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Reformer: Stomach Massage Round Back

Reformer Stomach Massage Series: Round Back 

– Strengthen your abdominals and massage your internal organs!!

In this series, we revisit the Footwork that we started with (have we ever left it – I wonder?) but now we’re sitting up and trying not to allow thee Reformer to push us off our sit bones!


What’s it good for?

  • Massage of the internal organs.
  • Strengthening the abdominal area – especially the “transversus abdominis”.
  • Strengthening and stabilising the spinal muscles whilst the spine is in a flexed curve.
  • If you’re tight in the hips you will benefit from the hip opening effect of this exercise.
  • There is an element of footwork to this exercise so you will be strengthening your calves and mobilising your ankles.




Stomach Massage Round Back: Quick “how tos” …

  • Springs = the same that you used in the Footwork.
  • Repetitions = x5-10, typically x10
  • Headrest = down
  • Footrest = up


The Set Up

  • Sit down on the carriage facing the footbar.
  • You can use a sticky pad to gauge your distance from the edge of the carriage but this will depend on your height mobility and weight. Generally speaking you want your tailbone to be approximately one hand’s width from the edge of the carriage – that’s much more radical than people think!
  • Your feet form a small V on the football and your heels will be together.
  • Your hands hold onto the edge of the courage.
  • Scoop your abdominals inward and upward and round your spine into a large C shape and position your shoulders above your hips.  That’s tough for many people – so cut yourself a bit of slack if you have difficulty – over time, you’ll get there…
  • In order to do this you will have to bend your elbows to clear your thighs and allow your shoulders to come over your hips.
  • If once in this position the springs should be closed.  If not, try an alternative sitting position slightly further back.


The Stomach Massage Round Back – “how to”

  • Sit in the position described in the setup section
  • Pull your abdominals inwards and upwards creating a scoop of the abdominal area.

Exhale: without allowing your heels to drop press out of the carriage by straightening the legs.
Inhale:  with fully straight legs, lower your heels keeping them together and ankle bones separate
Exhale: push the carriage out again by lifting your heels and keeping them lifted,
Inhale: bring the courage back in  to close the springs whilst keeping your heels up.
Once you’ve mastered this sequence try working with a brisk rhythm but without losing precision or flow

Hints and Tips

… imagine mountain peaks: don’t fall off! 

  • Like all Pilates exercises, the Stomach Massage Round Back has many elements all of which are important, but I like to think that closing the springs is the key element: don’t allow the C curve to collapse as you bring the carriage in towards the footbar.
  • Keep your shoulders forwards as you bring the carriage in towards the footbar.
  • Keep your head aligned with your spine instead of reaching forward.
  • Part of this exercise sequence is often omitted press the carriage out, drop your heels then always lift your heels before returning the carriage to the stopper.
  • Imagine you are sitting on two inverted mountain peaks – your sit bones.
  • Focus on using your abdominals rather than your arms to maintain the forward flexed C curve of your spine


Variations & Modifications

  • Instead of holding or grasping the front edge of the carriage of the Reformer tribe just pressing your palms into the front edge.
  • Some reformers don’t allow you to move the football all the gear bar backwards and forwards in this case lower the football down one notch.
  • Try the One Legged Variations – One Leg Up and the other, One Leg Down (below the Footbar)


  • If you suffer from osteoporosis or kyphosis (forward curvature) of the upper spine, either omit this exercise or put your hands on the shoulder rests and try to extend the spine just like the Hands Back variation of the stomach massage.


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