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While many Pilates studios around the world have yet to incorporate the Guillotine Tower into their day-to-day regimen, what few realize is that it was one of the fundamental pieces of equipment in the original New York Pilates Studio. During Ron Fletcher’s years of study with Joe and Clara, they revealed to him the true value of this seemingly straightforward apparatus.
Ron’s mastery of the Guillotine, coupled with his genius for movement, led to the development of this routine. According to Ron, “the Guillotine is the genitive apparatus for hip and spine articulation.” While many have adapted traditional Guillotine exercises to the Cadillac, the mechanics of the push-through bar don’t provide the same pelvic stabilization and lumbar articulation. Furthermore, the Guillotine allows clients with limited hamstring and lower-back flexibility to experience the full benefit of these pieces of movement
One of the challenges of this apparatus is having it installed correctly, which explains why studio owners have shied away from it. In fact, when our first Guillotine arrived at my Tucson-based studio, I was teaching abroad. I left the installation in the hands of an experienced contractor. Upon my return, I immediately realized that it had been installed upside down. Because the installation involves mounting to the floor and ceiling, the contractor was reluctant to re-install it correctly. To my exasperation, his solution was that we develop an upside-down Guillotine program. Needless to say, he didn’t know me very well, and it was soon installed correctly.
We now use the Guillotine on a daily basis. For many of our clients, especially those with tight hamstrings and hip flexors, this apparatus is of inestimable value. The enthusiasm they’ve shown for the Guillotine is directly proportional to the benefits they’ve derived from it. In short, our clients love it—and yours will, too!
Leg and Footwork
SPRING SETTING: 2 push-through bar springs attached from below
PURPOSE: establishes pelvic stability and hip articulation; elongates the hamstring and calf muscles
SETUP: Lie on your back with your pelvis underneath the bar, knees together and bent at about a 90 degree angle with your hips, and feet wrapped around the bar. Rest your arms at your sides, palms facing down.
1. Inhale, pressing the bar up to extend your legs.
2. Exhale, flexing at your hips, knees and ankles to return to the starting position. Do 8 reps.
TIPS: As you flex to lower the bar, imagine that this action is being initiated from the fold of your hips. Focus on keeping your pelvis firmly anchored long on the mat. Keep your knees and ankles tracking in line with your hips.
During Ron Fletcher’s years of study with Joe and Clara, they revealed to him the true value of this seemingly straightforward apparatus.
Hip Stretch with Rotation
SPRING SETTING : 2 push-through bar springs attached from below
PURPOSE : develops hip articulation; improves spinal articulation and upper/lower–body organization
SETUP: Lie on your left side at the back edge of the mat, with your bottom leg angled forward, and your top leg extended straight and turned out, feet wrapped around the bar. Extend your bottom arm overhead on the mat, and your top arm toward the ceiling and parallel with your top leg.
1. Keeping both legs straight, inhale, then exhale, pulling your top hip back as you rotate your upper body forward, bringing your arm with you.
2. Inhale, then exhale, returning to the starting position. Do 4 reps, then repeat on your other side.
TIPS : Initiate the movement from your hips and pelvis, reaching your hips back and pressing them forward to move the bar. Make sure that your knee doesn’t roll in or out.
SPRING SETTI N G : 2 push-through bar springs attached from below
PURPOSE : develops hip and lumbar spine flexibility, strength and articulation; enhances awareness of pelvic stabilization and lower-body alignment
SETUP: Lie on your back with the base of your ribs underneath the bar. Wrap your feet around the bar, legs extended long, and press your forearms up against the upright bars in a “goal post” position.
1. Inhale, then exhale, flexing at your hips, knees and ankles.
2. Inhale, then exhale, curling your pelvis up 1 vertebra at a time to your waistline—without moving the bar.
3. Inhale, then exhale, extending your legs and reaching up through your heels.
4. Inhale, then exhale, rolling your pelvis back down to the mat. Do 4 reps.
TIP: Imagine that you’re hollowing out your abdominals to move and lengthen your spine.
SPRING SETTIN G : 2 push-through bar springs attached from below
PURPOSE : develops hip articulation with increased awareness of pelvic stabilization and lower-body alignment and coordination
SETUP: Same as in Leg and Footwork, but extend your right leg long on the mat.
1. Inhale, pressing the bar up to extend your left leg.
2. Exhale, flexing at your hips, knees and ankles to return to the starting position. Do 4 reps, then repeat on your other leg.
ADVANCED: Do Single-Leg Scissors: From the setup position, inhale, pressing the bar up with your left leg while lifting your right leg to touch your foot to the bar. Exhale, scissoring your legs by bending your left knee to return your foot to the bar as you extend your right leg long on the mat. Do 4 reps, then repeat on your other leg.
TIPS : Imagine that your hips are bolted on both sides to avoid to avoid any hiking or shifting. Maintain the reach through your extended leg on the mat. For the Scissors variation, coordinate both legs so that they arrive in either direction at the same time.
SPRING SETTING : 2 roll-down bar springs attached from below
PURPOSE : improves standing alignment and shoulder strength
SETUP: Stand on the mat close to the bar, with your feet in a wide stance and turned out. Hold onto the bar near the springs in an overhand grip.
1. Inhale, pulling the bar up toward your chest, elbows reaching wide.
2. Exhale, lowering the bar down with control. Do 4 reps.
VARIATION: Add a plié while pulling the bar up toward your chest. Do 4 reps.
TIP: Imagine that you’re pulling your elbows up to form an M shape, keeping your shoulders down.
Posterior Tricep Press
SPRING SETTING : 2 roll-down bar springs attached from above
PURPOSE : improves standing alignment, tricep strength and balance
SETUP: Stand on the mat, with your back to the bar and feet together and parallel. Place the heels of your hands on the bar near the springs, and press the bar down toward your hips.
1. Inhale, bending your elbows behind you to draw the bar up.
2. Exhale, pressing the bar down to return to the starting position. Do 4 reps.
TIPS : Expand your chest and reach your elbows behind you. Imagine that you’re growing taller as you press the bar down.
Recognized as a master Pilates teacher and disseminator, KYRIA SABIN began her studies with Ron Fletcher in 1991 and founded Body Works Pilates Studios in Tucson in 1993. She initiated the first state-licensed Pilates teacher-training program in Arizona in 1999 and is the founder and director of Fletcher Pilates®, an international Pilates school representing one of the most rigorous programs in existence. A graduate of Duke University, a PMA-certified Pilates teacher and a licensed massage therapist, Kyria developed the Pilates Program at the University of Arizona School of Dance, where she serves as adjunct faculty. She is an international presenter and has served on the boards for the Pilates Method Alliance, the PMA Certification Commission, the University of Arizona Dance Advisory Board, the Haven Center for Women and the Foundation for Expanding Horizons.
MARTHA RAMIREZ received her bachelor’s of fine arts in dance from the University of Arizona. It was during her studies when Kyria, along with Deborah Mendoza, first introduced her to Fletcher Pilates®. Martha discovered her passion for the study of movement through Pilates and decided to pursue it as her professional career. She completed the Fletcher Pilates® Comprehensive Program, formerly The Ron Fletcher Program of Study, in 2005, and is a Fletcher Faculty member for the Arizona Educational Center at Body Works Pilates in Tucson.