The Best Way to Practice Pilates Swimming on the Arc Barrel

In this post: Pilates Swimming on the Arc barrel is complex because it challenges all of your core muscles. Here’s how to practice and modify this exercise.

I don’t love Pilates Swimming on the Arc barrel. There–I said it!

Although this exercise is beneficial for strengthening crucial core muscles, when you add the challenge of balancing atop a rounded surface, it becomes unmanageable for some people–myself included. For this reason, it’s my least favorite Arc barrel exercise.

However, there are those out there with core strength and balanced bodies, and this exercise provides the challenge they’re seeking to intensify their Pilates practice and take it to the next level.

That’s why I decided to teach you how to do (and modify) this exercise. When you know how to adjust Pilates Swimming on the Arc barrel, you can choose the version that’s right for you and reap all the benefits!

Click here if you want to learn the basics of Pilates and yoga with me in a FREE 30-day challenge.

Why You Should Do Pilates Swimming on the Arc Barrel

Pilates Swimming on the Arc barrel is a great way to strengthen several essential core muscles at the same time. It’s a multi-tasker’s exercise, if you will.

Here how this exercise makes you stronger. It:

Additionally, this exercise lets you work your adductors (inner thighs muscles) and stretch your serratus anterior (that muscle under your armpit). The serratus anterior isn’t a core muscle, but the adductors are.

This means Swimming on the Arc barrel benefits all of your core muscles. And this is why Swimming can feel very challenging. To get all of your core muscles to work together and correctly is no small task.

How to Do Pilates Swimming on the Arc Barrel

pilates swimming on the arc barrel
  1. Place the Arc barrel so the curve seems like a bump in the road on your mat.
  2. Carefully, lower yourself onto your stomach over the Arc barrel
    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.
  3. 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.
  4. Make sure your legs are about hip-width apart and straighten them. Laterally rotate them from the hips so your knees face out to the sides.
  5. For a moment, place your forearms on the Mat in front of the barrel. When you do this, your upper body will lift.
  6. Use Pilates breathing.
  7. Inhale through your nose and lift your low belly to your spine to create support for your low back. Broaden your collarbones and slide your shoulder blades away from your ears.
  8. Exhale through pursed lips. Straighten your arms and engage your glutes to lift your legs as you extend through your spine and lift yourself away from the Mat.
  9. Inhale through your nose and count to five. As you inhale, alternately lift your arms and legs, making sure to lift the opposite arm with the opposite leg. (Lift your right arm with your left leg and vice versa.)
  10. Exhale through pursed lips and keep moving.
  11. Complete 5-10 sets this way.

How to Modify Pilates Swimming on the Arc Barrel

In order to make Swimming on the Arc barrel more manageable, you can modify it. The modifications are very simple. You just need to decide whether you want to leave your feet or your hands on the Mat while the other part of your body works.

For example, if you decide to keep your feet on the Mat, anchor down through the ball of your feet while your upper body and arms extend. Then, your arms would alternately lift and lower as you breathe.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, If I keep my hands on the Mat and lift my legs, aren’t I just doing Scissors on the Arc barrel?

Right you are, friend! That is exactly what you’re doing.

So, whether you want to think of this as a modification for Swimming on the Arc barrel or as Scissors on the Arc barrel, you’re going to do the exact same movement.

For Visual Learners…

Here is a video of how to do Pilates Swimming on the Arc barrel for the visual learners. For me, I can’t seem to get the weight distribution necessary to lift both my hands and my feet at the same time. Although I try a couple of times to do the full version of Swimming, practicing a modification really works best for me and my body.

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.

Before You Practice Swimming, Don’t Forget…

You shouldn’t feel low back pain when you practice this exercise. If you do, stop and lower to the barrel. Take a moment to correct your alignment.

In particular, make sure your belly button lifts toward your spine and your upper back muscles extend. Frequently, one of these two areas working incorrectly is the cause of any low back pain. However, if you still have pain with correct form, lower to the barrel and don’t do this exercise today.

It doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to do Pilates Swimming on the Arc barrel ever; it just means that today is not your day for this exercise. It’s okay to try again tomorrow or some other day in the future.

Also, don’t feel like you need to move your arms and legs quickly. Speed is not necessarily a desired outcome.

Practice mindfully moving your body. Connect with your muscles and joints, and make sure you are doing your very best to do this exercise as correctly as possible.

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 do you think of Pilates Swimming on the Arc barrel? Do you practice the full version or a modification? Let us know in the comments below.

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.