Backstroke on the Reformer

Ideally, your chest remains up and your upper abs and connection your box remains constant no matter what you arms and legs are doing.

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Reformer, Long Box, Straps
  • Reps: 3-5 in the beginning then as you add in the Reverse 3 in each direction
  • Warning: If you have neck issues or have a hard time keeping your head up for an extended period of time practice your Double Leg Stretch on the Mat.
  • Questions: Contact us here

Backstroke on the Reformer

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I think I fell in LOVE with the Pilates Reformer when I learned Backstroke. It was equally challenging and fun! Of course, then I learned more and more exercises on the Reformer. But, this one had my heart first! The exercise is not as tricky as it looks and if you have been doing Double Leg Stretch well and Coordination on the Reformer fairly well then you can add the Backstroke into your routine. I do not recommend learning this exercise and Coordination on the same day. They are very similar and also very different. Learn one of the two well then add the other in!

The secret to success here is to not let the springs push you around.

Holding your handles in your hands behind your back sit at the very edge (yes the very edge) of your Long Box. It should feel like you are about to fall off the edge! Then lay down on your back, curl into a ball and hold your handles over your head. You should have two springs on the reformer and the carriage should be closed. To start you will reach both your arms and legs up to the ceiling, then open both your arms and legs, circle them around and reach your hands over your thighs. You will feel like you are in a 100's position. This is the spot you hold and then curl everything back into a ball. DO NOT REST HERE immediately reach right back out and repeat. 3-5x.

Once you get the hang and connection of this try the reverse. Instead of reaching up to the ceiling reach out to where you usually hold. Hold there then resist the temptation to lower down as you circle your arms and legs back up to the ceiling. Bend in and repeat 3 times.

The secret to success here is to not let the springs push you around. As your arms and legs reach up and around in the first version notice if your chest lifts up due to the weight of your legs. And then does it drop down as you return back in? Ideally, your chest remains up and your upper abs and connection your box remains constant no matter what you arms and legs are doing.


Be sure to check out more of my online Pilates Reformer exercises. I want to help you continue your Pilates Reformer training!

Loving this Pilates exercise tutorial? Take weekly online Pilates mat classes with Lesley Logan.

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