Happy Pilates student and teacher exercising shoulder

This sequence of exercises provides many exercises options in each category. Mix and match as you like while sticking to the order of exercises in each of the categories (i.e. Thoracic Spine, Scapulae, Thoracic Spine and Scapulae). 

Thoracic Spine

Mobility exercises on mat or with balance cushion or ball under t-spine

  • Thoracic rotation
  • Thoracic hoola hoops
  • Thoracic figure 8’s
  • Thoracic extension

More t-spine mobility exercises

  • Thoracic Side bends on Swivel disc
  • Thoracic Glides on reformer carriage (lie supine on box that is perpendicular to reformer carriage


Mobility exercises on mat

  • Supine Scapular Glide (protraction/retraction)
  • Side Lying Scapular Glide (protraction/retraction)
  • Quadruped Scapular Glide (protraction/retraction)
  • Sagittal Arm Arcs
  • Lateral Arm Arcs
  • Pulling a shirt overhead

Mobility exercise on reformer

  • Kneel on carriage with forearms on foot bar, feet against shoulder rests (this position is similar to knee stretch, flat back)
  • “imagine gliding elbows under bar” as you push the carriage away
  • Mermaid (upward and downward rotation)
  • Down stretch (upward and downward rotation)

Mini One Arm Push (Chair)

Stability exercises on the mat

  • Prone V arms (scaps stable)
  • Prone diamond arms (scaps stable)
  • Prone V arms
    • scapulae retracted
    • scapulae retracted + elevated
    • scapulae retracted + depressed
  • Prone robot arms (arms like goal posts, with scapulae stable)
  • Prone robot arms to V arms to robot arms
  • Prone lateral arm arcs (like arm motion in Airplane)

Thoracic Spine + Scapulae

On reformer

  • Carriage glide (reformer) “cat + rotation”
    • flexion + rotation
    • extension + rotation
  • Mermaid + rotation (sometimes referred to as narcissus)
    • mild rotation
    • medium rotation
    • strong rotation

Shoulder (specifically for deep stabilizers-rotator cuff)

  • Stand and lean and swing arm like a pendulum (can use a small weight for added traction)
  • Side lying shoulder rotations with a 1 or 2lb weight in hand (arm at 90º with forearm perpendicular to body and parallel to floor; towel under arm to align elbow with shoulder)
    • pulses with palm to floor
    • pulses with thumb side to floor
    • pulses with baby finger side to floor
    • write your name
  • Emptying the can
  • Seated arm wave (behind the back/in front of chest)
  • Hitch Hiker(ext/int rotation) – (on reformer)
  • Kneeling arm wave (Reformer)
  • Pulling a sword (Reformer)

Complete Shoulder Complex using resistance

  • Prone shoulder extension (2-5lb weights)
  • Supine shoulder flexion (30º with 2-5lb weights)
  • T-press (Reformer)
  • Push Thru Arms (Caddy)
  • Push Thru Arms (Reformer; lie supine on long box with head toward foot bar, hands reach overhead to hold bar)
  • Seated Push Thru – rhomboids (Caddy)
  • Tree Hugs (Reformer, seated on box, facing foot bar)
  • Salute (Reformer, seated on box, facing foot bar)
  • Seated tricep press (Chair)
  • Standing lateral arm arcs, facing away (Caddy)

Integrated Shoulder Complex + Spine

  • Mermaid (Reformer)
  • Side Bend + Tricep Press (Reformer)
  • Swan + Push Thru Arms (Caddy)
  • Reverse Push Thru
  • Rowing Front Series (Reformer)