woman on belly on floor looking through pilates hoop
Doug McBee


Doug McBee, Certified Pilates Trainer

It’s not a true, classic Pilates exercise, but I’ve been including the cradle in my classes lately. Similar to the roll-up, the cradle strengthens the abdominals, and is done slowly and deliberately, with a short isometric hold at each end of the movement.

  • Sit on a mat, legs tight together, knees bent a little but not too much. The feet are pointed to get a sense of lengthening through the body. The heels are to stay on the mat throughout. Lean the upper body back as if you’re going to lie down.
  • Some abdominal engagement begins here. Spread your bent elbows out to the side, without lifting the shoulders, and widen your shoulder blades. The fingertips rest lightly on the floor.
  • Now think about narrowing the waist and lengthening the spine: Co-contract the abdominals, deep pelvic bowl muscles, and the obliques, and visualize a corset wrapping tightly around your waist. Roll back further, slowly, keeping the heels and fingertips down, and elbows lifted. Pause when you think you can no longer keep the heels down, and then slowly roll back up part way and pause again. Stay “in the work” throughout the exercise. The fingers and maybe even the heels will slide along the floor with your movement. Repeat as many times as you like.
  • It’s a slow exercise; find a breathing pattern that works for you. I like to take a long exhale as I’m moving and an inhale at each end of the movements. Remember to keep the elbows wide and the body feeling long and narrow.