In this post: Pilates Breast stroke preps on the Arc barrel are therapeutic, but you have to work. Here’s what you need to know to get the most benefit from this move.
But, I want to take a moment and be honest with you–I have a love/hate relationship with Pilates
As someone who has a naturally rounded upper back, I’m always looking for ways to lengthen my spine. When this exercise was suggested as the best way to improve my posture, I was excited and tried it.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work quite like I expected.
Truthfully, practicing this exercise for the first time reminded me of high school. You know that one teacher that always pushed you to be better but never offered good advice about how to improve? Yeah, Breast stroke preps on the Arc barrel feel a lot like that.
Because my muscles were so weak, I couldn’t even find them to get them to work. It was a whole fake-it-’til-you-make-it process with my instructor poking my back muscles, asking them to work.
If his pointy finger hadn’t been constantly prodding, trying to wake up my dormant muscles; I’m sure I still wouldn’t be able to feel the correct muscles work.
So, my advice is this: This exercise is very therapeutic, but only if you’re getting the correct muscles to work. If you’re not sure if you’re using the right muscles, have someone gently tap the muscles along your upper back as you lift to a straight spine. On the other hand, if no one is available to help you, just practice Breast stroke preps on the Mat.
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How to Do Pilates Breast Stroke Prep 1 on the Arc Barrel
- Place the Arc barrel so the curve seems like a bump in the road on your mat.
- Carefully, lower yourself onto your stomach over the Arc
Your hips should be near the apex of the barrel. You will probably feel your knees on one side of the barrel and your forehead on the other side.
- If it feels like your pubic bone (the front part of your crotch) is painfully pressing into the barrel, slide a towel or piece of foam under the front of your hips. This should help alleviate any discomfort.
- Bend your elbows like you’re making a field goal sign (or “Cornholio” for the Beavis and Butthead fans). Connect the palms of your hands and your elbows to the Mat. You should end up with your hands on either side of your face and in line with your elbows.
- Use Pilates breathing. Inhale through your nose to lift your abdominals away from the barrel.
- Exhale and lengthen through your upper thoracic spine. Imagine reaching into a straight line from the bottom part of your rib cage through the top of your head. Your upper back muscles should do most of the work. Make sure that you don’t feel any sort of muscle contraction in your low back. If you do, lower down and try again.
- Inhale to hold here.
- Exhale and lower back to your starting position.
- Complete 3-5 reps. Then, practice Breast stroke prep 2.
How to Do Pilates Breast Stroke Prep 2 on the Arc Barrel
- Stay in position after your final Pilates
Breast strokeprep 1.
- Bring your palms of your hands to your thighs. Allow your shoulders to round forward.
- Use Pilates breathing.
- Inhale to lift your low belly toward your spine and roll your shoulder blades onto your back.
- Exhale and lengthen through your spine from the bottom of your rib cage through the top of your head. Think of lifting into a straight, long line.
- Inhale to reach through the top of your head.
- Exhale to lower your head and allow your shoulders to round forward.
- Complete 3-5 reps this way.
For the Visual Learners…
Here’s a video of how to do both Pilates Breast stroke preps on the Arc barrel for all the visual learners out there.
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.
When You Practice Pilates Breast Stroke Preps, Don’t Forget…
This exercise is only therapeutic if you use the correct spinal muscles. If you can’t find the muscles that run on either side of your thoracic spine, it might be a better idea to practice Breast stroke preps on the Mat. You’ll follow the same directions as listed above; you just won’t have an Arc barrel under your hips.
Focus on finding the length through your upper back one vertebra at a time, and make sure that you don’t lift with your lower back muscles.
With time and practice, Pilates Breast stroke preps on the Arc barrel will get easier. And, just like with that one persistent teacher in high school, you’ll be able to appreciate how this exercise has helped make you stronger.
Also, I just want to let you know that if you’re interested in learning the basics of Pilates and yoga, I offer a FREE 30-day challenge. Click here to sign up today!
What’s your favorite way to stretch and lengthen your spine? Let us know in the comments section below.