Inside: Port de bras on the Arc barrel can heavily stress the hip flexors. Here’s how to ensure you don’t get hurt while doing this Pilates core-strengthener.
There are some Pilates exercises that you love and some that you don’t. Recently, I wrote about Rotation with port de bras on the Arc barrel and how much I love this exercise. Since the names are so similar, you might guess that I love Port de bras on the Arc barrel just as much. You’d be wrong, though.
I really don’t like this exercise. In fact, when I teach students on the Arc barrel, I tend to skip this. And honestly, it wasn’t until I opened my instructor’s manual to brainstorm ideas for this website that I even remembered that this exercise existed. Then, I tried it and remembered all over again why I don’t like it.
There are some people who have grippy hip flexors. I am one of those people. And when you read the phrase “grippy hip flexors,” you might think Oh, that’s annoying.
But grippy hip flexors are more than just annoying; they’re painful. What happens is a muscle that is supposed to have elasticity and give suddenly tightens up like a steel rope and pulls on everything. This ends up tugging on your low back and, through a nearby muscle, your tailbone. Long story short, you end up with low back pain and a hitch in your giddyup when you walk.
This is the exact opposite effect that I want for people.
That being said, there are tons of people with healthy, normal hip flexors. Port de bras on the Arc barrel offers a great opportunity for them to practice articulating through the spine while opening the chest and reaching through the arms. Here’s how to do Port de bras on the Arc barrel (and what to look for so you don’t get hurt).
Port de Bras on the Arc Barrel
- Place the Arc barrel so that the curve seems like a bump in the road on your mat.
- Sit with your back toward the barrel.
- Bend your knees and make sure your feet are in line with your SITs bones.
- Use Pilates breathing throughout.
- Inhale into the sides of your ribs, and draw your belly button toward your spine. Broaden your collarbones, and reach your arms straight in front of your shoulders with the palms facing each other.
- Exhale to round forward one vertebra at a time so that your spine makes a “C.”
- Inhale and roll back over the barrel one vertebra at a time. As you roll back, make sure your hands stay aligned with your sternum (breast bone). Once you have lowered as far back as you can, continue with your arms so that they reach above your head. (NOTE: This is where you should decide whether this exercise works for you. If it felt odd near your tailbone when you rolled backward, it would be best for you to skip out on this exercise today.)
- Exhale and circle your arms to the side with your palms facing forward. When your arms come to about shoulder level, Head nod and roll back up one vertebra at a time. Make sure that you come up to your “C” position.
- Complete 3-5 repetitions this way. Then, switch directions.
- To switch directions, your spine will still keep moving in the same way. The only difference will be that your arms circle the other way.
- Inhale and roll back over the barrel one vertebra at a time. As you roll back, rotate your palms forward and circle your arms out beside you as you articulate over the barrel. Make sure to complete the circle with your arms so that they end above your head.
- Exhale and rotate your palms to face each other. Start bringing your arms above your chest. When they get in line with your sternum, Head nod and roll back up one vertebra at a time. Make sure that you come up to your “C” position.
- Complete 3-5 repetitions this way.
- To finish, inhale in your “C” position. Exhale and stack your spine back up to neutral.
Finding the Best Arc Barrel
If you’re in the market for an Arc barrel, I recently compared the top five Arc barrels on the market. Here’s who made my top five list and which barrel I’d buy.
Port de Bras on the Arc Barrel Video
Here is a video of how to do Port de bras on the Arc barrel for visual learners.
Please make sure to pay attention to how your body feels as you practice this exercise. If you feel some discomfort or tugging around your tailbone, go ahead and skip this exercise for today. Instead, you should stretch out the front of your hips. How the heck do I do that?, you might wonder.
Funny you should ask! I have a great FREE digital guide to get rid of hip pain. It contains my six favorite yoga poses to stretch the hip flexors, and it’s something that you can do right now in place of this exercise.
What do you think of Port de bras on the Arc barrel? Do you like it better than I do? Let me know in the comments below.