Pilates Springboard 101
As Pilates instructors we’re always looking for new ways to challenge our clients and help them get strong and move better. As part of that quest we installed springboards in our Body Harmonics studios in 2012. The results have been fantastic!
What is a springboard?
A springboard consists of a plywood board attached to the wall, complete with the springs from a Pilates Cadillac. The board is typically 20 inches wide and six feet tall and comes with springs of various lengths and tensions, together with handles, foot straps and a rollbar that you can attach to the springs. Along the sides there are 10 pairs of eyebolts where you attach the springs. The eyebolt levels for the springs are numbered. This makes it easy to give instructions about spring settings in a class.
One of the great benefits of the springboard is the ability to change the tension to suit each client and each exercise. Generally, the higher the spring is set on the board, the greater the tension. Similarly, the further away from the board you position yourself, the greater the tension. So different people can use different positions and settings while executing the same exercise in a class!
The springs feel very different from the Pilates Reformer
Many clients at our studio take Reformer classes, so working on a resistance-based piece of equipment was familiar. However, unless they took one-on-one sessions, they were not familiar with the Cadillac. This meant that the transition to the springboard was both new and familiar.
While the springs may appear similar to those on the Reformer, the feeling is completely different. There are two main reasons for this.
First, each limb works independently, carrying its own weight — literally! Most of us are stronger on one side so we feel that difference immediately.
Second, the springs are higher than on a Reformer and are placed behind or in front of the body (depending on whether you are facing the board or facing away from it) instead of below it. That affects the pull of the springs significantly. The combination of the added instability of working independently in each limb, and the stronger pull of the springs makes the springboard experience special.
Clients feel the difference immediately. They can easily tell which limb is working harder and can modify accordingly, so springboard is a great way to work on imbalances. Also, because a great deal of the work is “open-chain” and less stable — there is no footbar to press against like on the reformer — clients find they have to work harder to stabilize and balance. They love the feel, the challenge and the fun of working with resistance in a new way.
What can you do with a springboard?
From an instructor’s perspective, the springboard is a terrific tool for integrating the limbs into the body, challenging the core and building strength in the hips and shoulder girdle. The variety of exercises is limitless. In addition to using exercises from the Cadillac, it’s easy to modify mat and even Chair exercises to work on the springboard.
Here’s an example of a typical class:
- Warm up either on or off the equipment. Spinal motions, arm arcs and squats are a great way to mobilize the spine, hips and shoulders before adding resistance with the springs.
- Seated spinal flexion and extension using the rollbar to work the spine and abs.
- Bridge work with the rollbar under the knees or straps around the feet or thighs, followed by quadruped work to strengthen the core.
- Standing work with squats and lunges using the leg springs.
- Add arm work using the handles once a solid base is established in the lower body.
- Clients love ending a class with feet in straps.
The springs can be demanding, but working this way can release tension as well as strengthen all the muscles around the hip.
Check out Ellie Herman, the creator of the springboard, as she demonstrates some typical moves. Margot’s also created an awesome Intense Springboard Class Plan for you to use if you wish.
Think about buying some springboards for your studio! They’re much cheaper and more accessible than other equipment. And because they take up way less space, they’re ideal for small studios that don’t have room for several machines.
[Editors note: If that seems like a huge step, start by learning what the springboard is all about at our Springboard 101 continuing education course in Jan 2015, taught by Jane herself!]
Question for you!
Have you ever tried springboard classes, or worked on one on your own? What did you love about it, and what was not great? Share your experiences in the comments below!
Jane Aronovitch is a Pilates & Movement teacher. She is also a writer and author. Her book, Get on it: BOSU Balance Trainer, is available at Body Harmonics, Amazon and Chapters Indigo.
“I love making ideas clear so teachers can directly apply what they learn in concrete and practical ways – and people can make connections, feel better, move with ease, and have fun.”