Class #669

Build a Better Back Bend

30 min - Class


Karen Sanzo is here for the first time to help you build a better back bend with this Cadillac workout. Begin by pulling out your foam roller to prepare you for the work and movement patterns you will do in this class. Karen offers several progressions that work all the skills necessary to facilitate your back bends. She is clear in her direction, very knowledgeable and will improve your back bend with more ease than you ever know possible. Welcome to Pilates Anytime Karen!
What You'll Need: Cadillac, Foam Roller

About This Video

Apr 05, 2012
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This Cadillac workout is called building a better back bend. Backbends consist of strong legs, strong open arms as well as spinal extension. Notice this setup, I have two arms springs with handles and they're coming from a high setting. I have two heavy legs springs from a high ish setting and these are going to be used in a new interesting way. I also have my trapeze Barb, oh about a fourth of a distance away from the horizontal tower up there and those will come in handy later because we will be moving the leg springs to that position and I will of course tell you when to do that. I'd like to start with the foam roller, so go ahead and climb on, put your bottom at the edge of the roller and lie your spine down. Make sure that your head is all the way on the roller and just take time here to begin to open up your chest. Your feet are firmly pressing.

Take your arms out to the side like a t. Take a big inhale. As you exhale, take your arms slowly to the ceiling with your arms to the ceiling. Imagine that you have five pound weights in each of your hands and let your shoulder bones kind of drop. Pass the foam roller as if you're trying to hug the roller with your shoulder blades. This allows your humorous bones to sink down towards the Mat and we'll turn that into a small exercise. Inhale the arms go up to the ceiling. Exhale the arms pull towards the foam roller two more times.

Inhale up and exhale down. Last time up and last time down, working in the arms in a scissor fashion. One arm over the head, the other arm down by your side, and then switch just two more and last one, and then slowly raise your arms down by your side. Now taking your arms into the mat, kind of karate. Chop the mat so that your palms are actually facing inward. This challenges your triceps in a different way.

Take your left leg up off the ground and match it with the right one. Take an inhale. As you exhale, pull your belly up and in. Lift your pelvic floor. That helps to close the core from the bottom and then lower your right leg and then lower your left leg. Take an inhale, and as you exhale, we'll repeat that one more time. Right leg in, left leg in, thighs, squeezing, chest open, big inhale, big exhale, lower leg, lower the other leg. Take an inhale here. As you exhale, let the belly sink down and let your hip points start to curl upward so that you feel the depth of your belly come in.

You feel your low back linkedin. But I want you to feel this cue from the front body so you feel your hip points pull up underneath your rib cage. The upper body is staying the same and then roll your bottom all the way back down. One more time here. Inhale, exhale, belly sinks, ribs kind of get heavy, and then curl the tailbone up. Plant your feet, you're lengthening out your low back, and then slowly lower your bottom all the way back down. Take yourself off the roller and now take the roller width-wise underneath your bottom and then fold your legs in and make a little frog shape with your legs.

And notice here that if you rest for just a second, your low back will actually get a nice little stretch, a little lengthening feeling. I call this a passive position to just get that low back a stretch. Now do a couple of frogs here. Stretch the legs up. Exhale, bend in. Inhale, squeeze the thighs and exhale. Come in. Let's do that one more time. Go Up, stay up, close the feet, make them parallel.

Take your right leg away from you. Reach it all the way down to the mat, looking for a nice stretch in the front of that right thigh and then bicycle, that right knee in and up. One more time. Same right leg down, bends in and comes up. Left leg two times down. Feel the length in front of the left thigh. Bend it in and bring it up last time down. Bend the knee in and bring it all the way up. Flex and point your feet a couple of times. Feel your low back, continually stretching without rounding your shoulders one more time.

And then bend the knees in, lower the legs down, press the feet, lift your roller up, and then slowly roll your spine down. And now bring yourself to sitting and take that roller behind you so that we can learn how to open up the chest with your knees bent and the roller about it. Shoulder blade level. Take your hands behind your head. Now be very mindful here, not just to drop your head back, but take your chest on what I like to call a journey. So you open up your heart and then your head just happens to go back. So the extension comes from the lengthening in the front part of the chest here.

And then bring yourself up to about level. Separate your feet, press your feet, lift your bottom up into a bridge. And now press your feet just a little bit to kind of myofascially release the back part of your body just a little bit. And now hold right here and I want you to think of the exercise semicircle on the reformer. Keep your bottom lifted. But start to drip your spine over the edge of the roller to allow for some extra spinal extension. And then bring your face up. Look between your knees. Take one more inhale here. One more exhale here.

Scoop and curl the tailbone. Hold the pelvis level, arch the chest drip spine down, getting that nice extension in your upper back. This will come in handy for a full back bend. And then bring yourself out of that. Turn yourself around, lie on your tummy. And now the final part here with the roller is to open up the shoulders.

Put the roller underneath your wrists, roughly look down, press into the roller. Let your chest extend as you push down on the roller, and then let your body come all the way back down. Lift up when you come back down. Be Very mindful that you're lengthening all the way out your armpits so you're not shrugging your shoulders, you're just stretching your arms. It's like you're trying to roll the roller all the way to your elbows.

And then relax your shoulders down. Last one, legs together, thighs in gage. Pull that roller back, stretching the front of your body into extension, and then exhale, lower yourself all the way down. Okay, we don't need the roller again, so we'll take the roller away and we'll get ready for the parakeet. So we'll take our red push through spring and load it on the push through bar. Pushed the bar down, put your feet on it. I like to put my feet in a bird foot position.

It kind of lets the forefoot flex nicely over that. Slowly roll yourself down with control. Arms down by your side. Let's bend and straighten the knees three times. Bend and press without moving the spine or the pelvis. Last time. Ben, last time. Press pause here. Take an inhale. As you exhale.

Now bend the knees in. Let the legs go up as the bar kind of spins under your feet, press into the bar. Lengthen up. Inhale wire up here. Exhale, slowly roll down. Lengthen the spine. As you press your feet away, you roll your spine down. Bend the knees in with control here. As you press the legs away, there's a tendency to want to arch the back.

Stay firm and controlled in the center. Three times. Bend in, legs, up, curl and left. Inhale here. Exhale. Roll yourself down. This is the second one from legs, strong legs, and then bend the knees in and reach them away. Last time in this progression. Legs come up. Lift up. Now hold yourself really strong right here.

Take your right leg lifted up just a little bit. Put it down. Press right, lift left. Let's do these one more time. Press left from lift, right. Press right from lift. Left two legs. Come down, rolling the spine continually pressing away in opposition. Bend the knees in. Reach the legs long. Now here's where we start to get our first bit of a back bend. No, I'm not gonna lift into a back bend while I'm in parakeet.

Although that could be a challenge for somebody. Let's bend the knees in. Press the legs up. Still lift up in pair of. Keep, but get the feeling of your arms pressing down and your elbows reaching up and then slowly lie your spine down. Bone by bone, bending the knees in and reaching law without unbuttoning. Those ribs don't extend the spine. When the legs are long, bend the knees in up you go, and parakeet, press and lift and lift and lift, and then slowly articulating down thighs, attracting inward. Bend the knees in. Reach the Var law. Lift your head, curl yourself up. Take your spring off of the bar and now lie yourself down slowly getting ready for some dynamic mobility of your thighs. Now we're going to take this purple spring. It's on my left, but I'm going to put my right leg into it.

I call this exercise a smiley face, but it's just a variation on the leg spring with a straight leg. I'm going to pull my leg down and out to the side, straight leg across, straight leg out. Now my first focus here is a stable trunk. While I work to stretch my leg in my hip, let's do this two more times. Pulled down and out and then down and across. Last time, down and out and down and across.

Now we're going to add a bent neen do it a little bit more dynamically so the bet knee comes up like this. It's kind of like going upside on the chair. Then press the leg down across my body. Invite my spine to twist as I bend my knee on the other side. Press down out, come up and let's do this two more times. So I'm continually pressing my left leg as my right leg is getting a lot of attention. One more time and crossover.

Now bend the left foot in and you'll notice here that I'm in a frog shape but the spring is still working diagonally so this is going to effect my core differently. Two legs, press away and bend in. Only have one spring but the force that it's putting on my spine is in a diagonal fashion. Let's do three more of these. Press and bend, press and Bend and press and Ben last time press hold. Open. Bend in. That's a little bit trickier. Out. Open, close bend in two more of these. Press out, open, close bend in last one. Press Open, close, bend in. Take that leg out. Switching Smiley face. Take that leg out. Long.

Yearned to reach back with that pelvis on the left side from up the left thigh, pull down and out and down and across. You're looking right up at the ceiling. Your bellies pulled in. Your core is in control, right leg pressing down in long. And this is last time with a straight leg, smiley face. And now we're going to go to the bet knee out, down over bend, knee twist spine.

So we're using the spring to help give us a hip stretch on one side and help give us a little spinal twist on the other last time. And then we come in now to our frog, press away and pull in. Press away, pull and we'll do five total. This is three and four and five. And now we'll do three out open, close. Come in.

This one really catches you by surprise last one. And then bend the knees in. Go ahead and roll up to sitting. Turn yourself around. Take these same leg springs. Of course, if the person's body weight was kind of light, there are different colored springs you can use for resistance. I just chose the purple ones here.

Gonna take your left leg, put it in the loop. The loop is right underneath your ankle. I'm going to pull my toes back and lie down. Pulling the belly in. Now I'm going to press down and lift up. Press down and lift up. This is hip extension right at my hip joint.

I'm going to do three more of these, one and two, and here's three, and now I'm going to add down, out, in, up, down, out in, up. Last time, down, out, in and up. Now here's the tricky part. I'm going to take my right foot and put it in that same loop and do the crossover pattern down, out, in, up, down, out, in, up, working the whole action of the leg from different angles. We'll do this three more times, two more, and last time. Here's the transition. I just love. I'm going to take my right hand, put it in this loop. It's crossed over. I'm the left sided spring is into my right arm. Lift my head, curl my trunk, bend my elbow, curl up.

I'm gonna move back to get myself a little more attention. Pull the right elbow back, pull your belly in. This is a diagonal force, but I'm rolling straight so I'm still working my obliques. Lift the head. Curl the trunk. Now I'm going to make a purposeful rotation. Pull the spring, twist to the right, roll down on a right diagonal. Rolling, rolling, rolling, and then curling up and up and up and release. Now we switched to the right leg again, the strap right underneath the ankle. Slowly rolls yourself down, belly in and down, and lift down and lift. Here's three.

We'll do five of these. Four and five. Now we add down, out in, up, down, out, stable, left. Moving right, two more like this and last time, take your left foot, put it right in there now, and then down, out in, up, just pulling it from a different force, working the whole leg. Three more of these two more and last one. And now we get that little arm challenge. So I grabbed the spring with my left arm.

Pull that arm down and curl my trunk up. Do that again here. Inhale, exhale, belly pulls in, rolling your spine down, ruling it down, and then pull that arm, lift, head curl trunk, and now twist the trunk to the left and roll down. It's a diagonal force. Big Time roll, roll, roll. And then keep that diagonal and roll yourself all the way back up and then release your arm. If you haven't had enough for your legs, there's one more to go.

We're going to lower these springs back down and we're going to do that really fun exercise that we don't do a whole lot, but it really works. The proximal hip, the adductors, and the trunk like mad. So I'm gonna put on my springs, lie myself down, pull my legs in. Now I've actually noticed that that's going to be a little too tough for me, so I'm going to move my bottom towards the springs just a little bit more. So you always have to adjust, especially on this exercise in particular on this exercise. When you pull your hip into a 90 degree angle, you do not want to change your spine. You don't want to arch your back. So make sure that it's just enough challenge for your trunk.

So we pull the knee in. Now I need to move back just a little bit. It's okay to play with this. So here we go, right leg and then left leg, and then right leg and then left leg. We often do this on the reformer, but I really like to do it here. Right leg pull. Hold left leg matches hold. Whew, we, this is a big one for the trunk. Hold, hold, hold. And then right leg down, left leg down. Now we're going to lift the right leg by itself.

We're going to pull the right leg towards the left shoulder to create abduction right in that inner thigh. Hands behind the head. Lift the head, curl the trunk without tucking your bottom. Hold right here. Left armpit towards right knee three times one twist to twist. Three hold, trunk lowers, leg lowers. Inhale, exhale, stable trunk, left leg lifts. Pull your left leg across the midline for a little bit of abduction there.

Curl trunk, right arm pit, left knee, three, two, and one. Back Down. Lower the legs. Who were glad that one's done. Lift the head. Take your springs off, roll yourself on up and get ready. Now for some arms, you'll notice that the arms springs here are from the top part. It's going to take these arms springs. You don't typically see this, but I'm going to create these arms springs, much like the legs springs, so you want to be far enough forward that you still stay in your vertical mode. We're not going to be doing leaning into the wind here, so we're going to attempt to stay nice and vertical and then you're going to press your right arm down and it comes up left arm, down and up.

Why am I doing this? I'm doing this to keep my arm pits open and now double your arm. Double Time your arms down, down, down, down, down, up, up, up, up, up, down, down, down, down, down, up, up, up, up, up. Last time, down, down, down, down, down, up, up, up, up, up, and pause. That is a thigh. Wake her up or so again, the arms were all the way up in there. Let's do one more. Set a little bit more dynamically. Right. Lift left, right lifts, left lifts right and left. And then double time. Race, race, race, race, race, race, race, and up, up, up, up, up, up, up last time and relaxed down. Chest expansion. I'm going to take these springs now, lower them down.

Let's take the leg springs. Just get them out of the way cause we're not going to be using them again. So chest expansion here. When I teach test expansion, I really like to pull the pinkies down towards the ground. Otherwise we kind of get some bicep curling and rounding like this. So we're going to pull the arms back, turn the palms backwards and pull straight back and hold and then release them.

Come up. So, and when I pull my arms back, I'm going to do that again. Pull back, palms down and hold. That's where I need that work to come from the back of my triceps in the back of my shoulders. Now I'm ready to go. Inhale, pull, look left. Look right. Look, center, release. Inhale, pull, look right, look left. Look, center release. Two more times. Ah, last one.

The natural exercise from here would be five. Stretch, load the arms. Pause here, five stretch back, no arch yet. Just do the five stretch, load the legs, load the arms, load your trunk, and then pull yourself up. Release again, arms, thighs, thighs, and then return yourself up and release the arms. Last time. Pull arms, chest open thighs, stretching, hold, hold, hold. And then release. Now we're going to do two different variations of the back of bending part.

The first one will be a five stretch add arch and then return. The second one will be do the arch first and then the thigh stretch. Here we go. Thigh stretch. Add the arch, come out of the arch, come out of the thigh, stretch. Second one arch. First five stretch thigh. Stretch by the arch. That's a doozy. Now we do my favorite, I call it the hover. Take the right leg in front of you. I really like to work unilaterally, laterally a lot.

I think it gives the body some good balance and some good challenge. Curl the toes under of this left leg. Pull the belly in, pull the arms down, hover that knee, half off the ground, and pulse. Five, four, three, two, one. Lower down, switch legs, left leg up. Curl the toes or the right leg, scooping the belly. Shoulders back. Here we go. Pull the arms, hover up and now work. Five, four, three, two, one, lower down switch. Sit down on your heels. Pause for just a second.

The next exercise we're going to do is cat. So typically we do cat with the push through bar, but we're going to add a little spinal flection, a little cat activity here with the arms springs in the handles. That adds a little challenge. Inhale, as I exhale, the head nods, the tailbone curls and the head curls. I may be leaning back a little bit, but only to counterbalance the action. And then I take my tailbone underneath me. I unrolled my spine back to vertical and pause right there.

Release the arms two more times. Arms pull, head nods, trunk flection. It's just like the quadro pad spinal journey, but we're doing it on our knees. Unwind the tailbone on. Curl the ribs shoulder. Stay back and lengthen up. Last time. Arms pull. Head nods, curl spine. Hold right here. Belly en pelvic floor lifts. Unwind the spine and bring yourself all the way back up.

We're hitting the home stretch. Lie on your back. Your arms springs are still where they were. Arms out in front of you. Pull the feet in. You're going to do a tiny bridge. Now pull the arms a little bit. Curl up your spine just a little bit. Hold. Inhale. Exhale. Roll down. Release arms.

Pull the arms a little bit more. Halfway down. Lift the bottom a little bit more. Load up those legs. Press those legs firmly and then slowly roll yourself down. Last one, press those arms like mad all the way down to the mat. Lift your pelvis all the way up.

Take your chest through your arms so you're lifting maximally feeling your buttocks work, feeling your thighs stretch in the front. Your arms are working slowly, slowly, slowly lower yourself down. Very good. Lift the head, curl yourself on up. Get ready here for the back bend. I'm gonna put your push through spring on the top.

Take your feet underneath you to the bar. First thing you just want to do relatively quickly is pull on that bar. Pull your shoulder blades back and just show yourself that you can lift up your bottom and then bring yourself down. And now that you know you can do that, you're ready to go. If your hands were a little sweaty, you might need to wipe them off a little bit or you can get yourself a little sticky pad on here. Think of the exercise stomach massage now and curl that tailbone underneath you and lie yourself down. Here we go. Inhale. As you exhale, you take your pelvis up into a bridge, your shoulders pull back, the crown of your head goes on the mat.

I'm not resting on my head and then I pick myself up into a backbend, dropped my head down, dropped my face, lower my spine all the way down, all the way down again. Inhale, exhale, tailbone curls, arms pull, spine turns inside out. Lift up, hold lower down touch, lift up, lower down, head nods, spine rolls all the way down, and press yourself back. Last one, rolling all the way down. Full back bend here. We've opened our arms. We've stretched our legs, we've worked our tummies. We've worked spinal extension. Hands go by your ears. Don't be in a hurry. Do a nice strong bridge. Lift up that bridge as high as you can.

Go to the crown of your head first. You're not resting, and then 4s with your legs and with your arms. Hold, hold, hold. Then down, look at the ceiling and roll your spine all the way back down to the mat. There you go.


2 people like this.
WOW, Lots of new tricks demonstrated here. This was terriffic!!!
2 people like this.
This was a great class. Loved all the unilateral work work. I can't wait to try of these.
I love the way Karen teaches! She is obviously full of information, but her delivery is so concise and simple I can hardly understand how she does it. Efficient word choice is not my specialty. I hope to learn from her again and again. On top of it all... she is super fun to be around!
Karen Sanzo
It was such a treat to be with Kristy at Pilates Anytime. Perry was calm and supportive, too.
Karen Sanzo
Unilateral work can identify "new" areas of weakness. Thanks for the comments.
Loved the class...the cadillac is such a wonderful piece of equipment...great class!
1 person likes this.
Excellent class. Not only good new choreograpy but solid concise cueing for everything....looking forward to trying all of the new stuff :) Thanks!
Karen Sanzo
We love the cadillac, too. Once you build on the concepts of traditional exercises, the sky is the limit with programming. Love your back bend picture!!
Karen Sanzo
1 person likes this.
Judy, I appreciate the feedback on the cuing. I love working my brain to figure out the shortest way describe movements.
1 person likes this.
Hi Karen! So nice to see you here. Not sure if you will remember me. I am Connie Kurcz (now Murtaugh). I took your mat certification at Cindy Cook's studio back in 2007. I learned so much from you and will be forever grateful! The cadillac routine was great, thank you!
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