Welcome to Week 7 of Wunda Wednesdays! From May 1st through July 1st, I’ll be participating in a 60 Day Challenge with WundaBar Pilates. I’ll be taking 3-4 classes per week in exchange for documenting my progress weekly here on the blog.
Last week, we learned the details of 3 of my most challenging exercises done on the WundaChair. Today, the Reformer takes the spotlight. The Reformer is not only the core of the WundaFormer, it is the Pilates star uniquely responsible for helping to develop the body’s core muscles by building both strength and length.
Strength is developed by muscles and bones through the resistance of body weight against the weight of the carriage and varying spring tension via straps or pulleys with arms and legs.
Length in the muscles is developed by the unique ability of the Reformer to provide eccentric contraction – the elongation of a muscle as it is put under tension. The phenomenon known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) experienced 24-72 hours after intense exercise is also the result of muscles adapting to muscle fiber microtrauma induced by eccentric contraction.
WundaBar Pilates classes are challenging and there are days that I almost feel more length (through muscle soreness) than strength but then I realize that I am really building both!
It’s only been 7 weeks and I am training my muscles to work in the way they should rather than make up for the weak core, back and hip muscles I’ve been working around for years.
Like with the WundaChair exercises that we highlighted last week, there are many exercise permutations available for the Reformer but the 4 Reformer exercises below are the ones that I find to be the most challenging (and therefore, likely the most strength and length building) for me.
- Lunges: Are you a master of lunges on solid ground? Want to literally shake it up? A Reformer lunge will engage your core and make your legs and body shake like few other moves will. Even if you have strong legs (and I do), this move is deeply challenging. Keeping the core engaged while working to keep the shoulders away from the ears and hips squared and leveled (while remembering to breathe) is a lot of choreography for me. Because I shake like crazy, I asked Wunda Anna to demonstrate how a Reformer lunge should look.
- Open/Close and Skater: These lower body power moves take a lot out of me. To perform them properly you need one foot on the stationary platform (near the springs) and the other foot on the cushioned carriage of the Reformer. The closer your foot is to the edge on the carriage, the more resistance you’ll be creating against the springs. These exercise variations can be made easier or more complicated with a pole or ring (see below).
- For Open/Close, use straight legs and push away from the stationary platform, keeping weight evenly distributed and resisting the movement; to return, draw the upper inner thighs and pelvic floor up and in, resisting and lengthening all the way home.
- For Skater, assume a squat position with core engaged and sitting bones reaching back toward the opposite wall. I need to put my hands on my hips for greater stability due to my weak core. Maintaining your form, extend one leg from its bent position to an extended position, maximizing the distance between sit bone and outer foot. Like Open/Close, moving slowly and creating resistance is key!
- 4 Point Kneel to Plank: An everyday plank is no picnic but holding one against spring tension can be considered mini-torture. Add pushing the platform forward an inch and backward an inch numerous times while keeping good form has brought out my inner Monica Seles (I’m sorry fellow classmates but I’m not shy about groaning and sometimes laughing at myself when I’m frustrated). Difficult but unbelievable for developing (nearly) full body strength and length.
- In the “all fours” position, place hands (or elbows) onto the carriage with toes on the stationary platform and heels extending back. Engage the core and on an inhale, straighten the legs and hold.
- Wundabesque: This move is inspired by the traditional Pilates Arabesque and it not only takes strength but coordination as well. I did this move on my first class and I’m happy that none of my classes had it again until last week. This is the exercise that makes me curse Joseph Pilates in my head. A lot.
- Start in a plank position hands on the footbar and feet on the Reformer carriage with heels on a rise against shoulder blocks. Push against the footbar keeping straight arms to a flat or slightly piked position.
- Next, on an exhale engage the core muscles while keeping shoulders down and hips level, bring one bent knee toward the footbar and keep the extended leg (with foot against the shoulder block) straight.
- To complete the exercise, inhale and extend the bended knee straight backwards while bending the opposite leg toward the footbar while keeping extension in the body. It’s difficult to explain (and perform) but WundaBar instructor, Leeann Medina, demonstrates it beautifully below.
These 4 exercises are my biggest Reformer challenges to date. Even at Day 60 I know they’ll still be difficult but I’m hoping my form, strength and length will all improve. It seems crazy that there are only a few more weeks to get to Day 60!
Want to some more Pilates tips directly from WundaBar pros? Next week I’m featuring interviews with 3 of WundaBar’s most loved instructors. You might learn the essential tip to perform your most challenging exercise better!
*This post is part of my series Wunda Wednesdays which I have agreed to write in exchange for classes at WundaBar Pilates for the next 60 days. All opinions are my own.