Also called Pulling Ropes, this is one of the few prone exercises on the Reformer and it’s not too hard, so it should make it into almost every Pilates class, especially for beginners.
There are 3 main ways people tend to cheat during this exercise. Let's look at each of them and explore how to prevent them:
1. Arching/compressing the lumbar spine due to a lack of abdominal activity or lack of axial length
Simply lying in a prone position puts your spine into an extension bias, which means you have to actively work your abdominals. Otherwise - if you just relax here - you’re not in a neutral spine, you’re in extension. So the most important thing here is to keep your abdominal wall tight. No sagging bellies!
To keep tension on your lower abdominal wall, imagine a rubber band between your front hip bones. Pull it taut from one hip to the other. Press your pubis and hip bones evenly into the box and lengthen your tailbone back through your heels.
If you're a teacher, slide your fingertips underneath your student’s waist to encourage her to engage her lower abdominal wall.
2. Not returning the arms all the way next to the body
Many people skip the last inch of shoulder extension. That’s where the real work is. Make sure they lift the arms up all the way next to the body, maybe even an inch higher. Tell your students (and yourself!) that the last inch at the top is where all the work is. Don’t skip it.
3. Not using the same muscles to lower your arms as you use to lift them
Watch the moment when the movement switches from releasing to pulling, also known as the point of return. I see all the time that students use a different strategy (pattern) to move the arms forward than they use to pull back. It should be the same strategy.
Are you going to practice or teach Pulling Straps this week? What are your favorite tips for this exercise?
The Reformer chapter is live! Have you checked it out, yet? In the Pilates Encyclopedia, we look at every detail of Pulling Straps, from head to toe, to help you get the maximum benefit from this exercise.