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One of the most common exercises used in physio based Pilates is the Reformer Scooter (aka Standing leg press). The scooter is a great exercise that challenges the standing limb while completing hip/knee extension with the moving (carriage) limb. However, one of the limitations of Scooter is that it’s limited to an isometric load on the stance limb. Though I am a big fan of isometric loading, when designing a patient’s periodised Pilates program, the question I ask is ‘so where to next?’.
An easy progression from the isometric challenge of Scooter is a Reformer Lunge. By making the movement more dynamic, we can easily increase the challenge to the variables of the exercises such as balance, coordination, endurance and/or mobility.
To see a video of the Reformer Lunge variations I use check out my instagram by clicking on the link below.
The video demonstrates with three progressive options. I tend to use these with patients as we move towards athletic development. I discuss the finer details of the movements during both the Pilates Essentials for Physiotherapists and Pilates for High Performance Athletes workshop.
1) Simple lunge: the main challenge is at the stance limb’s posterior chain (gluteals/hamstrings). I tend to use this as a co-ordination challenge aiming to isolate the movement to hip flexion/extension while maintaining trunk posture. Emphasis on driving the stance hip into extension to stand tall. However, keep an eye on clients with a tendency to extend their lumbar spine and add load to the anterior hip
2) Forefoot stance lunge: Increase the challenge by reducing the base of support. This also adds an increased demand of ankle / knee co-contraction throughout the movement. I use this variation as a simple way to asses if increased stiffness in the limb can assist with control and also to add time under tension to the calf and quadriceps. Keep an eye on those patients with restricted 1st MTP extension ROM.
3) Stretch-Shorten Cycle Lunge: See the instagram video as it’s a tricky one to do let alone teach. It’s all about timing and working with the light spring load. With the emphasis on controlling at both ends of the movement it’s a burner. Press the carriage out, pause, come back in and quickly push back out. There’s a hip extensor load when the carriage is pushed out, then a knee flexor load when the carriage is in as you need to actively knee the knee to stop the carriage pushing your forward. Make sure your patients have earnt the right to tackle this one. Just keep in mind the compressive load at proximal hamstring tendon
With many more variations possible, enjoy playing with the concepts and challenging your patients. Just keep in mind which specific variable(s) has you are challenging and why it’s important for your patient’s progress.