Pilates Exercises Poorly Named

Ever been tricked into trying Tendon Stretch only to find it was far from the feel-good move you imagined? You’re not alone. Our latest post is brought to you by Fuse instructor Meredith Capps, who has a few issues with the exercise names selected by Uncle Joe.

Fuse Pilates Thigh Stretch

At Fuse, we will always cue movement, rather than only using exercise names, so that everyone can follow along, regardless of their level of Pilates experience. Relying exclusively on “traditional” exercise names can also get tricky because different people use different names for the same exercise.

Another reason we are judicious in calling out exercise names: while some names are descriptive and as such, helpful and intuitive– leg circles, roll up, roll over, rocking– others are misleading, or just downright strange.

Here are a few of my top offenders:

Sounds Better That It Feels: Anything with the Word “Stretch”
Whoever named thigh stretch and tendon stretch was clearly trying to coax their students into performing these exercises, sort of like pouring cheese all over a child’s broccoli. These exercises, while they involve stretching to the extent that all Pilates exercises do, are not exercises that anyone would describe as “yummy.” Thigh stretch involves kneeling and leaning back, maintaining a straight line from knees to shoulders, which sets most anyone’s quads on fire. The set-up for tendon stretch is rather precarious, requiring you to sit on the footbar with feet up against the inside edge of the carriage, praying you don’t teeter off the edge, then stabilize your shoulders and hold on to your core as you glide your body forward and back like a pike, and perhaps even throw in a single leg extension or circle back for good measure. Knee stretch? The most advanced version of that is sometimes called Jack Rabbit, which is far more indicative of the dynamic movement and strength this exercise requires.

Fuse Pilates Mat Exercise

Hello, quads.

Fuse Pilates Reformer DC

Tendon stretch. The worst “stretch” ever.

And believe it not, Wunda chair lovers, I learned pikes on the chair, one of the most challenging exercises in all of Pilates, as part of the “hamstring stretch” series. You may be stretching your hamstrings, but you probably won’t notice as you try to avoid falling on your head or catapulting across the room.

Fuse Pilates Hamstring Stretch

This “stretch” feels an awful lot like deep abdominal work…

Least Descriptive: Stomach Massage
There are several variations of this exercise, all of which involve sitting on the Reformer carriage with feet on the footbar, extending and bending legs to press the carriage in an out, like footwork. It can be done with a round or flat back, with both feet or just one foot on the bar, with arms extended, or you can throw in rotation. Do it properly and you’ll fire your transverse abs, challenge your posture, strengthen and stretch your legs, and if the spring is very heavy, possibly almost lose your Lululemon low rise Wunder Unders (we have non-stick pads to help with that).

No matter the variation, it is always awkward, and nothing about it is a massaging. I once heard that by engaging those deep abs, one is “massaging the stomach,” hence the name. Really?

Sounds Worse Than It Is: Neck Pull
This just sounds painful, yes? The only time I want anyone pulling on my neck is, say, if it is the only way to extricate me from a burning building. For this reason, you may never have heard your teacher reference this exercise. Neck pull is a version of the roll up/roll down on the mat that involves supporting the head with the hands, which is actually quite lovely, alternating between rounding and lengthening the spine.

Fuse Pilates Classical Mat

In Neck Pull, don’t pull your neck, lengthen your spine.

Runners Up:

Teaser: The sister exercise of the teaser in yoga is called “boat pose” which makes sense as your body does, sort of, take on the shape of a boat, one that hopefully does not sink as you maintain position. But the Pilates teaser…Is this exercise meant to taunt (tease) our weak abdominals? To entice (tease) us into adopting the Pilates method to overcome our weakness? Teaser is also defined as “difficult problem or puzzle,” which this exercise certainly is, particularly for those with long limbs…Pick your definition.

Pilates Teaser Fuse Pilates

Teasers on the Tower are guaranteed to make you shake.

Short and Long Spine: Now these exercises DO actually feel like a massage (unlike Stomach Massage) for the low back, and are traditionally called short and long spine massage, so that is somewhat descriptive, and they DO stretch the hamstrings (unless Hamstring Stretch piking on the chair). The spine is rounded for “short” spine, and lengthened for “long” spine, so I suppose this is also descriptive, but heaven knows I would never guess what my teacher meant if, new to the Reformer, she merely announced, “and now, Short Spine!”

Fuse Pilates Reformer

We <3 you, Short Spine.

What exercises terminology leaves you feeling perplexed? Tell us in the comments! Never tried these exercises? Sign up for your next session and request one in class!

Read more posts by Meredith


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