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In Singapore: What We Teach in Our Handstands Classes!

Posted by on 10:25 am in Calisthenics | 0 comments

I still can’t forget the sensation the first time I learned to balance on my hands. It is a mixed feeling of fear, excitement, intensity, and jubilation at that very moment. It’s no surprise for me that more and more fitness enthusiasts in Singapore are trying to learn handstands. And it’s not only fun, but it is also actually a very good workout as well.

You can attend handstand classes at Pilates Plus CBD branch located at International Plaza building directly above Tanjong Pagar MRT, and at our Safra Club Mount Faber branch, which carries the name UMove Fitness. Beginners who have no experience in hand-balancing are welcome.

In this article, I will describe how we go about teaching you handstands in our class.

If you want to try it out, we have a 3 session Into package so you can join our Handstands class.

Building a good foundation

One of the most important stages in training handstands is building a good foundation in your arms, especially in the pushing strength of your shoulders and arms. You have to understand that when you are inverted in a handstand position, you are using your arms as your legs to support your entire body weight.

In our Calisthenics class, we develop the basic upper body strength that is needed for handstands. Push-ups, dips, and Pike push-ups are good exercises for you to develop a good base of strength in your handstands. Pulling work like pull-ups and hanging is just as essential as these drills will counter the bias of pushing work when practicing handstands.

Wrist strength and mobility

Your hands will be your feet, your wrist will be your ankles, and the muscles in your forearm will be the calf muscles when you are supporting yourself in a handstand position. One of the most important elements in both Calisthenics and handstand practice.

Here is a video from my YouTube channel that shows you how to prepare your wrist for more loading in handstands.

Coordination drills

Though holding a handstand position is a static skill, entering into an inverted position is very dynamic and requires a good level of coordination to accurately perform it. Good coordination to kick up into a handstand position, land softly onto the floor, and bail out when falling from a failed handstand kick up are all essential coordination skills in developing a safe handstand practice.

Alignment and awareness drills

Aside from handstand being challenging to hold and very demanding for your upper body, it actually requires a good sense of awareness of the body to perform it well. It is actually very challenging to control your hips, legs, and spine when everything is upside down.

Working with our Pilates classes in conjunction with your handstand training will be a good idea. 

Though alignment in handstand is not really that important when your aim is just to hold a balanced handstand in the middle of the room, it will give you an edge in your practice as you will be efficient in holding the demanding position when you have a good alignment.

In our handstand class, alignment drills will come in the form of a core workout that is performed with an active shoulder flexion which will replicate the exact position in the handstand.

Specific strength

Once you have built a good foundation of strength from doing Calisthenics training, you need specific strength work to target the muscles used in handstands. If you want to read more about the muscles worked when hand-balancing, here is an article I wrote from our UMove Fitness site about it.

You need to work on wall-assisted handstands drills to target these muscles. Volume training is the key here as you need a good level of endurance before you move on to work on balancing your body upside down.

Hip Flexibility work

Sometimes we think of handstands as only an upper-body workout, but it actually requires a decent level of flexibility to efficiently practice handbalancing. You have to be able to comfortably touch the floor with your palms flat before you kick up into a handstand.

The more advanced you become, the more your flexibility plays a factor for you to progress to a higher level.

Basic hip mobility exercises to open your legs towards a front split, side splits, and forward bending are the essential drills we include in our handstand training.

Here is a video from my YouTube channel on how to stretch your hamstrings effectively:

Balance work

When you have already logged in enough specific strength work in handstands training, learning how to balance with your hands will be the next step.

It is important that you have enough endurance in the specific muscles for handstands before doing balance work, as it will be very demanding initially. Your shoulders, arms, and forearm muscles must be properly conditioned at this stage for you to be able to progress at this level.

However, there are basic handbalancing drills that you can do for a start to slowly login time in balancing with your hands. Here is a Crow tutorial that you can work at home.

Try our handstands classes for 3 sessions. You can use this intro package of our Pilates mat and Calisthenics classes as well. Hope to see you in the class.

Tips and things you need in the class

  • Bring your own towel, a mat is not needed for the class.
  • Wear comfortable exercise attire, so you can move freely. You will be doing the class barefoot as no shoes are allowed in the studio.
  • We provide water, but you can bring your own bottle. One less paper cup wasted will be better to save our environment.
  • Come into the class with a mindset of a student. Learn from our teacher, feel free to ask questions, bring home the exercise with you, and do it safely at home. Our aim is for you to be independent in taking care of yourself, to keep your body fit and strong.
  • Be patient and learn the exercises properly before pushing further. It will pay off in the long run if you focus more on the form rather than the quantity or intensity.
  • Handstand practice is a skill to develop, which will take time. You may need to commit years of consistent training before you achieve the skill. Enjoy the journey.

In Singapore: What is a Movement Class?

Posted by on 7:43 am in Calisthenics | 0 comments

It is not a dance class, it is not a coordination class; definitely, it is not a Pilates nor a Calisthenics class. Movement class is quite new, especially in Singapore, and not many are aware of it yet. But this practice is a big part of my own daily work and is what I would love to share with my students.

Movement class at Pilates Plus is a practice inspired by Ido Portal, which covers all things about movement. Improving your total body coordination, your balance in different ways, how you move on the floor, react with the environment and people around you, and playing tactical games are amongst the many topics that this class will cover.

We’ll try to look at these areas of movement training as they can be very simple yet very broad at the same time. If you want to know more about who Ido Portal is, you can visit his website here, or you can watch this video below to get a clearer picture of what this article is all about.

Ido calls these topics movement concepts as his practice is ever-evolving and it is hard to contain them into specific drills. But to make it easier for you to understand and to share with you where I am in this study, I will simplify it for you with common phrases.

If you want to try our Movement classes, you can get this Introductory package. You can also attend our Calisthenics and Pilates classes with it.

Coordination work but not dancing

In the movement class, you will do some coordination work that is familiar to some dance moves but without the need of timing it with the music. It can be similar to some dance steps, but it can also be similar to some drills in soccer, boxing, and other disciplines.

The goal of the work is to find some commonality of various disciplines and work on these movements so you can gain the benefit of this area of these methods without specifically doing them.

These drills can be mentally challenging, and you will feel very awkward at first. But with the right progression, you will realize that you are actually more capable than you think you are. Your coordination will improve, your sense of body awareness will be better, and you’ll feel like you’re beginning to move better.

Learn to balance in every way possible

We have learned this work from both Ido Portal and Marcello Palozzo. You will be challenging how you balance on your feet, your knees, your hands, head, etc… You can even challenge your balance while lying down.

The unique way with this work is the ever-increasing complexity that you will go through while working with one aspect of the movement. For example, you can learn how to balance in one leg, then you can turn your head side to side to challenge the next level, then how about doing head circles, moving your arms, catching balls, moving your entire body… the possibility will be almost endless as you keep progressing.

The goal is not to end on the drill where you started but to move on to another drill to start again. It is a never-ending exploration of how you can keep improving your balance.

Do you know that you can also work on your eyes?

Yes, in the movement class, we can train our capacity to see objects to make our eyes work harder or see better. Our eyes lose their capacity to see things around us as we know that we are always in a safe environment. We don’t even need to use our vision that much when crossing the street, and the only taxing thing that we work our eyes on is focusing on the screens of the computer or mobile phones.

We can work our eyes and train them in their full capacity to see more things than what is focused in front of us. A simple drill like catching balls without looking directly at the ball is a good way to stimulate this, and also, you will learn how to catch balls.

Working on the floor in many ways

As we evolved to be more human… or I can say less human, we literally lost touch with the floor. Even our feet seldom touch the floor as we are wearing shoes most of the time. In this part of the work, we will try to reconnect to the roots where we learned how to move as a child before we started walking on our feet. 

This is the stage where we are mostly on the floor all the time, and the exercise routine that nature gives us consist of crawling on all fours, rolling on the floor, and doing all sorts of things that our body can do with this most advanced fitness equipment (the floor).

You will see this practice like crawling like an animal practice, but it’s way more than that. But that is a good start for you to understand it that way.

Games, just play…

Sometimes the best way to engage our body and mind is to play and try to win over the games. It is not only fun, but it can be a very good workout as well. This challenges us to think more, to be more present at the moment, and to physically exert more, with the intention of trying to do better in the game.

It is not a pure fun game, but it is played with certain rules to target specific areas that we want to work on in the session, and different layers of rules and movement are added as we move through the class.

Join us in our Movement classes; you can take this 3 sessions Introductory package to try it out. You can also use it to attend our Calisthenics and Pilates classes as well.

Tips and things you need to prepare for the class

  • You will be using barefoot in the class
  • Wear any comfortable exercise attire
  • Come to the class with an open mind as this class will be very different from the classes that you have attended.
  • Come to the class as a student and not as a customer. 

One of my favorite quotes from Sister Corita Kent was shared by Ido when I was attending his movement camp a few years ago. It has been my favorite since. Let me share it with you here.

Sister Corita Kent’s Rules

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student: Pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher: Pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined: this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work, it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything. It might come in handy later.

Pilates Without Reformer: 12 Exercises You Can Do at Home!

Posted by on 3:14 am in Pilates Exercises | 0 comments

Doing the exercises on the Pilates Reformer is very effective, interesting, fun, and invigorating at the same time. However, with a busy schedule, attending Pilates Reformer classes may not be as regular as you have wanted it to be. Buying Reformer equipment is not only expensive and impractical as it requires a lot of space, but it also requires deeper knowledge to do the exercises safely on your own.

Pilates exercises can be done without the Reformer equipment. All you need is an exercise mat, an elastic band, and a towel to complete a Pilates routine. You will still be able to stretch and strengthen your whole body and at the same time, work with your posture.

Let me give you a list of Reformer exercises that you can do at home or anywhere without the need for the Reformer machine. All you need is an exercise mat, a towel or a clean rag, and an elastic band to do these exercises. As for your towel or rag; look for a fabric that slides easily on the floor otherwise, it will not work.

It is best if you have already attended Pilates Reformer classes when doing these exercises as you have an idea of how it feels doing them on the machine. However, you can still do them without prior experience. 

If you are very new to Pilates, I suggest you should work first on doing the basic Pilates mat exercises to build up your foundation. Here is an article I wrote for my UMove Fitness website about a full-body Pilates routine that you can do at home. If you are not familiar with the Pilates Reformer yet, here is an article you can read about how versatile this equipment is and what positions you can be in to use it.

Here are the Reformer exercises that you can do at home:

Leg and footwork with bands

When you do a classical routine on the Pilates Reformer, the leg and footwork series will be your first set of exercises. It is a good warm-up and at the same time, it works very well on aligning your posture before you proceed to more challenging movements.

Here are a few important points to take not before you do these exercises:

  • Keep your pelvis stable when moving your legs in these exercises
  • Work on both legs evenly as there is a tendency for you to work more on one side.
  • Your shoulders, head, and neck will be off the whole time doing these exercises, so keep your abs engaged and the lower back flat, especially when you are extending the legs forward to protect your spine.
  • You start with your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle and you will straighten your legs forward to a 45-degree angle with all the variations
  • Make sure that the band is placed securely on your feet as it can slip and recoil back to your face as you extend your legs.
  • You can repeat each movement around 6-10 times depending on your strength level.
Michel demonstrating leg and footwork heels with the elastic band

Footwork 1: Heels

Hold each end of the band with both hands and place your heels securely at the center of the band with your ankles fully flexed the whole time so your ankle dorsiflexors (shin muscles) are engaged.

Straightened your legs aiming to reach with your heels forward and bend back to your starting position.

Michel demonstrating leg and footwork arches with the elastic band

Footwork 2: Arches

Place the band at the center of your feet where the deepest part of your foot arch is. Curl your feet so they will form a letter C all throughout the movement. This will engage the intrinsic muscles of your feet.

Bend and extend the legs in the same manner.

Michel demonstrating leg and footwork prehensile with the elastic band

Footwork 3: Prehensile

The foot position is almost the same as the arches except that the band is placed at the balls of your feet and your toes have to curl stronger to attempt to grip the elastic band.

Michel demonstrating leg and footwork high heels with the elastic band

Footwork 4: High Heels

You will place the band on the balls of your feet with your toes pointing backward and ankles plantarflexed (high heel position).

Bend and extend your legs in the same manner as the other movements.

As the name of the exercise implies, “Footwork”, which means you have to pay attention to the position of your feet to get the full benefit of these exercises. 

Michel demonstrating hundreds with elastic band


One of the most popular Pilates exercises is the Pilates hundreds which can be done on the mat as well. We will simulate the Hundreds version on the Reformer to have a fuller experience of the workout.

You will need the band for this movement and an anchor point behind you at around hip height so you can loop the elastic band around.

Start lying down on your back with your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle while holding both ends of the band with both hands. Curl your head, neck, and shoulders and pulling the end of the bands down close to your hips.

Pulse your hands vigorously 6 inches up and down by the sides of your hips as you work on your Pilates percussive breathing.

The intensity of the workout depends on the angle of your legs. The closer your legs to the floor the harder it will be.

Repetition: Aim for 100 pulses… that’s how the name came about. If it is too hard, you can start with lesser reps and gradually increase it as you get stronger.

Pelvic press

This will be an interesting version where we will use a towel under your feet. But first, it is essential to understand the basic articulation of your spine before doing this movement. Holding a strong tuck on your hips will make this exercise very effective to work on your buttocks and hamstrings. Here is a video on my YouTube channel where I discuss the Pelvic press (also known as Shoulder bridge if done on the floor) breakdown. Watch the video so you will have a better understanding of the exercise.

Start lying down on your back with your knees bent and feet over the towel. Curl your spine up into a shoulder bridge position and hold a strong tuck on your buttocks and contract your abdominal muscles at the same time.

Extend your legs forward sliding your towel over the floor while maintaining the rest of the body still. Then slide your feet back to the starting position.

Repetition: Aim for 4 to 5 slides. 

You should feel your buttocks and hamstrings more when doing this movement. If you feel that you are working more with your lower back, try not to lift too high, and check if you are tucking your buttocks enough. You may need the guidance of an experienced Pilates teacher if you feel that it’s straining your lower back.   

Michel demonstrating eves lunge using a rag on the floor

Eves lunge

This Reformer exercise is very effective to stretch your hip flexors and strengthen the buttocks at the same time. The good news is, you can modify this movement by using a towel to substitute the function of the moving carriage. This is how you do it:

Stand with your right foot in front and your left foot 12 inches behind on a towel in a high heel position.

Slide your left foot back while keeping your posture upright. Contract your abdominal muscles and buttocks simultaneously. Allow your right leg to bend naturally depending on you far you go with your left foot.

Slide your left foot back to the starting position. Repeat for 5 to 8 times then change sides.

Michel demonstrating elephant stretch on the floor

Elephant stretch

If you want to stretch your hamstrings differently and effectively, then this exercise is a good one to try.

Place your hands on the floor around 2 or 3 steps in front of your feet. Keep your knees bent slightly as you hold this position.

Reach your buttocks backward by pushing with your hands, while your knees are still bent.

Then straighten your knees while you still keep reaching with your buttocks to the back. 

If it is not possible for you to straighten your knees, you can move your hands forward. The further your hands from your feet the easier it will be. Adjust accordingly, remember your hand placement and gradually progress over time by bringing the gap closer.

Repeat this movement 6 to 8 times and try to make every stretch count by holding it for a second or two before you release the stretch. It is important for you to understand how to move properly with this exercise so pay attention to the details and repeat more if necessary.

Michel demonstrating knee stretch using a rag on the floor

Knee stretch

This is an arm, core, and legs exercise combined together. And it’s a fun one as well.

Go into an all 4s position on the floor with your feet on top of the towel. Lift your knees off the floor aiming to keep your hips and shoulders at the same level. You may want to spend some time with this position to understand it better and to develop better awareness.

Slide your feet to the back until you end up close to a plank position, then pull it back to the front.

Make sure that your hips and shoulders stay on the same level as you do the movement. Contracting your abs and arms strong will help you stabilize the torso.

Repeat this movement 6 to 8 times.

Michel demonstrating stomach massage exercise using a rag on the floor

Stomach massage

This is another exercise that is unique only to Pilates. And yes, it is an exercise, not a massage. 

You start by sitting on the edge of your mat, legs bent in a diamond shape, heels together, and your feet on the towel. Make sure to really sit upright as you hold the starting position.

Slide your feet forward to straighten your knees holding your sitting posture as upright as possible. Slide back your legs back in and repeat the movement 6 to 8 times. You can keep your arms on the floor or extended forward as you do the full movement.

Straps with arms

There are many versions to work your arms on the Reformer straps. And it can be done sitting, kneeling, or standing. We’ll explore more on the kneeling version in this article.

These 3 versions of arm work are roughly similar with their intent for the exercises, here are some points to understand them better:

  • Anchor your band around two feet from the floor and hold both ends of the band with your hands.
  • You can adjust the tension of the band by holding a shorter length or moving further from the anchor point.
  • These exercises work more on your posture than the arms, so focus more attention on how you keep your posture upright in the kneeling position. Keep your abdominals working and tucked in, your shoulders open and down, and lengthen your spine all throughout the movement.
  • Repeat each movement around 6 to 8 repetitions.
Michel demonstrating sphinx reformer exercise using elastic band


Start in a kneeling position facing away from the band, with your hands facing down holding the ends of the band. Keep your elbows bent close to the side of your body and your forearm parallel to the floor.

Extend your arms forward around shoulder level height and bend back to your starting position. Don’t forget to keep your posture alignment straight at all times.

Michel demonstrating beseech reformer exercise using elastic band


The same movement as the sphinx except for your hands to be facing upwards. It is good to target a different hand position, especially when you are working with your posture. The more aware you are with your hands, the better you can control your shoulder posture.

Michel demonstrating hug a tree reformer exercise using elastic band

Hug a tree

Start with your arms open to the sides around shoulder level height and slightly bent on the elbows. 

Pull the ends of the band to close your arms as if you’re hugging a big tree in front of you. Open it back to your starting position making sure to keep your posture upright and your shoulders opened as you do the movement.

Michel demonstrating chariot pull reformer exercise using elastic band

Chariot Pull

Kneel down facing the band and holding its ends with your elbows straight.

Pull the bands back as far as you can without compromising your posture. Try to open your chest as much as possible as you pull the band backward. Then return back to your starting position.