Welcome to Week 6 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, I shared the requirements to executing a safe (and fun) Pilates Jump. When you Jump you almost get to be lazy because you’re lying down. This week, every kid you know will be jealous. I’m going to encourage you to stand (and move) on a chair! I’m going to share 3 of the most challenging WundaChair standing exercises I’ve been learning at WundaBar.
The WundaChair is a misnomer because there is very little sitting done on this component of the WundaFormer. The WundaChair cushioned platform, adjustable spring loaded lever and parallel risers (used as hand rests) all are used in various ways to build strength in the arms, core, legs, back and chest.
To begin, the WundaChair must be placed in the up position and the spring tension adjusted. Instructors cue the general mid-level spring tension instructions but are always open for individual adjustments as needed.
The WundaChair exercise done in nearly every class I’ve attended is called the Upstretch Pike Oblique. For most people, one yellow (light) and one blue (medium) spring are enough but I often need to use 2 blues for the extra support.
To execute the Upstretch Pike Oblique properly requires detailed attention to multiple areas of body alignment.
- Turn to one side with one foot on the WundaChair lever in front of the other (back toes touching front heel).
- Square hips forward with straight legs and inner thighs touching.
- Expand through the collarbones and turn the upper body toward the platform and with straight arms, place hands on the opposite sides of the upper corner of the cushioned platform. The body is now in an intentional twist.
- Tighten the core muscles, position the shoulders over the wrists and away from the ears (I’m not demonstrating the “ears away from the shoulders” well in the picture above). Focus on the mid-body and distribute weight evenly between the hands and the feet.
- Keeping the candy-cane-type curve of the upper body, inhale to bring the lever off the ground with straight legs. Instructors may encourage the candy-cane shape at the top or want a “flatback or table top”.
- To complete the movement, on an exhale allow the hips to make a small decline without allowing the lever to touch the floor.
There are variations of the Upstretch Pike Oblique which include:
– Upstretch Pike (with straight legs put both feet on the lever, bend over and place hands on opposite sides of the cushion platform)
– Bend and Stretch (straightening and bending knees using the core muscles which can be done in both the Step Over and Forward Facing Pike)
All variations of these leaning lever moves are extremely effective for the core and oblique muscles of the abdominal area, the back and the arms. It’s easy to reach the point of seeing (and feeling) rivulets of sweat going down your arms after a minute or two of doing any of these exercises. Working the muscles and keeping alignment requires hard work!
The second WundaChair exercise is called the Step Up. This exercise releases the hands from the cushion platform and requires the body to be held upright.
To achieve proper alignment in the Step Up, additional spring tension may be required due to the higher demand for core strength, hip alignment during alternate leg work.
For this exercise, I need one blue and one red spring for greater support not the general one yellow, one blue (or two blues).
To perform the WundaChair Step Up:
1. Place one foot in the middle of the raised cushion platform with the knee tracking over the ankle, grab the parallel risers to rise up and place both feet onto the platform.
2. Look into the mirror to aid in alignment, square and level the hips, hold onto the risers and step back with one foot to reach the lever behind.
3. While bending the standing knee to 90 degrees, on an exhale slowly lower the straight leg on the lever down a few inches and then rise back up on an inhale keeping tension on the spring. The Bend and Stretch move is also a variation used here.
*With strong core muscles, this exercise can be done with hands on the hips to ensure they remain level or in prayer position.
If you’re like me and your core muscles are not strong, resting hands lightly on the risers is encouraged until adequate strength is acquired.*
The Side Plie is my third standing WundaChair exercise. The traditional ballet plie is a well known way to help strengthen the muscles of the core, glutes and legs. Alignment of the shoulders over the hips and the knees over the ankles while keeping the torso lifted isn’t easy for those of us that aren’t dancers. You may not want to imagine how difficult a basic plie becomes when you are required to add a lift and lower of the WundaChair lever with one leg.
To perform the WundaChair Side Plie:
1. Holding the riser in front for support, place the anchor foot on the cushion platform with toes turned outward and place other foot to rest on the WundaChair lever.
2. With core muscles engaged, shoulders over hips, tailbone facing down and weight as evenly distributed as possible, bend the knee of the anchor foot on an exhale while lowering the lever with the other foot to plie.
3. Keeping length in the torso and utilizing the muscles of quadricep and the inner thigh of the anchor leg, straighten the knee on an inhale and lift the lever to stand tall to complete one repetition.
While there are many permutations of movement that the WundaChair offers, I have found these 3 exercises (and their variations) to be my biggest challenges. My instability due to my weak core continues to be tested with each WundaBar class I attend.
I thought that classes would become easier after hitting the halfway mark of the Challenge but it hasn’t quite been that way. I’ve been working hard to refuel with more protein and calories but still there have been tough days.
There have been days that I just couldn’t complete an exercise or needed multiple instructor adjustments. I don’t expect perfection but it’s frustrating. The fact that I’m having fun overall is enough to quell the voice in my head saying I’m injured and weak. Even after I hit the 60 Day mark, I know that I won’t be transformed into Super Woman but I know I’ll be just a tiny bit closer.
Next week, I’ll tell you a little more about some Reformer exercises. Do you have any favorite Reformer exercises?
*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.