We can also alter each Arms in Straps exercise depending on whether we are lying, sitting, kneeling or standing on the platform or the box. Pulling on the straps from each of these different body positions will cause us to employ a totally different set of upper body muscles.
The key however is in learning how to initiate every upper body movement from the center of your back while pulling your shoulders back and down and your shoulder blades down and together. Every Pilates Arm exercise will teach you how to do this, thus learning how to maintain a stable shoulder girdle whenever there is weight or stress on the muscles of the arms, back and chest.
In my DVD's I segregate the Pilates Upper Body exercises by the position from which you perform the movement and by whether the Arms are moving or simply providing Stabilization. For example Sitting Arms in Straps Facing Forward or Kneeling Arms in Straps Facing the Side. This way I can teach you each exercise from the stand point of the resistance origination.
There are many upper body exercises that do not involve pulling on the Straps but instead use the weight of the body to create the resistance as in Long Stretch, Back Stretch, Push out, Up Stretch and Long Back Stretch. Shoulder girdle engagement is no less important in these exercises. These exercises and their common mistakes will be discussed separately.
When performing Pilates on one of my reformers you already know that the machine is uniquely supportive of your body where your muscles are weak. For this reason we always begin lying down so that you can relearn the movement pattern from the place of maximum support and least resistance. As you develop the strength to stabilize your pelvis by initiating your movements from abdominal engagement I then bring you to sitting, kneeling and eventually even to standing.
When focusing on Arms in Straps there are some common mistakes and things to pay attention to.
1. Always keep your elbows slightly soft and never snap or lock them.
2. Be sure to keep your hands in your peripheral vision when extending your arms out to the side
3. Pay close attention to the alignment of your wrist to the elbow and your elbow to the shoulder.
4. Be sure to keep your thumb together with your fingers, when placing stress on the wrist, typically when leaning on the foot bar.
5. Initiate every movement by engaging your abdominals as you begin to pull on the straps and remember to pull your shoulders down and back and shoulder blades down and together.
6. Keep your neck long and your head as a natural extension of your spine. Sit tall and engage your abdominals to prevent collapsing forward.
7. Keep your spine neutral whenever you can. For example in Arms in Straps Sitting Forward Salute when the resistance is from behind and pelvic stabilization is difficult you can pivot forward at the hips with a straight back. This should avoid using your hip flexors to initiate the movement.
8. If you find that you are unable to maintain stability when you pull on the straps you should reduce the number of cords you are using.
9. There are many exercises in Pilates where your arms do not move and simply provide stabilization of the upper body as in Elephant, Knee Stretches, and Stomach Massage. In these exercises it is imperative that you connect through your shoulder blades down and together.