The key to progressing your practice is to Keep It Simple, Superstar! These Reformer moves take you back to the basics, proving that they’re all you need to bring your technique and strength to a whole new level. We love the sound of that.
By Ana Caban • Edited by Amanda Altman
As Pilates students and instructors, we often get wrapped up in advancing in our routines, or wanting to learn new “tricks.” Sure, there are plenty of challenging exercises, but, as one of my mentors and teachers, Bob Liekens, once told me, “You can get an advanced workout from the beginner system.” At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what he meant. But now, numerous years, thousands of workouts and hundreds of clients later, I finally get it! And now I get what another one of my mentors, Romana Kryzanowska, would say when Pilates instructors would rave to her about their clients’ ability to perform advanced choreography: “Yes, but can they do the basics?”
The beginner system is plenty, even enough for a highly seasoned instructor. In fact, sometimes it’s better to trim back the tricks and hone into the “juice” of the exercise, something I like to call the KISS (Keeping It Simple, Superstar) Principle, a play on words inspired by the term coined by the U.S. Navy back in the ’60s. By focusing on the essence and nuance of the more fundamental exercises, you can create a greater connection to the essence of Pilates, your mind and body, and of course, your powerhouse.
In the following routine, I use the new Peak Pilates Afina Reformer—it’s great for getting back to the basics because it’s so simple to use. The design allows for seamless transitions between exercises, making my new clients feel confident; at the same time, my veteran clients feel challenged by the sensation of the (optional) traditional “resistance ride” springs.
The beauty of this workout is that it’s good for almost everyone, as all of the exercises are taken from the original beginner repertoire. The choreography is simple, yet the benefits are immense. Focus on the goal of the exercises and my KISS tips. Do these moves once or twice a week (in conjunction with a more intermediate or advanced routine), and soon, you’ll witness your technique and strength improve. It’s fundamentally that simple.
Knee Stretch Series: Round
Spring Setting: 2 medium
Purpose: strengthens the hips while teaching isolation, control and initiation of movement from the powerhouse; teaches isolation of hip movement from pelvic movement; improves shoulder stability
Setup: Kneel on the carriage, hands shoulder-width apart on the footbar and thumbs alongside your long fingers. Place your heels against the shoulder blocks, toes firmly on the carriage, keeping your knees in line with your heels. Round forward into a C curve position while gazing into your powerhouse. Hover your buttocks over your heels, about the width of two hands away.
1. Inhale, pressing out the carriage just to the length of your shinbone, while staying rounded and keeping your spine still from head to tail—only your legs move.
2. Exhale, dynamically pulling your knees in all the way to return the carriage. Do 5–10 reps.
How to KISS
• Drive your heels into the shoulder blocks, through your heel-to-seat critical connection, as if squashing a grape under each heel.
• Maintain your C curve, as if you’re connecting your head to your knees.
• Keep the movement rhythmical and dynamic—don’t “bang” the carriage home.
Knee Stretch Series: Arched Back
Spring Setting: 2 medium
Purpose: strengthens the hips while encouraging isolation, control and initiation of movement from the powerhouse; improves isolation of hip movement from pelvic movement; opens the chest; promotes shoulder stability and upper-back strength
Setup: Transition from Knee Stretch Series: Round by lifting your head and chest upward with your sitz bones high, extending your spine long.
1. Inhale, pressing out the carriage while staying lifted in your spine.
2. Exhale, using your feet and powerhouse to return the carriage. Do 5–10 reps.
How to KISS
• Focus on your rib-to-scapula and scapula-to-rib critical connection while keeping your spine still from head to tail.
• Continue to drive your heels into the shoulder blocks as you think of squashing a grape under each.
Get the whole routine in our May/June 2015 issue, also available in the Apple App Store and Google Play store!