The New Pilates ARC from Balanced Body aka “The Abdominal Killer Machine”
At first sight this new toy looks like a high density foam roller that has some nice curves. After taking a class with Nora St John, Program Director for Balanced Body University at the most recent Pilates on Tour in Minneapolis, I love this thing!
First of all it is so light (3.75 lbs.) you can pick it up with one hand. That feature is very different from my beautiful wood and upholstered and very heavy spine corrector that resides under my trap table. The price is nice too; $159 for the Pilates ARC vs. $310 for the heavier version.
The asymmetrical design with a gentle curve on one side and a steeper curve on the other makes it more comfortable for different body types. The step is detachable therefore making spine extension gentle for new clients. I learned that Joe used to custom make spine correctors for each client’s proportions so I appreciate the versatility of the curves when working with various body types.
The design of the new ARC is a fun aspect because it allows for the device to be flipped over so the curved side can be down. In this position you can lay sideways, prone or supine allowing for more exercises along with increased intensity. For example, when on your side (there is a nice spot where the trochanter fits comfortably) you can do the side leg series, which is quite challenging because of the instability! Turn the Arc so that the steeper curve is closest to you and you can lie lengthways to do the prone work – finding your balance point for swimming is not easy. Swan Dive is a delight, rocking back and forth – finally a Rocking Swan that really Rocks! Keep the ARC in this position and you will find the planks and push up series really challenging to scapular stability. Moving Arc is similar to Control Front on the Reformer. Another plus for plank and push up on the ARC is that if a client has difficulty extending their wrists, the Arc can help modify the wrist position – with the ARC flat side down; place the palms along the low slope to reduce wrist extension.
And there is a bonus use – the ARC has ribs or teeth on its bottom and it slides perfectly over the shoulder rests on many Reformers! This gives support for prenatal clients and it can replace the short box for variations on exercises such as Climb a Tree. Nora demonstrated side lying over the ARC on the Reformer with a hand strap in her top hand doing tricep extensions while simultaneously doing side leg lifts and kicks. That one really made me work!
So now that you know how many uses there are for the ARC, let me explain why it is the AB Killer Machine. There are infinite variations on the Abdominals; you can sit on the high slope, the low slope, on the step or in the well. Leg positions can be knees bent in parallel, turned out in wide 2nd or in a diamond position, or legs straight. Arms can be behind the head, arms forward or arms overhead. The ARC lets you feel the weight of the spine and the stabilization of the inner unit (TVA, PFM, lumbar multifidus, diaphragm) as you go through Hundreds, Single/Double Leg Stretch, Criss Cross and Teaser Forward and Reverse. My favorite series is the Teaser Oblique series: Teaser with upper body rotation and Teaser with lower body rotation. Golf clients love the variation in this series with the knees bent and the upper body rotating to one side as the hips roll to the opposite side.
The ARC is truly a fun and versatile new piece of equipment. Very portable and economical. It is perfect for adding variety to group mat classes, for Pilates trainers to challenge their clients or for home users. Give it a try, you will like it!