How to Use the Arc Barrel

arc barrelIf you’re like me, you sometimes buy small pieces of home workout equipment and immediately forget what you’re supposed to do with them. Perhaps you bought an arc barrel at one time. Maybe it’s sitting in a corner, or maybe your kid is using it as a step-stool to turn on lights. Now, you’re wondering How do I use the arc barrel?

Maybe you’ve been thinking about getting an arc barrel, but you weren’t sure if you’d really use it. This small piece of Pilates equipment is easy to use and enhances your Pilates mat workout. However, just like all pieces of equipment:  It only works if you use it.

Here’s information about how to create your own home arc barrel workouts with a video to explain several arc barrel exercises.

What Is the Arc Barrel

The arc barrel is a popular Pilates prop. Joseph Pilates created the arc barrel himself. While the exact dimensions may have changed through the years, the function of the prop remains the same.

Different manufacturers may have slightly different sized arc barrels. The amount of curve to the barrel will impact the amount of flexion or extension that is required from your spine. In turn, this curve also impacts the amount of spinal support you receive in some exercises. All of this contributes to how you feel while you’re doing the exercises.

Despite the differences, the same exercises are usually done whether your barrel is from STOTT, Stamina, Balanced Body, or anyone else. My barrel is from STOTT. I chose this barrel because I was trained on it and because I like its amount of curve. For me, I feel a nice balance between challenge and support.

How to Use the Arc Barrel

When creating a home workout, it’s important to choose exercises that use spinal flexion, spinal extension, spinal rotation, and side flexion.

Spinal flexion is very common in Pilates exercises. Any time your upper body moves toward your lower body (or vice versa) you are using spinal flexion. Examples on the arc barrel are Breathing, Bridge, Roll over, Scissors, and other similar exercises.

Spinal extension is normally found in Pilates exercises where you begin on your stomach. Although sometimes the prone exercises don’t involve the spine (as with Heel squeezes or Leg lifts), many do. Look for spinal extension in mat exercises like Swan dive, Swimming, Breast stroke preps, One leg kick, and Double leg kick. Examples on the arc barrel are Breast stroke preps, Swan dive, Swimming, Grasshopper, and Spinal extension.

Spinal rotation is when your rib cage and pelvis are not facing the same direction. Think of the Pilates mat exercises Spinal rotation, Spine twist, and Obliques. Examples on the arc barrel are Rotation with port de bras, Obliques and Corkscrew. There is also some spinal rotation in Side breathing.

Side flexion is not common in Pilates, but it is still very important. Movements that bring your ribs closer to your hips (and vice versa) while still staying in the same plane are side flexion exercises. Mermaid is a great example of side flexion. On the arc barrel, side flexion is in Side breathing. In Pilates workouts, it is often a challenge to find side flexion exercises, so if you find one you like, try to find ways to incorporate it into your workout regularly.

Arc Barrel Video

Normally, I like to take time to write out exact directions for how to do Pilates exercises. However, in this case, I won’t. The arc barrel manual is quite long so, if you’re interested in information above and beyond what is in my video, here’s an Amazon link to the STOTT PILATES arc barrel manual. When you order from this link, I earn a small commission.

In case this article has inspired a desire for an arc barrel, here’s another Amazon link to a STOTT arc barrel.

What is your favorite exercise to do with the arc barrel? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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