How to Get the Most Benefit from Pilates Shoulder Bridge on the Arc Barrel

Inside: Pilates Shoulder bridge on the Arc barrel can be a little tricky to feel. Here’s how to get the most benefit from this modified exercise.

I really like Pilates Shoulder Bridge on the Arc barrel, and I love this modification for anyone who struggles with Shoulder bridge on the Mat. However, because the Arc barrel offers such great support, it can be easy to relax into the barrel and completely forget about using your muscles.

For example, this exercise is a great core-strengthener. It builds strength in your internal obliques, external obliques, adductors, and gluteus maximus. Unfortunately, if you forget to engage your muscles, it won’t feel like you’re doing much of anything.

Trust me, I know. When I first learned this exercise on the Arc barrel years ago, it felt like a shadow of the Mat version. With this false perception, I relaxed my muscles and went through the movements. Technically, it looked like I was doing everything correctly. Internally, I felt nothing.

The truth is, when you forget to use your muscles and completely relax into the barrel, you’re not really using your muscles, and you’re wasting a potentially great exercise. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to do Pilates Shoulder Bridge on the Arc barrel along with cues on which muscles you should be thinking of as you move. This way, you’ll get the most benefit from this strengthening exercise.

Pilates Shoulder Bridge on the Arc Barrel

Getting into Position

  1. Place the Arc barrel so that the curve seems like a bump in the road on your mat.
  2. Sit on top of the barrel.
  3. Scoot forward a little bit, like you’re sliding halfway down the barrel.
  4. Carefully, lower yourself back one vertebra at a time. As you roll your spine onto the barrel, you will notice that you slide down a little bit. This is normal. You should end with your hips at the apex of the barrel, your spine mostly connected to the barrel or the floor, and your shoulder blades and head resting on the Mat. It should feel relatively comfortable.
  5. Broaden your collarbones, and press the palms of your hands into the sides of the barrel.
  6. Take a moment to let your abdominals relax. Feel everything settle toward your spine, and notice how your belly seems to deflate.
  7. Use Pilates breathing to inhale through your nose and exhale through pursed lips. Lightly activate your abdominals to help keep your belly from lifting as you breathe.
  8. Feel how your internal and external obliques connect your ribs to your pelvis. Lightly tone your glutes so your bottom feels like it is lifting away from (and not sinking in to) the Arc barrel.

Pilates Shoulder Bridge

  1. Inhale to lift your right leg to Table top. Point your foot.
  2. Exhale to straighten your leg toward the ceiling.
  3. Pilates Shoulder Bridge on the Arc Barrel
    Inhale to flex your foot at the ankle and lower your leg so that it’s approximately in line with the left knee. Make sure that your pelvis stays stable as you lower your leg. You don’t want to have your hips shift back and forth as you move. If this happens, it means your abdominals have stopped working. Also, if you feel a click or pop in your hip as your leg lowers, don’t let your leg lower quite so far next time. You want to avoid clicks and pops.
  4. Repeat steps 10 and 11 two more times.
  5. Exhale to straighten your leg toward the ceiling.
  6. Inhale to bend your right leg to Table top.
  7. Exhale to set your foot down on the Mat in line with your SITs bones. This is where the adductors (inner thigh muscles) are particularly noticeable. If your adductors aren’t working correctly, your foot will lower and be wider than it should.
  8. Complete steps 9-15 for the left side.
  9. By practicing on both sides, you have completed one rep. Do this exercise two more times.
  10. To finish, fold your knees toward your chest and slide back to come off the barrel or stay put to do more core exercises on the barrel. 

Find 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.

Pilates Shoulder Bridge on the Arc Barrel Video

When you practice Shoulder bridge on the Mat, the exercise is more intense. Without the stability under your pelvis, it’s a lot easier to notice if any of your core muscles quit working. However, for those with muscular imbalances, this can mean that Shoulder bridge on the Mat feels practically impossible to do correctly.

If that sounds familiar, you should try to practice your Pilates Shoulder Bridge on the Arc barrel. With help from the Arc barrel and mindful movement, you can strengthen and tone the necessary muscles to keep you stable when you practice on the Mat.

As always, please be aware that if you notice a clicking or popping in your hip when you reach your leg away from you, you should reduce your range of motion. Make your movement smaller, and don’t lower your leg quite so far away from you.

If this doesn’t seem to fix the issue, feel free to skip out on this exercise for today. It’s possible that you will be able to do this exercise in the future, but today is not the day.

What do you think about Pilates Shoulder Bridge on the Arc barrel? Which muscles do you feel working the most? Let us know in the comments below.

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!

Here is a video of how to do Pilates Shoulder Bridge on the Arc barrel for all the visual learners out there.

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.