written by Carol Crincoli, Pure Pilates Director
Are you missing your favorite Pilates exercises that require the Reformer, Tower or Chair? Maybe you’ve never done Pilates, but are looking for some new ideas to workout at home, without purchasing more equipment.
I recently recorded a workshop series, Pilates Reformer: without the machine. I designed 3 workouts that replicate exercises you would do in the studio with just 2 washcloths. These workouts are part of the Pure Pilates virtual library membership, but here I share a few of my favorites for you to try.
This exercise was inspired from the version that I teach on the Reformer. It focuses on the “back line” of the body, specifically the hamstrings, glutes, calves and muscles of the spine. Before attempting this exercise, make sure you can perform a strong, basic bridge. Those washcloths will create an increased instability for added intensity.
Plant your feet hip distance apart on the washcloths and lift your hips. Make sure to press into your arms, but don’t stress the neck and shoulders.
While keeping your hips lifted and glutes contracted, stretch one foot out and away from the body. Make sure your hips stay up and don’t worry if your knee doesn’t fully straighten. Drag that foot back in to feel an intense contraction of your hamstring.
You can drop your hips for a quick break or just fix your bridge by reconnecting to your backline.
Repeat the exercise by stretching the other foot out and away from the body.
To uplevel the intensity: Stay lifted in your bridge as you alternate the legs out and in simultaneously.
Here’s my version of the Chair exercise, Mountain Climber. This exercise is quite intense for the core muscles but like a plank, it will require your upper and lower body to come to the party. Before attempting this exercise, make sure you can perform “Pushup Prep/Knee Float” without the washcloths. The first image below is an example of this preparatory position to practice.
Come into a quadruped position, which is simply being on your hands and knees. Make sure to line the wrists with your shoulders and your knee caps with your hips. Curl your toes under, securely on the washcloths and deepen your core. Think about your belly and spine coming in to hug your organs.
Without moving your upper body or dropping your hips, extend one leg back behind you. Your goal is to fully straighten the leg. Don’t worry if you don’t! Dragging that leg into the starting position from your abdominals and hip is where you will feel the deep connection.
Repeat the exercise by stretching out the other leg and dragging it back in from your abdominals.
To uplevel the intensity: Stay lifted in your pushup press as you alternate the legs out and in simultaneously OR glide both legs out and in at the same time.
My version of Eve’s Lunge on the Reformer is a bit more intense because you need to use your upper body to support you in place of the machine. It’s still a worthwhile exercise to stretch out the hip flexor and quadricep muscles (front of thigh).
Start in quadruped (all 4’s) and then step one foot forward to step up your lunge position. Lift your bent knee off the floor. This foot should be on the washcloth. If you are tight, try elevating your hands on a chair seat or coffee table to create some space to move.
Glide the washcloth leg out and hold the stretch as you breathe. Drag the leg back to the starting position by deepening your abdominals and hip flexor. Repeat a few times. Then switch to the other side.
Mermaid is a favorite because the side bending and stretching just feel so good. This exercise can be done on all the apparatus and the mat. With the use of the washcloths, I think my exercise resembles the Tower version the most.
Configure your legs so that one knee bends into the midline of the body and the other bends behind. You want your hips to be as even as possible, so if you are struggling with this position, prop yourself up on a pillow to elevate your seat. If that doesn’t work, just find a comfortable seated position. Position your washcloths on the side of the knee bent into the midline. Other arm reaches strong to the ceiling.
Side bend as you glide the washcloth out to the side. Do you best to keep your hips down. This will help deepen the stretch along the side of your torso. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed.
While stretching into your side bend, rotate your body in so your ceiling arm comes down to the other washcloth. Push the washcloths away to deepen into the twist.
Unwrap from the twist.
Glide back up to your starting position. Repeat a few times. Then switch to the other side.