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Reformer: Short Box Series Round Back



Reformer Short Box Series: Round Back

I used to hate these exercises until I learned how they work.  And that was a revelation because in this series lies the kernel of the whole Pilates Method:

— The Round Back on the Short Box is the Reformer equivalent of the the Roll Up on the Mat, just with the added difficulty of the Box.

There is a lot here!  In fact, there’s a lot in the whole Short Box Series.  We’ll be moving our spines in every plane of movement.  There’s foot and legwork.  And you can start off easy and dig deeper and deeper as you get stronger and gain confidence.
But it’s not just that: in this series – even gt beginner level the whole kernel of the Pilates Method is shown to us.  Here is a summary of Pilates:

“Pilates is moving your spine around a stable limb(s), or moving limb(s) around a stable spine…”

— Sean Gallagher (with permission)

Not wanting to make things unnecessarily complex, but we should also add:

”  … and the Transitions in between.”


What’s it good for?

  • Strengthening the abdominal muscles: Transversus Abdominis, Rectus Abdominis and Hip Flexors.
  • After completing the role back and going into extension there is a stretch of the hip flexors and the full front line of the body.
  • Spinal strength, articulation and mobilisation.


Related exercises?

Roll Backs on the Spine Corrector.
Short Box Abdominals on the Ladder Barrel.




Reformer Short Box Series: Quick “how tos” …

  • Springs =. all
  • Repetitions =
  • Headrest = down
  • Footrest = down


The Set Up

To avoid repetition the set up for the short box series could be found here.

The Stomach Massage: Reach Up – “how to”


Starting the Roll Back

  • Pull your abdominals inwards and upwards creating a large C curve of your spine with your shoulders above your hips.
  • Begin by tucking your tailbone under your pelvis and try to bring your sacrum (back of your pelvis) flat against the box as soon as you can.
  • If you’re comfortable with this, continue rolling down your C curve of the torso until you’re parallel to the floor.


Going into extension (work towards this …)

  • Starting from the lower spine (i.s. from the pelvis towards the shoulders), slowly lower the upper-body  over the box into the well of the Reformer.
  • Continue rolling down your spine into the well of the Reformer until you reach your neck which is still in flexion and only released right at the end of the movement.
  • Bring your arms down towards your head or even towards the floor.


Swap the Arms over and Roll Up

  • Return your arms to below the ribs in the same position as before but now the arms switch positions with the left hand reaching around the stomach underneath the right ribs on the right hand resting on the left elbow.
  • Starting with your head begin to articulate the spine and roll up into the large C shape for which you came. Continue to roll up maintaining the Set Up position into the shoulders or above the hips again only then do you sit upright again.


Don’t forget to breathe!

Inhale:  sniff before you begin the Roll Down and before you Roll Up again.
Exhale:  as your Roll Down and Roll Up again

Hints and Tips

  • When going from sitting upright into the initial initial C shape do it by tucking the tailbone under rather than collapsing in place.  Try the “Deepen the Curve exercise on the Step Barrel.
  • If and when you get into the horizontal position and into extension, the lower spine and head stay in alignment with the rest of your spine. Keep your chin in towards your chest to maintain the length of your neck until the very last moment.


Variations & Modifications

  • Try placing your hands next to your hips and hold the box to support your initial pelvic tilt. As you increase confidence, gradually loosen your grip and let your hands slide and you roll back.
  • Begin on the Ladder Barrel.  This will give you a feeling of safety as you’ll be rolling upwards rather than over a flat surface.
  • Instead of putting the box in the Short Box position put the box in the Long Box position.  And instead of using the foot strap put your feet on the footbar – this means that it’s possible to fall off backwards… be very very cautious!  Roll Down only to the point where it’s possible for you to get back up safely without lifting your legs.
  • If you lack abdominal control or confidence, stop before you get to the horizontal position and roll back up again.



  • Avoid if you suffer from lumbar spinal problems.
  • If you suffer from osteoporosis avoidance exercise instead do the flat back version.



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