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Pilates Reformer Exercise Instructions: The Rowings 1 and 2

Contributed by Alisa Wyatt


Updated February 06, 2013

The called the Rowings are intermediate level Pilates reformer exercises. There are six rowing exercises in the classical Pilates rowings sequence. Below are instructions for the first two exercises in the rowing sequence. Rowings 1 and 2 are performed with the lower legs between the shoulder blocks. Of course the rowings are usually done in the context of a full Pilates reformer workout.

We are privileged to have photos and exercise instructions for the rowings from Pilates instructor Alisa Wyatt. Alisa is a well-known Pilates instructor and the founder of Pilatesology.com (more on pg. 2). From Alisa: The rowing series is all about connecting to your center and radiating the strength from the base of your hips up your back and out your arms. The arms are only as strong as your connection to your center so the more you can lengthen and surround your spine with strength, the better you'll move. All exercises use 1 spring.

This sequence is shown in a way that allows you to see the flow of the exercises. Please click on each image to enlarge it and learn more about performing each move with good form.
Also see: Reformer Rowings 3 and 4

Pilates Reformer Rowing 1 - Into the Sternum - Step 1

(c)2012, Alisa Wyatt. Licensed to About.com. Click each images to enlarge.
Sit upright. Hold the handles as you would a pair of oars, thumbs together, elbows lifted out at shoulder height.

Rowing 1 - Step 2

(c)2012, Alisa Wyatt. Licensed to About.com
Using your abdomen, seat, and lower back curl back as though you are rowing a boat, hands into sternum. Your lower back will curve like a letter C. Note that it's your body that moves the carriage, your arms change only slightly.

Rowing 1 - Step 3

(c)2012, Alisa Wyatt. Licensed to About.com
Hold the body still and open the arms out to slightly wider than the carriage.

Rowing 1 - Step 4

(c)2012, Alisa Wyatt. Licensed to About.com
Using the strength of your gut and seat, keep the body still and press the arms backward. The carriage will move as far as the arms can travel back.
Note that this distinct movement requires a deep connection to your center and may take a lot of practice to achieve.

Rowing 1 - Step 5

(c)2012, Alisa Wyatt. Licensed to About.com
When the arms and carriage have moved as far as possible, begin to fold forward, head toward knees, constantly scooping the stomach away from the thighs as the hands travel back and come together behind the seat.

Rowing 1 - Step 6

(c)2012, Alisa Wyatt. Licensed to About.com
Continue pulling the stomach up into the C-curve to lift the hands toward the ceiling, opening the chest and shoulders. Clasp the hands to assist the lift (or an experienced instructor may also assist).

Rowing 1 - Step 7

(c)2012, Alisa Wyatt. Licensed to About.com
With control, open the arms and circle them as high and wide as the shoulders comfortably allow, never losing the scoop of the abs.

Rowing 1 - Step 8

(c)2012, Alisa Wyatt. Licensed to About.com
Finish reaching toward the feet.
Return to start position.
Repeat the exercise twice more.

Proceed to Rowing 2 (see below)

Pilates Reformer Rowing 2 - 90 Degrees - Step 1

(c)2012, Alisa Wyatt. Licensed to About.com
Sit upright, elbows bent at a 90 degree angle, palms facing you.

Rowing 2- Step 2

(c)2012, Alisa Wyatt. Licensed to About.com
Keeping the spine absolutely tall and straight, hinge back in one piece from the hips. The range depends on your ability to control the movement while keeping the spine long.

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