Here's a question that I received in one of my Live Q&A Calls and my answer:
Teaser on the long box with straps: how short should the straps be? I tried it several times with quite fit clients who are able to do a Teaser with the push through bar and on the mat, but I always struggle teaching it on the long box. I wonder if students who are shorter than me should use shorter straps.
Teaser on the Reformer is one of - if not THE - most difficult Teasers in the Pilates repertoire.
To answer your questions properly, let me back up just a bit. For starters, the Tower bar helps to pull you up on the Trapeze Table, which makes it the easiest Teaser variation and the one I traditionally start with. Additionally, the arm position (angle of the shoulders) changes which muscles are being used. On the Trapeze Table, the shoulders flex up to 180-degrees. On the Reformer, the arms move from an abducted position to 90-degrees of flexion.
Teaser on the mat is definitely a lot harder than on the Trapeze Table. It requires more spine mobility and more abdominal strength for sure, but also a lot of hip flexor strength. A common mistake is to use momentum, avoid articulating through the spine, and overuse the hip flexors to pull up into the Teaser. Your core muscles are definitely working too, but your hip flexors have to hold your legs up in the air.
The big difference on the Reformer is that you have resistance from the straps which engages your arms, shoulders, and upper core a lot more. As you reach forward and protract your scapula, the serratus activates. The serratus anterior wraps around the side of your ribcage and connects with your internal oblique on the same side and your external oblique on the other side, creating an "X" around the front body. This is called the anterior oblique sling. Then, there is the additional challenge of rolling up and down on a moving surface (the carriage). This unstable surface makes it harder to use momentum as a cheating mechanism. No wonder the Teaser on the Reformer is so challenging.
If your student can do all the other Teasers and you want to progress them, this is a wonderful challenge. I would begin by sitting on the box in a C-curve position holding the straps and reaching your arms forward. One by one, lift your legs into tabletop and take a moment to feel the instability of the carriage. From there, have your student roll down one or two inches, and then roll right back up.
This is very similar to the Roll Down series on the Reformer, which is a very good regression or a preparation for the Teaser on the long box. The Roll Down series teaches how to push the carriage with the tailbone. It gets people used to the feeling of rolling on a moving surface.
What's different between the Roll Down and Teaser is how much your arms control the movement of the carriage.
Your hip flexors have to work isometrically to hold your legs up. As your pelvis rolls back into a posterior tilt, those same hip flexors now have to lengthen while they are working. One end of the muscle has to pull away from the other end while working eccentrically. That's hard!
After your student has repeated this preparatory exercise a few times, see if they can start rolling down an inch further each time while maintaining control. You'll probably see that they will start to wobble or lose control at one point. You'll be able to notice if they hit a flat spot in their spine. When they go over that flat spot and fall down on to it, they're not going to be able to come up over that (without momentum). Rolling down sloppily works with gravity, but going against gravity on the way up is a lot harder.
To answer your question regarding the straps: as long as your straps are not extremely long or extremely short, the length shouldn't matter too much. Keep them the same length you always use. If you start in a seated C-curve as mentioned before, then you'll feel whether the length of the straps works. Remember, that the length of the straps and spring resistance work together here. The shorter the springs the heavier the springs will feel.
As for your spring resistance, I would recommend either one or two springs. Experiment with spring tension, it often requires a bit of trial and error to find the sweet spot. If the springs are too light, then you don't get enough feedback and activation of the anterior oblique sling. If they are too heavy, then your anterior oblique sling might be too weak to be able to overcome that resistance.
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