Lower Body Workout Challenge on the Pilates Chair

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Introduction: Lower Body Workout Challenge with the Pilates Chair

Asian man stretching on exercise equipment
Caroline Schiff/Blend Images/Getty Images

We are fortunate to have the photos and basic instructions for this Pilates chair workout for the lower body contributed by Pilates instructor Kevin Bowen. Kevin is the co-founder, past President and former Executive Director of the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA), as well as the former Director of Education for Peak Pilates a division of Mad Dogg Athletics. Kevin is a PMA Certified Pilates teacher PMA CPT. He teaches, conducts continuing education workshops and Pilates instructor training throughout the US and abroad.

In this workout, Kevin is demonstrating on the MVe Pilates chair, a modern adaptation of the traditional Pilates chair. You should be able to do most of this workout on any chair you have, including the Malibu Pilates chair. Since spring tension varies on different Pilates chairs, you will have to judge your settings yourself. In general, these exercises are done on a medium - high setting.

A few points for your workout: Though this is a lower body workout, you are working from your core and your whole body is involved. Your abdominal muscles will be engaged -- lengthening your spine and lifting your trunk out of your hips so that they can move more freely. Remember to use the pedal to maximum effect by staying engaged with the spring as you release. Notice how in many exercises Kevin presses his hands into the side of the chair to help widen his shoulders and chest, as well as engage his arms with his core.*

From Kevin: "For my personal workouts I tend to do a cross training regimen which includes combining and working out with free weights and machines in the gym -- incorporating, of course, the movement principles of Pilates -- along with my Pilates routine. 3 days per week I like to utilize the Wunda Chair at the end of my gym routine to address my lower body and balance. Here is my workout."

*As with our other Pilates studio equipment exercise instructions, this lower body workout with the Pilates chair is meant to support a Pilates practice that is informed by instruction from a qualified Pilates instructor. The instructions,along with a few guide tips, are brief -- meant to remind you of the choreography and form.

Keep in mind that the Pilates chair is a spring-loaded piece of equipment. This lower body workout progresses into more advanced exercises. If at anytime you feel unsteady, it will be wise to skip or modify the exercise.

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Lower Body Workout: Seated Double Leg Pumps on the Pilates Chair

lower body chair workout
(c)Kevin Bowen, licensed to About.com

Sit on the Pilates chair in the center and place both feet on the foot pedal. The first footwork position is Pilates V. The heels are together and the toes slightly apart. Concentrate on your form and alignment.

Pump the pedal up and down 10 times.

Guide Tip: Keeping the heels lifted helps engage the hamstrings.

Next, parallel legs.

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Double Leg Pumps - Parallel

(c)Kevin Bowen, licensed to About.com

Place your heels, feet flexed, on the paddle of your Pilates chair. The legs are parallel in this set. Continue to sit upright and pump from your core.

Pump the pedal up and down 10 times.

Guide Tip: Keeping the legs parallel will help strengthen the inner thighs. Don't let your feet rock with the movement.

Notice how the 3 foot position series relates to the standing Pilates footwork and footwork on the reformer.

Next, legs wide.

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Double Leg Pumps - Legs Wide

(c)Kevin Bowen, licensed to About.com

With heels toward the edges of the Pilates chair foot bar, the legs and feet are slightly turned out.

Pump the pedal up and down 10 times.

Bonus challenge: before leaving the footwork, go back to the Pilates V and heels positions and do single leg pumping. The other leg is extended straight in front. 5 reps each leg.

Next, Standing Single Leg Pumps, Front

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Standing Single Leg Pumps - Front

(c)Kevin Bowen, licensed to About.com

Stand in front of the Pilates chair facing the pedal. Place the right foot metatarsals [ball] on the pedal and cross your arms in front of you. For a greater challenge, extend the arms as shown.

Push down on the pedal 10 times and repeat with the other foot.

Next, Single Leg Pumps with Crossover

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Single Leg Pumps with Crossover

(c)Kevin Bowen, licensed to About.com

Move to the right side of the Pilates chair and face the side of the chair. Stand on the right foot and cross the left leg over and place your full foot along the pedal. Your standing leg is inline with the edge of the paddle when it is up.

Maintain your standing leg balance and pump the pedal with the crossed over leg 10 times. Walk around to the other side and repeat with the opposite leg.

Next, Single Leg Pumps, Rounded.

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Single Leg Pumps - Back Rounded

leg exercise
(c)Kevin Bowen, licensed to About.com

Move to the back of the Pilates chair and face the front of the chair. Thighs skim the back edge.

Place your right leg over the chair and put your heel on the pedal. The foot will stay flexed.

Round your back and pull up through your abdominals and center to support your spine.

place your hands on either side of the seat of the chair.

Push the pedal down 10 times, repeat with the other foot.

Next, Single Leg Pumps - Side.

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Single Leg Pumps - Side

lower body exercise
(c)Kevin Bowen, licensed to About.com

Still on the back of the Pilates chair, turn so that your right leg is next to the back edge of the chair. Place your right leg over the seat and put the right heel on the pedal. The leg is slightly turned out.

Arms are folded or extended as shown.

Press down 10 times. Repeat on the other side.

Next, Kneeling Single Leg Pumps

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Single Leg Pumps - Kneeling Front

pilates chair exercise
(c)Kevin Bowen, licensed to About.com

Kneeling on the top of the Pilates chair facing the pedal.

Balance on one knee while holding your arms out to the side or bent with your hands placed behind your head.

Place the heel of your foot on the pedal making sure that your pelvis is aligned facing forward and even.

Arms are folded or extended as shown.

Press down 10 times, repeat on the other side.

Next, Kneeling Pumps - Side Facing

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Single Leg Pumps - Kneeling Side

(c)Kevin Bowen, licensed to About.com

Turn your body of the top of the Pilates chair so that you are facing sideways.

Kneel on one leg, place the foot of the leg closest to the foot bar on the bar. Align the foot along the bar.

Press down 10 times. Repeat on the other side.

Arms are folded or extended as shown.

Next, Front Mountain Climb, Round Back

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Front Mountain Climb - Round Back

Pilates chair mountain climber
(c)Kevin Bowen, licensed to About.com

Stand facing the Pilates chair.

Place your left foot on the pedal and press the pedal down to the floor.

Place your right foot on the seat of the chair with the toes lined up with the far side of the seat.

Round your back and place your hands on either side of the seat. Transfer your weight into the right leg and lift up your entire body in this rounded position so that your left foot and pedal lift off the floor.

Bring your body into an alignment so that the thigh of your right leg is parallel to the floor.

Hold this position and pump the left leg 10 times.

Be sure that your pelvis stays squared and even during the movement.

Lower the left leg back down to the floor, hold the paddle down and change legs so that your right leg is on the pedal.

Place your left leg up on the chair and repeat the exercise on the other side.

Bonus Challenge: Do the same exercise except that your body is upright with hands behind the head. Allow the pedal to lift until the thigh is parallel to the floor. Pump 10 times each side.

Next, Going Up - Front

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Going Up - Front

strengthening lower body workout
(c)Kevin Bowen, licensed to About.com

Stand facing the Pilates chair and place your left foot on the pedal and press the pedal down to the floor.

Place your right foot on top (seat) of the chair with the toes lined up with the far side of the seat.

Arms can be crossed or extended as shown.

Begin pressing up by organizing your entire body and allowing your right leg to assist you from the bent leg position. Keep your left leg straight as your entire body moves upward and the pedal comes all the way up to the position with no resistance.

Be sure that your pelvis stays squared and aligned as your move up and down.

Do 10 repetitions and repeat on the other side.

Guide Tip: This is a lunge type of exercise. The weight should be distributed between the two legs -- not all on the front leg. Do not do this exercise unless you are strong and steady.

A huge thank you to Pilates instructor and workshop leader Kevin Bowen for contributing this lower body workout on the Pilates chair. Kevin's blog is The Prime Male. He can be found on Facebook as well.

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