Trina AltmanWhy the Semicircle Deserves a Class of its Own

Pec Major PhotoThe semicircle on the reformer is my favorite Pilates exercise. I love the way it feels to wind my way through space while undulating my spine with arms overhead. The feedback from the reformer shoulder rests, carriage, and footbar support me just right, so I can worm my way through space—in a more refined (and much safer) form than I did in the early 80’s when I was a break-dancing fool.

Teaching this exercise, on the other hand, is not always so lovely—especially in a multilevel reformer class where students struggle with complex choreography. But there are hidden gems to be found inside the semicircle on the reformer, and many good reasons to break it down from time to time. By teaching the component pieces of the semicircle exercise, students begin to understand and fully embody the details of spinal articulation, correct shoulder positioning, and undulating their spine all while balancing on the balls of their feet.

Deconstructing the semicircle opens a path to its mysteries and pleasures. For example, I teach the details of spinal articulation using an exercise I call The Wave. To understand how The Wave preps your spine for the semicircle, watch the video below. You’ll see and feel what I mean and, as a result, get so much more out of your next semicircle session.

For info on the SmartSpine™ Arch Tubbies used in this video go HERE.

Infraspinatus and Teres Minor PhotoThen, of course, there’s the loaded 180-degree range of motion in shoulder flexion and external rotation required for the semicircle… which is no easy task! That’s why I introduce the exercise I call Elbows Forward-Hands Back. It allows the student to practice strengthening the external rotator cuff muscles while simultaneously stretching pec major and friends. Watch the next video below to see what I mean.




I include plenty of other exercises in my workshop Pilates Deconstructed™: Toolbox for Your Reformer Classes on Saturday, August 29th, from 10am-6pm at Fusion Pilates in Asheville, NC. Why not come and enjoy this full 8-hour day? Experience three one-hour reformer classes, each of which will deconstruct a classic Pilates exercise and inspire you to find creative solutions for common teaching problems. You and your students will all benefit. This continuing education workshop will be a joint-by-joint adventure that challenges you to map your body from the inside out!

Register here:

Trina Altman, E-RYT, is a STOTT PILATES® certified instructor, Roll Model™ teacher trainer and Integrated Yoga Tune Up® teacher trainer. Trina is the creator of Pilates Deconstructed™, an innovative interdisciplinary approach that fosters an embodied understanding of Pilates and its relationship to modern movement science. Emphasizing the importance of inner focus, she teaches anatomy for yoga teacher trainings across the country. She also leads teacher trainings at Equinox fitness clubs worldwide for the myofascial release format Rx Series and is a regular presenter at fitness and yoga conferences. Her teaching fosters body cognition and self-discovery, firmly grounded in anatomical awareness. Trina works out of Los Angeles at Equinox and The Moving Joint. Find her at

Pilates Deconstructed™: Toolbox for Your Reformer Classes


Master teachers know that conveying concepts—not just repertoire—in a group reformer class is what truly sets them apart from novice instructors. Concepts keep clients coming back for more. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to sequence reformer classes by teaching preparatory movement skills that are a microcosm of more complicated exercises.

Think of it like this: Master chefs don’t start out preparing seven-course meals. They begin with ingredients, proportions, and how to combine them into a single dish. When you teach your students the necessary elements at an appropriate pace, you give them what’s needed to master new and more complicated exercises.

Saturday, August 29, 2015 in Asheville, NC


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  1. janie169

    Great informational.

  2. Trina

    Thank Janie! I am so glad this has been helpful.