Tutorial #3638

Horseback Progression

10 min - Tutorial


Horseback is an exercise that is hard to understand and often underappreciated. In this tutorial, Benjamin Degenhardt shows how you can build up to the full expression of the exercise so you get the most out of the movement. He starts on the Ladder Barrel so you can acquaint yourself with the mechanics you will need and then moves to the Reformer to show the full exercise.
What You'll Need: Reformer w/Box, Ladder Barrel, Hand Weights (2)

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Dec 30, 2018
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Hi everyone. I'm Benjamin Dagon hearts and I'm here with the wonderful Stephen Washington to do a tutorial on the horseback exercise. We will take it to the reformer in a second, but I want to start here on the ladder barrel. I think that horseback is one of those really hard to understand and hard to appreciate exercises and this is a really good way to acquaint yourself with the mechanics that we're looking for. Whereas back is the ultimate c curve exercise to find in your back. Um, especially when we take it to the former and we tilt our body into that c curve against gravity. Things get a little dicey and a little more complicated there.

So we're using the stability of the ladder barrel to set this up properly. I'm, you can tell I already have some hand weights in my hand for him to use in a second. We'll start without them though. We're want to get clear on the spinal position that we're after here first and I'll have him bend his knees and actually bring his lower leg against the sides of the barrel. Obviously, one of the advantages of doing it here is that we don't have to deal with the edges of the box. That's can sometimes cut a little bit into those inner thighs. So here he really has the rounding of the barrel available for the legs to start squeezing in wards and give a little bit of that pelvic lift away from the barrel that we're looking for in the exercise. He has his hands by his waist here to start and want him to find that squeeze of his legs until he begins to lift those hips up off the barrel ever so slightly. Now that there is space where sacred to move in his lower back to move, he's going to begin forming that c curve, curling the tailbone under and moving the rib cage back in space, letting us head follow the curvature of his spine and then from there releasing back into a straight spine, releasing the Tuck of the hips until he sits back onto the barrel.

We'll do just that one more time. Using the lower leg to press inwards, raising the hips off of the barrel, and then enjoying that freedom of the spine, ears, two hips to find that really even been right from top to bottom before he releases back down. Now one of the things that you'll notice, especially on the reformer, is that the straps give you all that energy going forward. However, in order to be able to tilt your body forward against gravity, you also have to send some energy back. And that's where the secret comes in. We're going to replicate the tension that the springs create with these hand Wade snakes, and we're going to mimic the position that we're using on the reformer where the legs are extended and unfolded. So let your lower leg follow the line of your thighs. Begin to stretch those arms forward, which will place most of your, um, center of gravity forward in space so that his ribs really have to pull back against it as he presses into the barrel, raising his hips off the barrel and finding that c curve starting from the hips and evening and out all the way to the years. From there, he flexes the feed, pulls the elbows back, straightens out his spine and sits back down onto the barrel. We'll talk about the work of the feet in a second. We'll do one more like that.

So go ahead and extend the legs out. Draw the inner thighs towards one another evenly. Bend your top to bottom. Extend your arms out in front of you in opposition. Let your center traveled back in space. Pause there for a moment. Here's where the feet come in.

I want him to reach through the heel so far that the feeding into flex and it's almost the idea of lifting the fields up in space that brings him back into a start position, straightening out a spine as his elbows pull back as a seed, finds the barrel. We'll take one more here. Extend the arms forward, move the spine back in. Space the feet point energetically. Again, think more about bringing your energy back, puffing out your spine. Years to hips. From here we're going to start drawing circles with the arms. The arms go up by the ears, out around and down into start position.

One more time, forward and up. Arm Circle out, around in, down stretch. And one last time. Think about those feeding and reach through the heels. Pick up the weight of the heels, finish the circle here. Arms come out around and down. Elbows bend by the sides and he takes a seat and you can relax as lower legs.

So now that we broke it down a little bit on the barrel, we'll take it to the reformer where things get just little bit more complicated. So here we are on the reformer. Typically this exercise is done on one spring, but I want to show you one more intermediate step before we get to the full expression of this exercise, which I actually teach on two or even more springs to rely on the spring tension to draw the handle into our hips, to have something to lean into as we're trying to figure out where that secret belongs on the reformer. So I'll start with two springs here and we'll see if he needs more. I don't believe he does, but you can already tell by the positioning that he finds on the box, which is just a little bit about a hand with away from the backend of the box. The straps have to be pulled into tension in order to arrive in front of his hip creases. So I want him to pour the hands right in front of the hips.

The spring tension pulls their hands into his hips. So there's tension right now. He extends his legs down and out in front of him. Feet can be flexed at this point so he can really send energy out. Those heels, draw the legs together. And from here, the first movement and the only movement we'll do is for him to point his feet, draw his ribs back, tilt his body forward, lean his body weight truly into those heavy springs that are holding him right now. And while he stays there, he can take time to experience how much his spine can bend, how evenly he can make that bend happen from his ears all the way down to his hips. Then he sends energy out his heels again to slowly pick the legs up, to bring himself back onto his seed to upright his spine, right? So it's a really nice and supported feeling of tilting your body forward because otherwise it feels like you're about to face plan and nobody wants to do a face plant in their workout. So we'll just do one more like that. So really indulge and having that stability of the handles drying into you begin with the feet flexed and as you point them away from you to initiate the movement, almost feel like you're pushing yourself away from something with those feet.

Allow the hips to lift up, round your spine evenly, truly hanging into those straps that are holding you in place. And he's doing a really awesome job to keep that bend nice. And even the feet flex again, the feet pick up in front of him, bring him back onto his seed to an upright spine. Now what's going to replace the stability we found with two springs holding us here is the fact that we will extend the arms out, stretching the one spring. We're doing the exercise on out to recreate that same amount of tension.

All right, so it's the same exact move. Feet flex to start. He begins to point them away from his body and a genetically pushing himself away from something. The arms extend out in front of him as his ribs pull back. So think about what we did on the barrel. That counter-weight that happened through the weights. He has a big arm circle now you flexes his feed, picks the legs up, picks the arms up, extends his spine, circles the arm all the way around to start again. Rounding in, pointing the feet away from the center, stretching the arms out in front feet, flex feet, pick up arms, pick up spine picks up and it ends and resolves into this big circle.

One more time, rounding it. Press it away. This is a more original or archival version of the horseback. There is another one that is typically Todd. We're going to do that one next. That one keeps the movement in the most challenging position as we isolate the circle, so get ready for that. You round in, you point in your stretch, the arms out in front. You maintain the position of keeping your body weight forward.

The arms circle around, but the body stay seat curve. Come right through to circle it around. One more time it or hold it there. We can add a shave or salute. Here are bringing the hands either to the back or front of the head. See where you land. All the while.

Challenging yourself to maintain that secret and an empress back out. Nice. Steven. Let's do two more here. Banded in. Press it away. Keep in mind, your inner thighs have the responsibility to keep you engaged with that box while your c curve is what keeps you from falling forward slowly, when the elbows by your side flex your feet, bring yourself back to start position upright, your spine, and that is your horseback on the reformer.


Wow..that was a fabulous tutorial! Love the breakdown and the ladder barrel version. Look forward to revisiting this exercise again..Thank you Benjamin
Patty Hafen
Thank you Benjamin for another awesome tutorial. I love these tutorials and how you break down the exercises.
So helpful....thank you thank you!
Beautiful job! Thank you both!
Yes, beautiful inspiring work by both!  Thank you:)
Benjamin your teaching style is so smooth, eloquent, well explained and easy to follow. Thank you for providing this breakdown. Can’t wait to use it with my students today. Tendon Stretch also 

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