Pilates Step Barrel Workout

Pilates Step Barrel Workout

step barrel exercise
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For our Pilates step barrel workout we are very fortunate to have a tutorial contributed by Pilates master instructor Rael Isacowitz, founder of BASI Pilates. 

Step Barrel Workout Introduction

The step barrel, sometimes called a spine corrector, is a traditional piece of Pilates equipment originally created by Joseph Pilates. The equipment you see here is the Avalon Step Barrel that Rael Isacowitz adapted based on the original. All of the exercises here can be done on the classic step barrel. Many of the exercises here are based on Pilates mat exercises and those notes have been added to the instructions. Also, some of the exercises can be done on the foam roller as well.

From Rael: While performing this workout, pay attention to all the Pilates principles, in particular to the precision of the work and the flow of movement within each exercise as well as the flow of the entire workout.

Reach on the Step Barrel

  1. Inhale: Focus on the deepening of the “C” curve by engaging the abdominals. As you deepen the abdominal contraction, think about keeping the space open while not shortening the space between the ribs and hips.
  2. Exhale: Roll down while lifting the arms overhead and simultaneously straightening the legs
  3. Inhale and pause: With the body in a straight line from ankles to your fingertips, extend the thoracic spine over the barrel, taking the arms further back.
  4. Exhale to roll up, arms reaching forward, draw legs in and return to start.
  5. 8 Repetitions

Tip: The “C” Shape is when the shoulders are directly above the hips. The exercise starts and ends with a C-shaped spine. Remember to establish a straight line with the body when in a supine position prior to extending further over the barrel.

The Pilates Hundred Prep on the Step Barrel

Pilates Hundered - Barrel
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  1. Inhale to prepare
  2. Exhale and lift your head and chest, with your arms reaching forward
  3. Inhale as you pause at the top of the movement
  4. Exhale and lower your body to start position
  5. 8 Repetitions

Tips: Try to keep your legs together and do not lift the lumbar spine off the barrel.

Guide notes: Also see the hundred on the mat.

The Pilates Spine Twist Supine on the Step Barrel

spine twist
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  1. Lying supine [on your back] with your lower back and pelvis on the barrel, knees bent to 90 degrees and your thighs perpendicular to the floor
  2. Inhale: Lower your legs to one side
  3. Exhale: Engaging your abdominals to draw your legs back to center
  4. Repeat to the other side
  5. 8 Repetitions

Tips: Keep your legs together by using your adductor muscles. Also, try not to lift your lumbar spine off the barrel.

Pilates Leg Scissors on the Step Barrel

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  1. Lying supine with your lower back and pelvis on the barrel, keep your legs straight above your hips and perpendicular to the floor.
  2. Exhale: Open your legs to a scissors position. When you reach the end point of your scissors, there is a small pulse, pulse.
  3. Inhale: your legs will pass through the perpendicular position
  4. Exhale: open your legs to scissor and pulse two times again.
  5. Your final exhale will return your legs to the starting position.

Tips: Remember to keep your legs perpendicular to the floor when they are together. When you are in the open scissors position, try to keep an even shaped “V” in your legs. It is important to keep your pelvis anchored and your spine in touch with the barrel. This is a wonderful exercise to stretch both the hip flexors and the hamstrings.

Guide note: Also see Pilates scissors on the mat.

Pilates Helicopter on the Step Barrel

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  1. The start position is the same as the Leg Scissors (previous exercise).
  2. Inhale to open your legs to scissors position
  3. Exhale and circle your legs around to the scissors position in the opposite side and return to your starting position
  4. Reverse direction after 5 repetitions and repeat in the opposite direction

Tips: Maintain your pelvic stabilization through the movement; touch each point of your circle as your leg comes around; work to establish the perpendicular position with your legs following each circle. Think of the “V” as you are rotating around the pelvis without moving the pelvis.

Pilates Roll Over on the Step Barrel

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  1. The start position is the same as the Leg Scissors and the Helicopter, except your legs will be in a straight diagonal line with your trunk.
  2. Inhale as you lift your legs to a 90-degree angle to the floor
  3. Exhale and roll over*, pause with your legs parallel to the floor
  4. Inhale and dorsiflex your feet, slightly separate your legs, and then reach your feet to the floor.
  5. Exhale as you roll down your spine until your pelvis is on the barrel, lower your legs to a diagonal line, bring your legs together and return to the starting position.
  6. 4-6 Repetitions

Tips: If you have neck issues, roll over might not be for you. Also, it is important to remember to keep the barrel connected to your spine throughout the movement; when you are lowering your legs, maintain your pelvic lumbar control.

Guide note: Also see roll over on the mat.

Kneeling Lunge with Pilates Step Barrel

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  1. Place one foot on the floor with your knee directly over your ankle, and your other knee on the step of the barrel; your foot is dorsiflexed and your toes are pressing into the barrel (or you can keep your foot relaxed); your arms are straight overhead and your palms are facing inward.
  2. Hold this position for 3 to 5 breaths and enjoy the stretch of the hip flexors of your back leg.
  3. Exhale and lower your torso forward and place your hands on the floor; straighten your front leg; hold this position for 3 to 5 breaths, stretching the hamstrings of your front leg.
  4. Inhale and return to your start position and repeat the stretch of your hip flexors.
  5. Repeat on the other side. 2 repetitions.

Tips: Try to bias toward a posterior tilt of the pelvis during the hip flexor stretch; keep your scapulae stabilized throughout and avoid scapular elevation. Remember to keep your abdominals engaged to help prevent pressure on your lower back. During the hamstring stretch, try to bias toward an anterior tilt of the pelvis. It is important to remember to engage your back extensors to receive maximum benefit of the hamstring stretch.​

Guide notes: This exercise can be done kneeling on the mat as well. Also, see:
Standing Lunge
Standing Lunge with Ball and Wall

Leg Pull Front with Pilates Step Barrel

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  1. Start this exercise in the front support position facing the barrel; your hands can be on the levers (if you have access to an Avalon Step Barrel) or on the rim of the Step Barrel.
  2. One foot is slightly lifted off the floor with plantar flexion while your other foot is placed firmly on the floor. Inhale; start with a front support; lift one leg off the floor slightly; plantar flex your foot.
  3. Exhale and extend your working leg, extending your hip
  4. Inhale and lower your leg so your toes are just lightly touching the floor, maintaining the plantar flexion of your foot.
  5. On your final repetition, dorsiflex your foot and place it on the ground, returning to ​front support position.
  6. Repeat on the other side. 5 Repetitions each side

Tips: It is important to maintain stabilization of your scapular and to keep your pelvis in a neutral position.

Guide note:
Also see leg pull front on the mat and plank on the mat.

Side Lift/Side Over on the Step Barrel

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  1. Sit sideways on the barrel, with your bottom leg bent, your top leg straight, and your arms reaching straight overhead.
  2. Inhale and reach your trunk over the barrel
  3. Exhale and lift your trunk to create a diagonal line with your leg
  4. Inhale to lower your trunk
  5. With your final inhale, stretch over the barrel and relax
  6. Repeat on the other side. 6 to 8 Repetitions.

Tips: Focus on alignment of the trunk, head, and arms on one long diagonal line.

Guide note: Mat exercises using similar skills include mermaid and side stretch.

Pilates Swan on the Step Barrel

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  1. Lying prone over the barrel, with your knees slightly bent, your feet are anchored on the floor in a small “V” position. Your hands can be interlaced behind your head or on the levers (if you have an Avalon Step Barrel) or on the rim of the Step Barrel.
  2. Inhale and lift your trunk and plantar flex your feet
  3. Exhale and lower your trunk, placing your feet on the floor

Tips: Glide your scapulae down your back prior to lifting your trunk; continue to adduct your legs as you lift into spinal articulation. Remember to keep your abdominals engaged throughout the movement.

Guide notes: Also see swan-prep on the mat, swan dive, and swan-swim on the ball.

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