Tutorial #3173

Swan Dive Progression

10 min - Tutorial


Learn stepping stones that you can use to progress to Swan on the Reformer with this tutorial by Benjamin Degenhardt. He focuses on demystifying this exercise so you can begin to make it more familiar to your body. This will allow you to introduce this movement to your Reformer practice because you will understand the mechanics needed to do the full exercise.
What You'll Need: Reformer w/Box, Ladder Barrel

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(Pace N/A)
Oct 01, 2017
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Hi everybody. My name is Benjamin and I'm here with Benny to share another video in the series of reformer exercises and demystifying them a little bit. We're going to take a look at a few reformer exercises that are considered advanced or super advanced and hoping to provide some stepping stones that you can use to familiarize yourself with the move and mechanics and then introducing them to your reformer practice. So this one is going to be about the swan dive, which we will share on the long box in a little bit, but it's often also taught on the ladder barrel, which is an amazing place to introduce the idea of back-bending and using your body fully, which is in my interpretation what the exercise is about. So we'll share a few progressions here before we take it through the reformer. When he go ahead and step in, we'll do a standing version first, which is the least threatening to the body in terms of the angle and its relationship to gravity where you can just really use the round of the barrel to fully support your body. Your heels lifted up against the base of the ladder.

You can even step your toes a little closer to the ladder, moving your feet back and letting your knees really softened so that your spine has a chance to really drape itself around the barrel, right wherever the highest point of the barrel is. That's the place in your body that you want to elevate here. So he gets nicely supported into the flection of his spine to then find his extension, which, and this is where the barrel really excels at teaching, you are very important mechanic, is to be let every backbend begin from the feet pushing down and drive from hip extension into the rest of the body. So Ben, go ahead and press your feet back into the ladder to then let that movement travel all the way into your arms to lift you up into a straight line to start. Right? So when we're looking for here is that the entire backline of the body is fired up from the heels through the hips, through the back, all the way up into the shoulders and fingers. And then from there, fully releasing and recovering, allowing the spine to release over the support of the barrel. Again, we'll do that once more. Lift yourself up, press down through the feed.

Find that extension of the hips to lift yourself up. Once you get familiar with that, continue to press down through your feet. Allow your chest to lift up, hopefully incentivizing the upper body to do most of the back-bending here so we're not defaulting into neck and lower back doing all of the work, nice adjustment, and then you slowly release yourself all the way back over the barrel. Once that feels familiar in your body and this idea of using your legs and your back feels familiar to you and feel successful for you, the next thing we will add is loading the body up with gravity and for that we changed the body position slightly by bringing the feet up against the lowest two rungs on your ladder. Heels together, toes apart will allow your knees to open so that you find a good amount of space to really let your navel be on the highest point of the barrel and that your lower back be supported by the round of the barrel. So your body's still completely in nerd in this moment.

But I want you to activate your legs, right? It's very easy to take this position for granted and just feel wedged in by the barrel. I want you to actively push your feet back to activate the legs and pushing the thighs forward into the barrel so that your legs already anchor you into apparatus to allow the spine to freely swing up and forward into a Backman so you can go ahead keeping the feed, pushing back into the thighs, pushing forward again, lifting through the chest more than the lower back, slowly returned from here would be the first step of doing the swan dive on the barrel with the feet up against the ladder. A variation that you can use here is to take the hands behind the head. If you feel like your shoulders get in the way of opening your thoracic spine, this is a really great alternative. We'll do one more just like that.

Press your head up and back into your hands farther. Incentivizing the upper back to back bend as well as the lower back and neck. Slowly come forward and then release yourself back down. And here's where we add the next step, which will actually be a lot easier on the reformer on the barrel. We straighten the legs out. Once we finished our first Backman, allow your arms to hang down, lift yourself up into your first back bend, which is a bit lower in space. The legs are still bend in, the feet are still pushing. From here, we push our feedback into the rung.

We slide up on top of the ladder, lifting the body's position, coming to a straight line and then finding another backbend from there, keeping the leg straight as long as possible. Rebounding the knees only at the end to find a higher position in a full body back bend here. Really straighten the legs and spine and then bend your knees, pull them forward and down to find your start position again. We'll do one more like that. Here's your breath for this. Inhale, lift yourself up. Use The exhale. Empty the lungs, lift your chest, stretch back out. From there on the inhale, lift yourself up. One more time. Soften your knees at the end to find the highest point of your chest lifting up restraint and the legs in spine. Bend your knees and float all the way back into position and that would be our swan dive on the ladder barrel. You can go ahead and step off to the side.

We will now introduce the same exercise done on the reformer. Now we'll take our swan dive to the reformer and the long box. We're working on a grant's reformer with two springs and I suggest using the springs in the middle so that you need to have a spot to drop into for the exercise. There's many different ways that the swan is done. On the long box. The way that I teach it and the way that I see it done back in the day when this method was invented was to use the inside of the frame for a really secure place for your feed so that you have something to push them against as opposed to using the moving foot bar here, right? So if you need to block the carriage out to allow for you to not feel compressed, you may choose to do so, but actually won a lot of spring tension here to hold you in place because this is a tricky area to position around the edge of the box.

Make sure that you don't sit into the crease of your head, but position the boxes edge just a few inches below your hip crease. So not exactly in the middle of your quad, but definitely a little lower than your hips, right? Just like on the ladder, your feet will be in a turnout position and depending on what type of reformer you work with, make sure that all 10 toes can be in a turnout position somewhere inside the frame. If you have a jump board attachment, you might have play around a little bit with exploring different options, right? Um, go ahead and set yourself up. You push the box out just enough so that you can set yourself up. Take your time for this and find a position that works for you where all 10 toes are inside the frame. The knees are not outside the frame, but just inside, outside you have springs.

But inside the frame and the boxes edge pushes you back into your start position. Your arms hang by your sides and if you just look at this position, it looks very much like the ladder barrel except that now we have a moving piece here where we don't have to rely on the barrel staying in one position by dynamically work with the support of the springs. First step from here is if you're doing footwork on your stomach, push all 10 toes back to straighten the legs from there. Reach the arms forward and just allow your chest to ever so slightly hover off, reaching your fingertips away from your toes, but almost paying more attention to how your feet relate to the reformer. Because the second you lose the extension of your legs, chances are your spine will have to pick up the slack to lift yourself up. So get your legs really strong here. Recover. Let the arms come down.

Bring the carriage back in. We'll do that again. We'll add a little bit of a backbone at the end. So once the legs are straight, the spine lifts forward and up. Now come up in the second step as far as you can. Keep your legs straight and activated, right? This might not be nearly as high as many girls here, right?

But make sure that you stay strict with your leg stained, completely engaged. Slowly find your way back down and come back. Let's do that one more time. Stand into all 10 toes. Find that movement. Travel through the entire body, into the chest, into the arms, lifting forward and up, and then find how much the racich extension you can unlock in your body to get yourself up to the highest point possible. Sweet. Come all the way back down. Soften your knees, come back in. We're going to add on. If you feel like that's still not all you've got in your body, we can add a little bend in the knee at the end.

Lift yourself back up to that spot. Make sure you visit your maximum range first before you allow the knees to soften just enough so that he can lift his entire body up. The thigh stretch comes to mind. There is a connection from your knees all the way into your ribs that moves as one unit restraint and the backs of your thighs to find your superman length again and then recover all the way down as do one more like that. Lift yourself up. Lift yourself to the highest point.

Let the knees soft enough to take you deeper into your back bend. You might choose to open the arms here as a variety of arm choreographies. You can add to this to farther induce an openness in the chest restraint and come all the way back in. And then my favorite way to use my arms here in my full expression would be to let the arm circle all the way out to the side. Let them continue to swing down and forward. And as they reach forward, the legs restraint and you come all the way back down and you have one continuous movement here. You can do it once more, a little quicker for the full expression of our swan dive on the long box, open the arms shoot through, straighten the legs, recover fully, and then to dismount ridges.

Push against the top of the box to lift the hips up. And you can either change your spring's here for the next exercise while squatting on the foot bar or stepping off to the side. Indeed. And that is your swan dive on the long box.

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4 people like this.
Love these tutorials
Francesca M
Thank you! This was very helpful.
3 people like this.
Wonderfully cued and executed! Thank you!!
Kate V
2 people like this.
A exercise I really struggle with. This was a great help!!
1 person likes this.
Love this concise video explained with such wonderful clarity and precision Benjamin and so helpful to see the same exercise executed in 2 different piece of equipment...feels so much clearer now! Thank you!
1 person likes this.
Love the progressions on the Ladder Barrel, so rarely taught but so helpful in understanding the power of the legs! Thanks Benjamin!
My god, I just love you Benjamin! Thank you for your clear, calm, concise style.
1 person likes this.
This really helped me. Thank you.
1 person likes this.
So well explained, thank you Benjamin. Sometimes I get so caught up in the arm choreography I lose the intention of the exercise!
Benjamin Degenhardt
Thank you all so much for the lovely feedback, it makes my day knowing that this was helpful to you!
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