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How To Do Pilates Exercise: Arms Over


Updated June 23, 2014

Woman Exercising with a Medicine Ball
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Arms over teaches important movement fundamentals that we apply to other Pilates exercises and the motions of daily life. Practicing arms over increases the range of motion in the shoulders and improves our posture by teaching us to maintain good alignment as we shift the relationship between the arms and torso.

As a fundamental move, arms over is one of the first exercises beginners learn, but the principles it teaches are part of all levels of Pilates.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 2 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Set Up:
    Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
    Your legs and feet are parallel to each other, about hip distance apart.
    Your abs are pulled in, but you are in neutral spine position. That means that the natural curve of the spine is present and the low back is not pressed flat onto the floor.
    Your arms are straight along your sides.
    Your chest is wide.

    Take a few moments to find this position, feel balanced in it, and take some deep breaths. Aside from moving your arms, you will maintain this position throughout the exercise.

  2. Inhale:
    Extend your fingers along the floor toward the wall in front of you. When you can reach no further, let your arms arc up with fingertips pointing to the ceiling.

    As your arms move up, simultaneously feel that your shoulders are dropping down to the floor -- don't let them go up along with the move. Also, as your arms come up, be sure that your ribs stay down. This will require abdominal engagement. Think of keeping your lower ribs anchored to the floor.

  3. Exhale:
    Your arms continue their arc until they are overhead, alongside your ears.

    In this part of the move, it is important to be aware of your ribs and not let them pop up as the arms go back. Only reach back as far as you can while maintaining the alignment that you set up at the beginning. Keep your shoulders away from your ears.

  4. Inhale:
    Your abdominals are still pulled in.
    Keeping your shoulder blades settled on the mat, your arms begin their return arc. Bring them up perpendicular to the floor.

    Even as the arms reach out, the shoulders are settled on the mat.

  5. Exhale:
    Bring your arms back down along your sides.

  6. Repeat the exercise 3 to 4 times.


  1. Now that you have an understanding of this basic move, you will find that the ribcage stability it teaches is part of many Pilates exercises. Wall roll down, roll up and even double leg lower/lift give us an opportunity to apply the range and stability gains that we make in arms over.

What You Need

  • An Exercise Mat

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