experienced Pilates professionals looking for a challenge. Because it’s geared toward those with a higher muscle density, especially in the upper body, it’s not suitable for beginners. The exercises focus on increasing overall strength, with an emphasis on balance, stability and spinal health. Men, in particular, tend to have decreased flexibility, and this program works around those limitations.

Although many people shy away from the Wunda Chair because they fear the smaller base of support or they’re intimidated by the potential difficulty of the exercises, that’s why I love it! Despite its appearance, the Chair is stable and sturdy, with a platform that requires more core engagement and balance than other apparatus. I only have an hour to give my clients an intense and efficient program, and the Chair provides an ideal means of achieving that goal, especially for athletes. Read on for the play-by-play.


Prop: none
Breath: Inhale as you lengthen your spine, and exhale as you round it.
Reps: 8–10 (unless otherwise indicated)
Tip: Focus on quality—i.e., precision—over quantity.


Spring Setting:
Purpose: strengthens the abdominals (rectus, transverse and obliques), glutes and hamstrings; promotes shoulder stability
Setup: Lie on your back with your head near the pedal, hands on the sides of the pedal, and legs together and extended to 45 degrees. Keep your pelvis and spine neutral.


1. Hinging from your hips, reach your legs toward the platform, keeping your shoulders stable.

2. Extend your legs toward the ceiling, engaging your glutes and hamstrings, and sequentially lower your spine to the starting position.


Tips: Press your hands against the pedal to stabilize your shoulders. Push energy into your toes during the extension, keeping your hips elevated.
Modification: Omit the hip extension when you roll down.

Swan Dive

Spring Setting: medium (1 heavy, 1 light)
Purpose: challenges the back body; creates mobility in the thoracic extensors (upper back)
Setup: Lie facedown with your hips on the platform, legs laterally rotated hip-width apart. Place your palms on the pedal shoulder-width apart in the down position, and keep your pelvis and spine neutral.

1. Engage your upper-back muscles as you extend your spine, allowing the pedal to assist the movement.

2. Return to the starting position.

Tips: Engage your glutes and hamstrings, and think of sending energy out through your toes. Keep your neck long.
Modification: Connect the Cadillac to the Chair to support your lower body.

Oblique Pike

Spring: Setting heavy
Purpose: increases shoulder stability and strength; strengthens the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles) and obliques
Setup: Standing sideways to the pedal, stagger your feet on the pedal (inside foot on the back) with your hands on the front corners of the platform. Shift your weight over your hands, aligning your shoulders over your wrists.


1. Exhale, using your core to lift your pelvis, allowing the pedal to lift.

2. Lower the pedal to return to the starting position.

Tips: The goal here is to completely lift the pedal. Keep your lumbar spine (lower back) rounded as you lift and lower your pelvis. Avoid hyperextension in your elbows.
Advanced: Extend your outside leg off the pedal.

Get the rest of this article and more exercises like this in our current issue, available on newstands and on Magzter now!

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