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Comparing Supine Leg Springs on the Trapeze Table to Feet in Straps on the Reformer

reformer trapeze table Jul 30, 2018

At first glance these two exercises seem to be very similar and you might be wondering which one to choose. Let’s look at each differing factor:

Getting The Feet Into The Loops

  • T- Getting the feet into the straps is easier, the teacher can expand the springs to help, and table doesn’t move.
  • R- Getting the feet into the straps requires some coordination because the carriage moves in the process; the teacher can assist beginners.

Effort In The Starting Position

  • T- The starting position requires some effort to the hip extensors and spine extensors to pull the legs into a 30-45 degree starting position.
  • R- In the starting position the legs can and should be extended into 30-45 without much effort. The springs hold the legs up, they feel weightless.

Angle of the springs

  • T- Angle of the springs is steeper at 30-45 degrees.
  • R- Angle of the springs runs (almost) parallel to the carriage and torso or even inverted if the risers are lowered.

Muscle Work

  • T- Springs coming from overhead makes hip extensors (hamstrings, glutes) work more.
  • R- Springs coming from behind you makes abdominals work harder for stability.

Body Symmetry

  • T- The springs are connected to separate attachment points. This makes is easier to work with legs with true leg length discrepancy. Each leg can be as long as it wants to be. It also helps find strength imbalances: one leg might have an easier time lowering to the floor than the other.
  • R- The two feet in the two straps are connected to one carriage, which means leg length or strength imbalances between right and left can often not be recognized or corrected. The stronger leg will help the weaker leg. In case that one leg is truly longer than the other, the shorter one will feel loose in the strap, or the longer one won’t be able to straighten fully. A solution for this is to lengthen one strap a little bit more, but this seems a lot of effort to get it right. And don’t forget to even the straps back out for work with upper extremities or other students.

Connection of the Two Sides Of The Body

  • T- Challenges trunk and spine stability in the transverse and frontal planes due to the springs being separate.
  • R- Challenges trunk and spine stability mostly in sagittal plane due to the straps being connected via the carriage. (Some variations challenge other planes.) It’s easier to maintain symmetry in the torso.

Planes of Movement

  • T- Loss of pelvic stability in the transverse plane (pelvic rotation) and the frontal plane (hip hiking) highly possible because each leg has to “pull its own weight”. This provides a higher challenge to trunk stability on the transverse and frontal planes. Even the challenge to the sagittal plane is probably higher due to a higher need for hip extensor strength, which most of us have lost.
  • R- In most variations both legs go through the same movement arc, hence there is not as much challenge to pelvic stability in the transverse or frontal plane. (Exceptions are the variations Peter Pan, Walking on the Ceiling, and Single Leg Stretch with the opposite strap.

Upper Body

  • T- Arms can be used to help stabilize the trunk by grabbing the upright poles.
  • R- Arms cannot be used to help stabilize trunk.

Fluidity

  • T- It's more difficult to achieve a fluid leg movement due to each leg fighting for itself.
  • R- It's easier to achieve fluid movement due to the legs being connected to each other via the carriage.

Ankle Stability

  • T- Provides more of a challenge to the lower legs to stabilize the ankle. This is not necessary a good thing. If the glutes are too weak for the exercise, the calves and hamstrings take over. Hamstring and/or calf cramping is a sure sign for this. This can be avoided by using ankle cuffs or Y-loops.
  • R- Less work for the lower legs and ankles, more emphasis on hip joint and lumbo-pelvic region.

Variation: Frogs

  • T- The springs challenge hip extensors and external rotators
  • R- Springs assist hip flexion.

Variation: Lower + Lift

  • T- It’s easier to be aware of the anchoring of the pelvis and sacrum during the movement, maybe due to the table being still.
  • R- It’s more difficult to be aware of and to prevent flexion/extension of the lumbar spine while moving the legs, maybe due to the movement of the carriage and the general easier more assisted feeling of the exercise. The easier an exercise is, the less focus it naturally requires; This means the teacher has to help bring the student’s awareness to the position of the pelvis.

Variation: Circles

  • T- Circles require more hip extensor and external rotator strength.
  • R- Circles require more adductor strength (eccentric and concentric).

Variation: Scissors and Bicycle

  • T- Scissors and bicycle possible.
  • R- Scissors, and bicycle not possible, but Walking on Ceiling and Peter Pan are other creative alternatives.

Variation: Thighs in Straps

  • T- Thighs in straps easy to get into. Works on hip dissociation, abdominal and hip extensor strength.
  • R- Thighs in straps possible, but for someone with limited hip mobility it can be difficult to slide the legs into the loops, unless you have velcro cuffs available. Then it’s a phenomenal hip mobility exercise. Circles assist the hips into 360 degrees of movement.

 

Bottom line: Supine Leg Springs is generally the more difficult exercise, unless you choose Thighs in Straps.

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