Each piece of apparatus in Pilates is unique in how it makes the body interact with gravity. The springs work to support and resist you, making you stronger as you progress through the method. Yet not all of the equipment in Pilates is based on springs.
The mat work is solely you against gravity. You are the apparatus. You are all the equipment you need to get stronger and move better. While there are a ton of different props you could use to challenge yourself, when it’s support in space you need, the Pilates barrels are the go-to.
Get to Know Your Barrels
The traditional Spine Corrector is compact as far as Pilates equipment goes. It has a wooden base frame with a hump or arch barrel on one end. The other end is an angled ledge that creates a divot where it meets the barrel. Depending on your body position, the barrel can support any part of the spine as you move. The height of the barrel is different between manufacturers and can even be sold as a separate piece.
The Instep Barrel is my personal choice of Spine Correctors because it comes with 3 different-sized arch barrels that easily interchange. The barrels can also be used without the frame for total functionality and ease.
The Ladder Barrel is the largest of the barrels and is its own freestanding piece of apparatus. The height of the barrel is generally waist level. The frame of the Ladder Barrel connects the barrel to a mini Swedish Ladder with 3 rungs. Many brands make the frame adjustable so the distance between the rungs and the barrel can accommodate different bodies.
Support. Is That All the Barrels Do?
Nope! They do so much more than simply support the body. It's easy to see from the shape of the barrels how they would support the head, shoulders or hips. The simplicity of the shape of the barrel does much more for the body than you think.
The barrel lifts the mat to the body. We always think of the barrel being there for us but it is not there for us to rest on. It lifts the ground toward us allowing for obvious support, but when taken for granted, that support becomes useless.
Lifting the mat toward the spine gives your brain the time to find each vertebrae and precisely articulate each joint. The arch can also serve to decompress the spine. We’ve all seen the infomercial for at-home “spinal decompression tools” but let’s be honest - it’s just a plastic barrel. The thoracic spine loves a high barrel and so do the lungs. Our forward-leaning bodies can cave in space and barrels support extension and decompression.
Feel the Load of Gravity
The biomechanics of the barrels are deceivingly simple. The barrel underneath of you is either supporting extension or flexion of the spine or hips, and this includes lateral extension. Therefore, to lift away from the barrel in any given position, the opposing muscle groups must contract into and against gravity.
This is why lifting your legs and hips off the barrel with control makes you feel like you're made of lead. The entire front body has to contract to lift, and then on the way down it's all about control. You don’t drop on the barrel. No! You control and articulate each vertebrae on the return.
Take it to the Studio with this Somatip
See it in action in the studio with this FREE Somatip video download. I'll show you how the barrels actually work to support the lateral body for beginner and advanced movers. Drop your email like a cool kid and the downloadable link will be on its way.
It's time to love those Pilates Humps and join me for Barrels of Fun!
My fellow movers, shakers and educator, let’s roll it out together on the Spine Corrector and Ladder Barrel in #FBomb - Barrels of Fun!
There is so much to do on the Ladder Barrel and Spine Corrector. We'll put in a full workout on both. You can join the #FBomb LIVE on October 8th or purchase a replay. Be one of the Cool Kids and challenge your spine on the barrel: the best support you can get for flexion and extension against gravity.