DIGGING DEEPER - Get to Know Your Pilates Exercises: Transitions


By Amanda Turner

As some of us have returned to in-studio workouts, or have been practicing (and will continue to practice) Pilates at home, I thought this month would be a great time to review the transitions within the Pilates work. We all know that Pilates requires a certain amount of control and precision - but did you know that there are precise transitions from exercise to exercise that keep the work fluid, graceful, connections integrated, and minimize any extra movement or wiggles?! Your teacher will cue specific movements of the hands, feet, Foot Bar, or straps, to name a few, that prepare you for the next exercise. It’s important to pay close attention to what is being said. This will set you up for success for the next exercise as well as maximize the use of your session time. Let’s review a few key transitions, shall we?!

The Mat:
Single Leg Circles, Rolling Like a Ball, Stomach Massage Series, Spine Stretch Forward
Once you’ve completed your Single Leg Circles, you’ll come to seated, gathering your legs in for Rolling Like a Ball - do not shift your hips forward or back (especially if you’re on a raised Mat in front of a Wall Unit or on the Cadillac). Keep the hips in the center of the Mat. Roll Like a Ball, once you’ve finished your last rep, hug one knee into your chest - hands in proper position, and lie back in your chin to chest position with the other leg extended. Complete the Stomach Massage Exercises in your repertoire and then pop right up to seated, legs wider than your hips for Spine Stretch Forward. How fast you complete this sequence is based upon your breath. By eliminating the extra movement that I often see between these exercises, you will strengthen your powerhouse and no doubt increase your lung capacity.  

The Reformer:
Long Box Series: Pull Strap, T, Backstroke to Teaser
Once you have completed your 3 repetitions of T, you will place both handles in one hand, step off to the same side. Add your second spring. Facing forward (toward the springs), spilt your handles behind yourself, one handle in each hand. Sit on the edge of the box, tailbone just off the edge, and lie back. Bend your knees into your chest with your knuckles into your forehead so that you’re in a tight ball, and complete your repetitions of Backstroke (see our blog article about Backstroke HERE).  Again, place both handles in one hand and come to seated on the same side of your back as your handles - the goal is to swivel to a teaser position and use your free hand to remove a spring, but start by just attempting to not let the feet touch the ground. But for the love of Pilates, do not straddle the Reformer. Think about all the transitions we’ve used so far, the abs are still engaged, the inner thighs are still engaged, the glutes are still engaged…Pilates is hard…you don’t get a break between exercises. If your teacher has added this exercise into your repertoire, they believe that you have the strength and endurance to complete the transition as well as the exercise - you can do it!
Ok, so we’ve removed the spring and with both handles still in one hand, swivel back down into a lying position (this will have adjusted your hips on the box so that you’re farther back - the goal is to not need to use your feet to push your hips back any farther - split the handles one in each hand while lying back. Complete Teaser.  
Remember, Pilates is all about being efficient. Being efficient with the preparation and execution of each movement - precision is one of the key principles after all. Ask your teacher to review any of the other transitions (because there are many) within your particular repertoire and take notice that when you properly transition, the completion of the exercise will be with greater competency!
There will be new additions to our EPA Mobile library this month to support making proper transitions. Keep a lookout (or sign up here to receive a notice of new additions to the library) - one for Mat and one for Reformer transitions to help you get the most out of your sessions.