The Guillotine is not just about chopping-off heads. Get to know this original (but rare!) Pilates apparatus.

Joseph Pilates created the Guillotine Tower as a fundamental piece in his gymnasium to help improve range of motion and strength in the hips and spine.  Similar to other innovative, multifunctional pieces of furniture/apparatus that he created throughout his lifetime, the guillotine could be installed into the doorframe or your small New York City apartment, so that it took up no space when not in use, but still offer you a substantial apparatus capable of providing you with a great, full body workout at home.



The design of the guillotine itself, is pretty cool.  With just a little bit of imagination, you can see the resemblance to a medieval tool of punishment, but look beyond this and you will see how the vertical slider will give you great feedback on how you use your body to move - performing exercises on the guillotine will allow you to see and feel when you are out alignment or over-working one side of your body at the expense of the other, making it a great assessment tool for stability, flexibility and articulation for practitioners of all levels.

You may have already done many of the traditional Guillotine Tower exercises that have been adapted for the Cadillac or Trapeze Table.  You’ll quickly appreciate the differences between the two pieces of apparatus though, as the arc created by the Cadillac’s push-through bar won’t give you the same pelvic stabilisation and spinal articulation provided by the vertical line of the Guillotine Tower. In addition, the vertical slider allows clients with limited hamstring and lower-back flexibility to experience the full benefit of the same exercises, safely.

At bePilates, we decided to have some fun on this special equipment, so here are a few of our favourite guillotine exercises - and if you are inspired to give them a try, we’d love to see you at the studio soon!

Exercise:  Tower

This is a super exercise to strengthen the abdominals, the posterior chain (back, gluts and hamstrings) as well as give the back a lovely long stretch, which teaching you to articulate the spine with control. This exercise can be performed on both the Cadillac and the Tower but we think that performing it on the guillotine makes it just a little but more special.

Start lying supine with your hips directly under the bar. Hold the handles on the side of the guillotine, place the balls of the feet on the bar, hip distance apart and begin by bending and straightening the legs. With the legs straight point and flex the feet 3 times. Keeping the feet pointed press the bar up and roll the torso of the table into a shoulder stand. Keeping the hips high bend the knees. Press the bar back up and then roll the spine down with control - this is where you should get that fabulous stretch of the back!  



Exercise:  Standing Arm Spring Series

Similar to the Cadillac, there are loads of exercises that we do in a standing posture with the arm springs. Don’t let the title fool you though, the standing arm spring exercise pictured below is a combination of 3 separate moves that when combined work the whole body!

First begin with a simple squat. Position yourself as pictured with elbows bent at 90 degrees and palms facing in. Squat down keeping neutral with the back straight. Push the hands into the handle as you lower and rise, drawing the armpits down toward your hips the engage the lats.

Next straighten the arms and dive forward form the centre to roll down. 

Once down pull the hands back with control, lean into the toes and run you fingertips along the floor if you can. Repeat 3 times the roll back up from the centre. Return to the starting position with your arms bent at 90 and start over with the squats. 

If you are a bit more advanced practitioner and would like to add some exercise which also incorporates a spinal rotation and help loosen up back muscles- try out The Butterfly.  This is an excellent exercise on the Pilates Tower Unit to strengthen the upper body and is great for people of all ages (as lateral flexion and bending to the side is a movement we lose as we age). 


If you are curious what were Jemma's (our Apprentice on pics) first impressions of the Guillotine, have a look below:

"Firstly, of all the pilates equipment I have worked on, the guillotine has to have the most fun way of getting into starting position. It's like being back on the playground!   Secondly I was amazed at just how many of the traditional exercises you can do on it, but feel them in a slightly different way. For example, tower as described above is more challenging - it shows strength/flexibility imbalances more obviously and you are able to feel a deeper connection to your abdominals in roll up.   It is definitely a piece of equipment that I am looking forward to incorporating into mine and my client's programmes.” 

Hope this blog post enticed your interest in this unique equipment!  If you would like to incorporate the Guillotine into your Pilates practice, contact us for a session- our instructors will be happy to present its value to you :)