Shopping for a Pilates Arc Barrel: The Difference Between Brands, Barrels, and Bodies

by | Aug 8, 2013 | Pilates | 0 comments

Determining Which Pilates Spine Corrector is Right for You?

pilates-arc-barrelHave you ever wondered what the difference is between Pilates Arc Barrels?  Foam vs. wood and vinyl Arc Barrels?  What’s the difference between styles, exercises, and use for the long Arc of the Balanced Body Pilates Arc®, a traditional East-Coast Pilates Spine Corrector Barrel and a West-Coast Spine Corrector?  And what about the option of a Spine Corrector Barrel with interchangeable “humps?”


I was asked some great questions this week from a customer shopping for Pilates Arc Barrels online in the Centerworks® store.  Here’s what she wanted to know, and my reply: 

Question:  “I noticed that the Arc Barrel in your manual, “A Barrel of Fun! Pilates Arc Barrel Workout”, is different than the barrel sold in the Centerworks store, why and what’s the difference?”

Answer:  You are correct!  I actually use a variety of different small barrels and spine correctors with my Centerworks® Pilates clients and classes.  It depends on the exercise, and client as to which barrel we will use for an exercise in the studio.

When I travel and teach my Arc Barrel Awesome Workshop™, I’ve typically used the foam Pilates Arc® because each participant needs their own barrel for the workshop, and they also need to have a barrel to take home, I’ve found that the Pilates Arc® available from Balanced Body is a good choice for workshops.  It’s lighter, easier to ship, and easier for clients to manage lifting and toting home from the workshop to continue their workouts.   My book, “A Barrel of Fun!”  was born after teaching this workshop a couple of times after participants requested an extra resource to remember everything they learned.  So a lot of the Arc barrel exercises and photos in the book correlate with this course.  (My model for these exercises was also better served on the longer Arc of the Foam Barrel. – If I’d have been the model, there’s a good chance we’d have taken photos with a traditional West-Coast style wood and vinyl Pilates barrel.)

Question:  Can I do the same exercises from your book “A Barrel of Fun” even though the hump on my barrel is more pronounced?

Answer:  Excellent question and the answer is definitely Yes!  The exercises in the Barrel of Fun book can be done on ANY Arc Barrel / Spine Corrector.  There is some Pilates terminology here that can sometimes get confusing…  is it a Spine Corrector, Arc, or plain “small” barrel?    Balanced Body calls their “Spine Corrector” a Pilates Arc®.  Regardless of the brand, if it’s got the hump and the ledge/lip, it’s a Pilates Spine Corrector.

Question:  What’s the difference between Pilates barrels?

Answer:  There are definitely differences between vendors, design, and the curve of the “Arc,”  as well as differences for holding on to the sides of the barrel.  Some Spine Correctors have handles, some have a stick running through the barrel, and others just have a slot along the sides to grab onto.  Not a huge game-changer for which of these options is best – how, and where, the handles are located may only make a slight change for shoulder mechanics, most clients won’t notice a difference.  But the angle or curve of the “hump” CAN make a difference!  And that is precisely what makes doing the same exercises on different brands of Pilates barrels a new and exciting experience.

There is not a right or wrong brand, or amount of curve for a “hump.”  There might be a more optimal curved “hump” for your body, but being able to experience the exercises on a variety of different barrels is actually a benefit.  It can help your body learn to bend in different places.

Ideally, regardless of the arc of the curve, the goal is to enjoy the health benefits of a fit, flexible, and supple spine that moves freely in all directions.  Using ANY of the Pilates Spine Correctors available on the market on a regular basis for your weekly workouts can help you achieve this ideal for health improvement.

Question:   How Do I Know What the Best Spine Corrector / Arc Barrel is for my Body?

Answer:  Are You Tall or Short?  Personally, I prefer to use the foam Balanced Body Pilates Arc® Barrel for my taller clients (male or female) because the long Arc tends to fit their body better.   I also used to have a Stott Spine Corrector in my studio, and size-wise it was also good for my taller or larger clients.

I find the traditional Spine Corrector like the one available in the Centerworks store  tends to fit those of us who are shorter.   (I’m 5’4”)  Anybody under 5’6 will probably be better suited on an old-style traditional barrel.  But that said, even though I’m shorter, I still like to use the foam Balanced Body Pilates Arc®  Barrel sometimes for my own workouts.  Variety is the spice of Life!

There is also a difference in East-Coast, vs. West-Coast Spine Correctors.  I did my original Pilates training in NY, so I’m more comfortable with the East-Coast curve!  If you’ve seen a West-Coast barrel the angle of the hump is different on this barrel too.  I’ve not had any experience on a West Coast Barrel, so hopefully someone with experience will comment on this article and share their insights and experience, pros and cons of the East-Coast vs. West-Coast “curve” and how it affects their Pilates exercises.

But My Body Doesn’t Bend That Way…

If your body isn’t able to conform to the curve of your barrel, then you’ve got something to work on to help your spine learn to bend and move more freely.  That’s a part of what the Spine Corrector is designed to help you with.  If you’re really stiff – depending on the curve of your barrel, you may need extra pillows or pads to help prop you in position until you’re more flexible or have learned to support your body correctly.  These are things that you can get help with during in-studio classes and privates sessions with your Pilates teacher.  Then having your own barrel at home is a fabulous tool for supplemental training.  Most (if not ALL) of my clients have a barrel at home!  My tall clients have the Foam Pilates Arc® Barrel that is pictured in the book, and my shorter clients have the Stamina brand wood/vinyl one that is sold on my site – I helped pick and recommended the barrel I thought best for their body.

Question: What is the quality of the Stamina brand Pilates Arc Barrel vs other brands on the market?

Answer:  In regards to Arc barrel quality…  Over the past 20 years of teaching Pilates I have purchased barrels from the top Pilates equipment manufacturers, Stott, and Peak.  And I’ve used the Gratz, and Body Barrels. All of these major manufacturers sell great barrels!  I have both the “Stamina” barrel sold on my site and a Peak Pilates barrel in my studio.  The Peak barrel is of a higher quality, made with Maple wood – which is why it comes with a much higher price tag.  (It’s also a bit heavier to lift because of the wood.)   Economically, it’s been easier for my clients to justify $189 for a barrel and “A Barrel of Fun” book combo.  But if they had to pay $350 or more for a top-brand barrel plus shipping, or $1,000+ for one of the fancy Spine Correctors with interchangeable different sized  arcs– I know they’d pass on the opportunity to have this valuable piece of Pilates equipment to use for their home workouts.

I use both my Stamina brand and Peak Pilates barrel with my students and have not had any problems with either barrel.   The Stamina Spine Corrector vinyl is lasting just fine, and the arc of the barrel is holding up well in a studio setting.  At home, it should last a lifetime if you treat it well.  Sometimes the brand of equipment and quality really does make a difference.  My opinion is on this particular item, the quality of the Stamina® product is good and the price is a little more affordable for most students.

I would love to have both the Stamina® Pilates Arc Barrel, and the foam Balanced Body brand Pilates Arc® available for sale on my website so shoppers have the option to pick the barrel that’s best for them. When I last checked, Balance Body doesn’t allow wholesale purchases for online re-sale of their merchandise.  If you know that the foam Pilates Arc® barrel is the best one for you, you’ll have to go directly to Balanced Body to purchase your barrel.  I get zero kick back for promoting this product, but please tell them that you made your decision to purchase with the help of Aliesa George and Centerworks!

If you prefer a more traditional Pilates Spine Corrector, the Pilates Arc Barrel Combo with the Stamina® Pilates Spine Corrector and a copy of the book, “A Barrel of Fun!” can be a great resource for your at-home Pilates workouts as a Pilates student.  This combo of products is also a great resource for Pilates teachers interested in classical and non-traditional exercises using the Arc Barrel that you can use with your clients and classes to improve whole-body health.

To quote Joseph Pilates:

“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old.  If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”

Using your Pilates Spine Corrector, aka Pilates Arc Barrel is an excellent way to keep not only your spine fit and flexible, but your arms and shoulders working well, chest open, legs and hips moving freely for better gait – whether you’re doing Pilates in a studio, or at home on your own, you can get an excellent whole-body workout with a Pilates Arc barrel!


arc-barrelThe Pilates Arc Barrel is also known as the Pilates Spine Corrector. Designed by Joseph H. Pilates, the Pilates Arc Barrel exercises provide a superior whole-body workout for your abs, back, arms, shoulders, hips, and thighs.

Get YOUR Pilates Arc Barrel and “A Barrel of Fun” book Combo NOW!

Already have an Arc Barrel… Get YOUR copy of the book “A Barrel of Fun! Pilates Arc Barrel Workout” to enhance your training program and learn new Pilates Arc Barrel exercises.

Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.


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