The Pilates Spine Corrector is also known as a step barrel or Pilates Arc and it is a fun and versatile piece of fitness equipment that is found in most Pilates studios. It also happens to be one of the easier pieces to have in your home gym because it is relatively small and easy to find space for. The spine corrector consists of a sturdy semi-circle object with its “hump” facing upwards and an extension of that on one end that forms a step. It is traditionally made of wood with foam padding and vinyl covering on top for the Pilates practitioner to lie, sit or lean on while doing various body extension and toning exercises. Our Pilates Spine Corrector reviews will examine a few of the best models in the market, specifically for home use so that you can continue your workouts at home after spending some time with your trainer.
If you’re an experienced practitioner already, then you may even stop studio visits completely and do all your Pilates workouts at home with the right equipment. These can include a Pilates reformer, Pilates chair, and a Pilates Tower. A spine corrector works well when placed on the floor or on a reformer or tower if the size is right.
- 1 What is a Spine Corrector, Step Barrel or Arc?
- 2 Benefits of a Pilates Spine Corrector
- 3 Pilates Spine Corrector Barrel Reviews
- 4 How to Use a Pilates Spine Corrector
- 5 Pilates Spine Corrector Exercises
- 6 Basic Spine Corrector Workouts
- 7 How to use the Stott Pilates Merrithew Arc Barrel
What is a Spine Corrector, Step Barrel or Arc?
As the first name suggests, its primary use is to help you correct or maintain proper spine alignment by serving as a type of support under you while you lie on it and perform certain exercises. It is versatile because there are a number of exercises that you can do on it in addition to other Pilates workouts. In fact, if you already do mat workouts, you can easily transfer most exercises to the step barrel in order to give you the added benefit of helping your back, hips and shoulders.
The practitioner can do a variety of leg and arm exercises while draping a part of their body over the hump and using the floor or step of the barrel for support with the handles or cutouts on the side as hand grips. While being draped over the hump, the spine is extended, flexed and stretched and so are the muscles in the core, arms, legs, hips and shoulders.
There is also a simpler version of the Pilates arc barrel called a Baby Arc. This apparatus only features the hump part and no step. The hump is only made of the arc and it can be hollow underneath just like a portion of an actual barrel, or the arc can be set on a frame. the former kind can also be used inverted so that it rolls on its concave surface while you support yourself on its straight edges. The latter can only be used like a traditional spine corrector but without the step.
We’ll cover all the types of Pilates spine correctors in this article so that you can make the right choice for your body and fitness goals.
Benefits of a Pilates Spine Corrector
Spine corrector barrel exercises open up the chest and help correct the curvature of the spine. They can improve posture and strengthen the back, core and shoulder muscles. For those who feel muscles and spine stiffness, using the Pilates barrel spine corrector can restore proper movement and strength and flexibility. Back pain and joint stress can also be alleviated.
Those who have a tendency to hunch their shoulders and become close chested will start to widen their shoulders and extend their back. Step barrel pilates can also greatly help those suffering from scoliosis, which is a condition where the spine bends sideways.
In addition to the above benefits, if you transfer some of the exercises you would normally do on a mat, you will find that you’ll target your core muscles in a completely different way because you’re working against an incline or decline now. You’ll also find that your mental focus and muscle recruitment is enhanced.
Pilates Spine Corrector Barrel Reviews
Stamina Spine Corrector Barrel
If you think an East coast type arc barrel is the right fit for you, then the Stamina Spine Corrector Barrel is the most popular choice on the market. It is affordable, well made and comfortable to use.
This model has a typical rounded arch and is best for those who are 5’6″ and under or those who are already quite flexible and used to doing Pilates with a barrel.
It is made of oak wood with a steel frame and features firm but comfortable foam padding and vinyl covering on the top. A vertical handle on either side makes gripping it for leverage and support quite comfortable and they’re also useful for portability. The unit measures 27.5″ by 17.5″ by 13.5″ and weighs 18 lbs. It can handle a person up to 250 lbs.
You also get a 20 minute workout video that includes 14 different exercises to do on the spine corrector.
Balanced Body Pilates Arc
The other popular choice for affordability is the Pilates Arc by Balanced Body. This one features a gentler and more extended arc than traditional spine correctors, and a more rounded step, so it’s great for those who have back problems and those who are on the taller side.
This Pilates arc is made of high density foam – the same kind used in foam Pilates rollers. Although it is very lightweight at 3.75 lbs, it is very durable and sturdy. Because of its lightness it can be used on the Balanced Body Reformer as well as on the floor to give you a larger number of exercises that you can perform as part of a comprehensive Pilates routine.
This foam spine corrector actually comes in two pieces. The large one is the part with the arc and is 27″ long, 10″ high, and 14.5 wide. The curve on one end is gentler while the other end is steeper, making it extremely versatile for a variety of exercises and more gentle on your back. The smaller piece is the step and is 14.5 ” long, 6 ” high and 14.5″ wide. When attached together you get a classic spine corrector and the whole unit measures 38″ by 10″ by 14.5″ wide. The large piece by itself is an exercise arc when turn upside down.
The three side slots cut through the barrel can be used as hand grips and you can choose any pair for top comfort with any exercise. It is also designed in such a away that you can slide the arc over the Balanced Body Reformer’s shoulder rest using any of the slots so that it is wedged firmly in place while you exercise.
While this Pilates step barrel is comfortable enough as is, you may want to purchase the optional Balanced Body mini-mat if you want more cushioning. As you may have already gathered, this is a good spine corrector option for transport since it is lightweight and can be carried in two more manageable pieces. If you have to take your own arc to a class or group workout, then this is the best option.
You also get an instruction manual and a workout DVD along with the spine corrector.
Stott Pilates Merrithew Spine Corrector
Stott Pilates is a well known brand for higher end Pilates products, so their spine corrector is pricier. The Merrithew Spine Corrector by Stott Pilates is made of very sturdy wood, with solid Baltic Birch panels for the barrel portion and dense EVA foam with vinyl covering for the step portion and padding over the barrel. The only parts that need assembly are the Maple hand grips that have predrilled dowels which go on the installed brackets. The screws are supplied.
This model measures 21.5″ (w) x 30.75″ (l) x 12″ (h) and weighs 24 Pounds. This step barrel is east coast style with an angled step and fully rounded hump. However, it is wider than most other barrels so it’s a very good choice for broad shouldered people or anyone who feels more comfortable with the wider base.
Balanced Body Contour Step Barrel
If you have a larger budget and like the elongated arc of the Pilates Arc by Balanced Body but prefer a wood and foam construction, then the Contour Step Barrel by Balanced Body is the closest in style to it.
Besides the elongated arc of the hump that suits more body types, especially taller clients, this Balanced Body spine corrector also features a more rounded well in the step for more comfort. For handholds, there are dowels as well as vertical cutouts. This model weighs 28 lbs and measures 16″ wide x 37″ long x 13.25″ high.
Stott Pilates Merrithew Arc Barrel and Arc Barrel Deluxe
You may not need a full step barrel with the step and may even prefer a simpler baby arc instead. A baby arc doesn’t have the step in the end, so one part of the body, whether it’s your head and back or your bottom and legs, will will be on the floor. The arc is also not a fully rounded arc but a lower and smaller one. This style saves a lot of space and is easily portable.
There are two types of baby arcs – the West Coast style and the East Coast style. The former is an arc with a hollow underneath the hump and can be used normally right side up or turned upside down to use as a rocker for stabilization workouts. You place your hands on either side, position yourself like you would for push ups, and slowly twist from shoulders to hips side to side while pushing down on alternate sides of the arc. The Merrithew Arc Barrel by Stott Pilates is an example of this style.
The East coast style is a traditional arc supported by a frame and can only be used right side up for normal Pilates barrel work. The Merrithew Arc Barrel Deluxe by Stott Pilates is an example of that.
Both baby arcs measure 22.5″ (w) x 23.5″ (l) x 6″ (h), but the hollow Arc Barrel weighs 8 lbs, while the East Coast Arc Barrel Deluxe weighs 9 lbs. The Deluxe version has a Baltic Birch frame with horizontal cutout handles. They feature a gentle arc curve of 117 degrees and are both padded with Eva foam and covered with black vinyl.
How to Use a Pilates Spine Corrector
There are several start positions that a user can assume when working with a spine corrector. You can lie with the back down on the mat facing the arc and elevate the hips on one side of the upholstered hump, or sit facing away from the arc but with the back touching the end of the hump and roll down over the hump, or sit on the step of the arc while facing away from the hump and lie on it. For certain exercises, there are hand grips on the side of the hump for you to hold on to. You can sit sideways on the step and drape yourself sideways over the hump. You can lift both your back as well as your legs while balancing only with your bottom on the hump. You can balance yourself face down over the hump. With all these positions, you work your arms or legs and feel the burn in your core.
You should first take classes with a professional Pilates instructor to ensure that you use proper form and to figure out what you can handle in terms of flexibility and strength. Since many exercises involve inversion with the head lower than the rest of the body, you should first get advice from your doctor if you have blood pressure issues, breathing problems, or any neck or back problems.
Those with a weak back and looking to strengthen the spine should consider getting a corrector with a gentler and more elongated curve so that the entire back can be supported while sitting. It is also easier to use with the aid of resistance springs on a reformer or Pilates tower, as you can grasp the handles and gently lower yourself on the arc and then use the resistance on the springs to slowly help you up again.
Later on in this article we’ll give you some examples of the exercises that can be performed as well as show you a few videos to give you an idea of what is involved.
Pilates Spine Corrector Exercises
Once you have your Pilates barrel arc, there’s a whole host of exercise you can do with it. You’ll see that many can be done on a mat alone but the way you engage the muscles is completely different, so you can compliment a mat workout with one on the spine corrector. The following are just some of the exercises you can do on this apparatus:
stretch with bar
side sit ups
Basic Spine Corrector Workouts
How to use the Stott Pilates Merrithew Arc Barrel