The Up Stretch
By Amanda Turner
Happy New Year!
I often get my inspiration for these articles from students - asking questions, needing modifications, wanting progressions. I love it when something connects a student to the exercise and suddenly what seemed really challenging and maybe even scary, becomes accomplishable and maybe, dare I say it, FUN! The Up Stretch is one of those exercises - it can feel really scary but once you understand choreography and how to use your Powerhouse throughout the movement, it’ll start to feel less intimidating, more doable - and you’ll feel like a rock star for conquering your fears.
The Up Stretch is an intermediate exercise performed on the Reformer and it’s one of the last intermediate level Reformer exercises you’ll add to your repertoire. You’ll need to be very strong in your Long Stretch and Down Stretch along with a few other exercises before we think about adding this in. We’ll go over that later.
After Down Stretch, you’ll lift your hips up and straighten your legs, your heels will slide to the center of the shoulder blocks with your toes forward on the Mat. Downward press with the hands on the footbar. Your scoop needs to be really strong here, just to keep the carriage closed during this initial phase. Eyes stay on your toes.
Pull the abs in (even deeper), use the glutes, curl the tailbone under, and press your heels into the shoulder blocks to drop your hips into a push up position. The carriage moves because your pelvis moves. Let me repeat that, the carriage opens because your legs stretch back and the hips lower into the Long Stretch position with the exception of the eyes staying focused on the feet. Sounds like any other Pilates movement, we must be on the right track ;)
Pull the carriage closed. If you’re not using your Powerhouse, the springs will catapult you forward. Use your glutes (keeping the legs long and strong, dig the heels into the shoulder blocks to control the carriage closed). Use your upper abs to control your arms (they’re just levers after all) to quietly close the carriage with control. Your chest will be over the footbar, more so than the Long Stretch - that’s the scary part.
Scoop the abs so much that you lift your hips keeping the carriage closed. Repeat 5 times total.
Notice how I repeated myself within each step, just using slightly different variations? It’s because this exercise can be dangerous if not done properly. Don’t let me scare you - if your teacher is giving you this exercise it’s because they think you can handle it. This means that the following exercises are looking really good:
~Push Through Front
Also, please note if you’re new to the studio during COVID-19 it might take a little longer to learn the more progressed exercises. For the Up Stretch for example, normally a teacher would spot your footbar to ensure you don’t pull it up. We can’t be that close to you yet, so we need to be 100% certain that there will be no face planting before giving this to you. We have your safety in mind just as much as you do!
And if you’re still practicing with us virtually, place a hand towel under the balls of your feet and mimic the same movements - whew that’ll make you sore!