Pilates Tower exercises will help you develop core strength, improve your flexibility, and generally help your entire body to look and feel better. What follows are descriptions of highly effective exercises – including videos – that can be done on either the Pilates Tower or the Trapeze Table (they are very similar pieces of fitness equipment).
The genius of these exercises is that they improve joint mobility and posture, while also firming muscles and increasing abdominal strength.
Where Can I Do Pilates Tower Exercises or Trapeze Table Maneuvers?
The Pilates Tower vertical unit is often attached to the end of a Reformer and so it’s a two-in-one piece of equipment – a Reformer and a Pilates Tower combined.
On the other hand, the Trapeze Table is its own piece of equipment (separate from a Reformer) and not only has two ends, but also a vertical dimension with parallel bars near the ceiling. It kind of looks like it could be a torture device from the Spanish Inquisition – or perhaps brings to mind a competition category in Olympic gymnastics. The Trapeze Table is the largest piece of Pilates apparatus available.
All of this equipment was invented by Joseph Pilates, who was born in Germany in 1883 and later had a thriving Pilates studio in New York City where he developed a rehabilitative fitness methodology called Contrology.
Today, you can find the Pilates Tower or a Trapeze Table at a private pilates studio for one-on-one private sessions, or at a gym that offers Pilates Tower classes, or even inside the home of a true fitness enthusiast (I have Pilates equipment in my home gym, and I use it often and absolutely love it).
As funny-looking as a Pilates Tower or a Trapeze Table appears at first glance, they are highly efficient apparatuses that:
- benefits both young people and the aged.
- benefits beginners who need joint rehab – as well as advanced-level athletes who want to bring their strength and sports performance up to the next level.
Pilates Tower VS Trapeze Table
Though it’s many people’s favorite piece of Pilates fitness equipment, the Trapeze Table is also the least common simply because it requires the most space. For this reason, many people opt to add a Pilates Tower to their Reformer bed instead. This takes up far less space.
For a home gym, purchasing a Pilates Tower can be a worthwhile investment because there are so many strength-training exercises and stretches that can be done for a full-body workout:
- exercises can be done sitting on the table, kneeling on it, and standing on it.
- all of the Pilates mat exercises can be done lying on it.
- exercises can be done standing on the floor, off the side of the table, or at the ends.
- in the case of the Trapeze Table, there are also cadillac exercises that can be done elevated off the table using the parallel bars.
The Pilates Tower and the Trapeze Table both include a variety of attachments – including a foot bar, a trapeze bar, foot straps, leg springs, and arm springs.
The Pilates Tower unit is good for both men and women – and almost all the stretches and exercises can be modified to match a person’s unique fitness level or age. Here are some examples of fun moves you can try. Remember, though, that to do a Pilates exercise optimally requires a great deal of focus. Direct your attention inwardly and see if you can determine which of your muscles are engaging during a particular movement.
Abdominal Forward Crunch and Quad Stretch Series
The quadriceps and hip flexors can get so tight from sitting and driving.
Additionally, our modern sedentary lifestyles contribute to the weakening of our core muscles.
This quad stretch series with abdominal forward crunching is the antidote!
The springs attached to the trapeze bar provide traction and help make it possible to modify the series so that even people with sensitive knees and tender lower backs can still complete a variation.
When doing this quadricep backbend maneuver, try to keep your lower back from over-arching by keeping your glutes a tad active and your pelvis scooped forward a bit. I use blocks to help protect my knees from becoming overstretched.
Teaser on the Trapeze Table
The teaser exercise is similar to the boat pose in yoga. It develops abdominal strength while also creating length in the spine.
Parakeet, Swan, Reverse Push-Through
I use two short blue springs on the trapeze bar for the parakeet move. Wear socks that have gripping beads on the soles to prevent slipping (or, if you’re going barefoot, at least make sure you don’t have lotion on your feet)!
Mermaid or MerMan Stretch Series for the Upper Body
The mistakes many people make while doing oblique exercises are using extra resistance and crunching the spine. You don’t want to add thickness to your waist! This exercise strengthens your obliques without adding extra size.
The final move of this series is helpful for opening up tight hips.
For many people, their outer thighs get very stiff and this can create a negative side tilt to the pelvis which then makes each leg a different length! By keeping your outer thigh muscles supple, you help keep your lower back vertebrae healthy and properly aligned.
Back Bend (advanced)
When I filmed this video below, I was warmed up and my spine was feeling very bendy. Normally, however, I might not add so much of a lower-back arch to my backbend and instead would keep my top rib compressed. It just depends on your personal stage of flexibility on a particular day. Generally, it’s always best to proceed cautiously with backbends.
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Candlestick Maneuver (advanced)
Inversion poses can be helpful for your circulation and vein health.
The veins in my legs sometimes get too pronounced, which could mean my veins are struggling to pump blood back up toward my heart.
Inversion poses to the rescue!
By keeping the legs elevated above the head, you’re relieving circulatory pressure on your legs and feet.
Also, inversion poses can be a real mood elevator (perhaps because of the increased blood flow to the brain).
The candlestick maneuver is an inversion pose that also develops abdominal strength and shoulder mobility. This one is usually for intermediate to advanced-level athletes who are already warmed up.
If you’re starting to feel serious about the idea of getting into stellar shape, I recommend the Silver & Strong Course. It’s designed to help you successfully adopt an anti-inflammatory diet – which can be a real game-changer.
The program is detailed and requires you to count calories, track macros, and choose menu items.
The coursebook gives you ideas, tools, and a specific sequence, but it doesn’t do all the work for you (you still have to complete the action steps)!
At the moment, the course also includes highly effective bonus workouts with exercises that can be done at home and those that can be done at the gym.
In case you were thinking of getting a full trapeze table for your home gym area, keep in mind that it requires an ample amount of space:
- the table width is 29 inches (or 74 centimeters).
- the width of the table – including push-through bar adjustment knobs – is 30.25″ (76cm).
- the length of the table is 81″ (206cm), plus 4.5″ (11cm) for the canopy brackets.
- trapeze frame height (from top to floor) is 81.5″ (204cm).
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In my opinion, the trapeze table works best when there is space all around it. It’s tempting to try to save space by pushing one end of the table close to a wall, but I don’t recommend it. There should be standing room all around the table. If you’re working with a smaller space, I recommend getting a wall unit or beginning your Pilates practice with mat work instead. It requires very little space!
Pilates is a total body exercise system of properly aligned movements that improve endurance, joint mobility, spinal flexibility, and muscular strength.
As always, consult with your own medical doctor before making any significant changes to your exercise or diet habits.
This article provides just a general overview with a few examples. To see one video of the trap table with all of the most popular exercises, go to Part 2 “A Complete Trap Table Workout.” You might find it highly motivating!