As a Pilates teacher, I can’t think of one client in 14 years that I’ve taught the Up Stretch exercise to on the Reformer who hasn’t freaked out going forward over the footbar as the are learning the exercise. All goes well, this is temporary… And while a lighter spring or changing the gear bar might help a bit – in the long run, chances are it won’t fix the problem. Here are a few tips for a smooth, controlled exercise.
Good Execution of the Up Stretch
First, look at the starting position. In the UP position the “center” is strongly pulling to the spine in a C-Curve.(Look for an even back position from the tail to the head.) This should put the center of gravity in the center of the carriage – with the body weight balanced evenly between the hands and the feet.
Second, as the hips and legs extend to press the carriage out, the center/center of gravity should remain in the same spot and just lower so that the body is in a straight line from the head to the heels. (Depending on the height of your client and the length of their legs – the legs will be over the carriage and the “center” will be over the stretched springs.)
As they pull the carriage in, the “center” should remain in the “center” – so the body weight remains more evenly distributed between the hands and feet and there is less weight in the arms and shoulders so they can move freely to hinge forward over the bar.
Done well, once forward over the footbar, returning to the Up position is easily accomplished because the shoulders are free and the spine articulate easily from the top to the tail back to the Up position with the “center” over the center of the carriage.
What To Watch For:
- If the center of gravity moves out with the legs – the arms and shoulders have a tendency to grip to put the brakes on and keep from going too far out. When this happens, clients pull themselves in with the shoulders and the “center” moves forward into the chest & shoulders. The result – no control and tons of weight on the arms and wrists.
- If the back sags as the carriage goes out, the movement is being initiated from the low back instead of the hips to extend the legs. This gives the “saggy old mare” visual and causes the center of gravity to be unsupported dropping the belly & back too low -the result the deltoids, upper traps, rhomboids, and back extensors are trying to do the work that the abs, multifidi, and serratus should be doing to support the body as it moves forward over the bar. (In simple terms…the shoulders will take over to pull the “center” into the chest & shoulders causing the upper back to hunch more while moving the body towards the footbar.) And too much weight on the hands and wrists.
- To compensate for the lower body moving out – the “center” may be shifted forward from the “center” to the upper body as the legs extend. The deltoids are cued to do the work as the body hinges forward over the bar, PLUS all the body weight is moving forward with the carriage – assisted by the closing of the springs. Gripped shoulders, scrunched neck, folding the hips too soon, lots of weight on the hands. Panic will set in for sure!
Add a head position that’s looking forward over the footbar rather than down at the feet to any one of these three possibilities (or for some clients – a combination of 1,2, or all 3) and they are set up for that scarey “flying over the footbar” feeling.
In all my years of teaching, I’ve never had anyone actually fly over the bar! Comforting to tell folks, but they will be more reasurred by having complete control over their own body during the exercise. So the SECRET’s out…
Keep Your “Center” in the Center
With the “Center/Center of Gravity” staying supported and IN the pelvic bowl throughout the exercise, it is easy to keep the body lifted with less weight on the wrists, move freely – hinging from underneath rather than on top of the shoulders, articulate well through the spine and have great control over the body throughout the whole Up Stretch exercise.
Try it and let me know how it goes!