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Pilates Equipment - What are the Cadillac, Tower, & Springboard?

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

Today we are going to chat about one of the common pieces of apparatus (or equipment), how it works, and the safety aspects!


See my Reformer post where I talk about "Why did Joseph Pilates create the different apparatus?" Pilates Equipment - What is a Pilates Reformer?



Now on to today's Pilates Apparatus...


Pilates Cadillac: The Luxury Apparatus!


The Basics - Cadillac

  • The Cadillac is also known as a Trapeze Table.

  • The bars on top of the Cadillac (or the bars that make it the Cadillac a Cadillac) is called the Canopy.

  • The Canopy has a sliding cross bar that is attached to it, which is used to put the Trapeze Bar on and can also be used to line up fuzzy straps.

    • The fuzzy straps are attached to the Canopy for some exercises such as Half and Full Hang. They can also be used during one variation of Ballet Stretches (or leg stretches).

    • The Canopy is held during exercises such as Hanging Down, Hanging Up, and Inversions. These exercises cannot be done on a Tower, Pole System, or Springboard.

  • The Trapeze Bar is attached to the sliding cross bar and hangs down from the Canopy. It is used for a variety of exercises, but mostly known for Ballet Stretches, Hanging Down, Hanging Up, and Breathing.

    • The flat piece of the Trapeze is called the Breathing Bar.

  • The Trapeze Swing is the fuzzy strap under the Breathing Bar on the Trapeze.

    • Without the fuzzy strap, this is sometimes referred to as the canopy loop.

  • There are two vertical sides of the Cadillac; one is the Roll Down Bar side and the other side is the Push Through Bar side.

    • Typically, the Leg Springs are attached to the Roll Down Bar side of the Cadillac.

      • Arm Springs can be attached to either side, pending the manufacturer. The Cadillac I use has the arm springs on the Roll Down Bar side of the Cadillac.

    • On the Roll Down Bar side of the Cadillac, there is a vertical sliding bar that is used to adjust the height of the leg springs or arm springs for standing arm series.

  • The Cadillac table has a foot strap (or belt) that reaches around the full table, which means the table can be used for mat work.

    • The belt is also used to help anchor during certain exercises such as side leg springs.

  • Cadillac Accessories:

    • Roll Down Bar

    • Handles

    • Leg Springs

      • Typically, attached to a vertical sliding bar.

    • Foot Strap or Belt

    • Push Through Bar

      • Spring from Above

      • Spring from Below

    • Fuzzy Straps

      • Long straps

      • Short straps

    • Trapeze Bar with canopy loop

    • Airplane board

    • Spread Eagle Board [aka Spread Eagle Plate aka Kuna Board]

    • Neck Stretcher

To note: I have a Reformer/Tower at home, so I only practice the canopy exercises on the Cadillac when I'm in the studio.


Picture below: Cadillac at different angles and close ups.

Pictures take at Rivercity Pilates Studio


The Basics - Tower

  • The Tower is a 3 in 1 system: Mat, Reformer, and half Cadillac [Tower].

  • The Tower is an add-on to a Reformer to bring more utility to the apparatus in a smaller space.

    • Typically, the Reformer is converted to a Tower by adding twin mats on top.

      • To get the twin mats in place, the footbar and shoulder blocks may need to be adjusted [all pending the type of Reformer].

  • The Tower is sort of like the equivalent to both the Roll Down Bar and Push Through Bar sides of the Cadillac wrapped into one side.

  • The Roll Down Bar would need to be taken off to use the Push Through Bar and the Push Through Bar is best to be secured in its holding position while using the Roll Down Bar.

  • In most cases, the Roll Down Bar would need to be taken off to use the leg springs.

  • The Push Through Bar has full range on a Tower.

  • The Tower does not have a canopy, which means there is no sliding cross bar to attach the trapeze bar and it means that the fuzzy straps cannot be added.

    • Without a canopy, no hanging exercises with the trapeze and no inversions can be done.

  • The Tower typically has a lot of eyelets on both sides of the poles, which allows Roll Down Bar, leg springs, and handles to be adjusted pending the exercise.

    • The eyelets take the place of the vertical sliding bar on the Cadillac.

  • Tower Accessories:

    • Roll Down Bar

    • Handles

    • Leg Springs

    • Push Through Bar

      • Spring from Above

      • Spring from Below

    • Airplane board

    • Spread Eagle Board [aka Spread Eagle Plate aka Kuna Board]

    • Neck Stretcher

*anything attached to the canopy cannot be used on the Tower


Picture below: Tower with twin mats.

Second picture is a close up of Tower shown with Leg Springs, Roll Down Bar, and Push Through Bar attached.



The Basics - Wall Tower/Pole System

  • The Wall Tower or Pole System is a space saving apparatus, which has all the same “Basics” as the Tower listed above, with the exception of the Reformer. It is a Mat and half Cadillac.

  • Hanging practice can be done on the upper part of the poles.

  • Accessories are the same as the Tower

Picture below: Wall Tower/Pole System showing Leg Springs, Roll Down Bar, and Push Through Bar attached.


The Basics - Springboard

  • The Springboard is an even greater space saving apparatus.

  • The Springboard is bolted directly to a wall and does not have poles that stick out from the wall.

    • Since the Springboard is bolted directly to the wall, the Push Through Bar will not have full range “behind”.

    • Without the full range of the Push Through Bar, exercises will need a variation or will need to be eliminated if they require a reach through the poles or the body to be through the poles [such as Monkey].

  • The Springboard has one horizontal pole across the bottom of the Springboard instead of two vertical poles.

    • The horizontal pole works as the “foot strap” for certain exercises, as the “poles” for feet placement on certain exercises, and as the “poles” for the hands for certain exercises.

      • Note: The horizontal pole is low and is set in place. In exercises where hand placement says 6 - 10” above the mat, the higher reach will not be available on the Springboard. Trial is required as the shoulders may not be flexible enough for some clients.

  • The Springboard has intermittent eyelets up the sides that allows the Roll Down Bar and arm springs/handles to be adjusted for different exercises.

    • The eyelets take the place of the vertical sliding bar on the Cadillac.

  • Accessories are the same as the Tower

Picture below: basic Springboard with arm springs and handles. Leg Springs and Push Through Bar can be attached.


The Springs - Cadillac/Tower/Springboard

*All spring color and tensions are based on Balanced Body

  • Arm Springs

    • Used with the Roll Down Bar or with handles (for the prone, supine, and standing arm series)

    • These springs can also be used on a Ped-o-Pul

      • Yellow - Light tension

      • Gray - Heavy tension made specifically for Centerline by Balanced Body

        • I recommend this spring for additional support in some exercises and strength building in other exercises.

  • Leg Springs

    • Typically attached to the vertical sliding bar on the Roll Down Bar side of the Cadillac.

      • Used for supine and side leg series

      • It can also be used instead of arm springs for some exercises.

    • Yellow - Very Light tension

    • Purple - Medium tension

    • Red - Heavy tension

      • If you are a beginner and your new apparatus comes with only red springs, I would recommend purchasing a set of purple in addition to the red for flexibility.

  • Trapeze Springs

    • Blue - Light tension

      • Some exercises may benefit from using 2 Blue springs to balance out both sides of the body when using the Push Through Bar (such as Tower and Swan)

    • Red - Medium tension

    • Green - Heavy tension

    • Black - Heaviest, and typically only used to hold up the Trapeze.

  • Spring from Above

    • When the Trapeze Spring(s) is attached to the top of the Push Through Bar.

  • Spring from Below

    • When the Trapeze Spring(s) is attached to the bottom of the Push Through Bar. REQUIRES safety strap to be in place! See safety section.


Session Expectations - Cadillac/Tower/Springboard

*For teachers or trainees or anyone interested in session thought processes


The first thing to understand about the Cadillac/Tower/Springboard is that there is no order of exercises. These exercises are meant to help us learn the mat work, along with bringing us back to uniform development. Essentially, we use these exercises to help us where we need the help - either in mat work or in life.

Since there is no order, a teacher can teach whatever they want in any order they want.


My seven (7) guidelines for teacher Tower sessions:

  1. Work in Segments on the Apparatus

    1. Roll Down Bar Series

      1. Roll Down variations, Breathing, Chest Expansion, Thigh Stretch, etc

    2. Leg Spring Series

      1. Supine, One Leg, Side Leg, Flying, etc

    3. Arm Spring Series

      1. Supine, Prone, Standing, etc

    4. Push Through Bar Series - Spring from Above

      1. Push Through, Swan, Teaser, Parakeet, etc

    5. Push Through Bar Series - Spring from Below

      1. Teaser, Tower, Monkey, etc

  2. Try to create a flow within the Segments

    1. Easy transitions help clients keep the work going from one exercise to the next

  3. Add some props to mimic some of the Cadillac exercises

    1. Example: Place a big exercise ball under the legs when doing Breathing exercise.

      1. Need something more stable - use a reformer box and bent legs

  4. Variate standing vs kneeling vs seated within the exercises

    1. Example: Waterwheel (or Rolling in and out) can be done seated with lower springs instead of kneeling.

      1. I find this to be a fun variation to add during the Roll Down variations I do with clients

  5. Mix up the order you teach the segments

    1. You don't always have to teach a session in the same series order. You could just as easily start with Leg Springs to warm the body up instead of doing the Roll Down Bar series.

      1. Note: It may be easier for beginners to get to know the exercises if you create your own order and stick to it for that client.

  6. Go off-book

    1. Use archival variations or create your own variation if a client needs something in their body

  7. Round back to the Fundamentals

    1. All exercises start in our center and move out, but you can use the Pilates Fundamentals to find more work in each exercise.


ALWAYS KNOW: IT'S OKAY TO PLAY!


General Safety & Awareness

There are always safety concerns associated with physical movement. The safety below is not all inclusive - it is extremely general and not exercise specific. I highly recommend working with a Pilates Teacher until you understand all the safety concerns with each exercise.


Hand Grip on Bars:

  • The Roll Down Bar

  • The Push Through Bar

  • The Canopy

Putting Feet in Straps:

  • While lying supine

    • Dropping the springs on the face or body while putting them on or taking them off

  • While side lying [both back of mat and front of mat work]

    • Could roll off while putting straps on

    • The spring tension may be too much and pull you off the Cadillac

Standing on the Cadillac:

  • Falling off

  • Feeling unbalanced during exercises

  • Getting on and off

Using Trapeze

  • “Jumping” into the exercise

  • Feet slipping

  • Trapeze moving

  • Using Trapeze while hanging onto canopy [hands slipping]

Using Fuzzy Straps

  • Getting in and out of them

  • Feet slipping out during exercises

  • Feet hurting while in the straps

Spring From Below Exercises:

  • Danger to face!

  • Security strap required: fabric and chain options.

    • Fabric is stronger than metal when it has a clip. Never use velcro as security with a fabric strap.

    • Chain option → always try to have 2 chains in place. Always inspect the chains.

  • Contraindicated for anyone who can not do loaded exercises [such as osteoporosis]

  • Heavy spring tension can affect neck, shoulders, and low back → see your teacher for more information or concerns for each exercise

Spring Tension

  • Too heavy, pending the exercise, could cause strain for compression → see your teacher for more information or concerns for each exercise

  • Too light, pending the exercise, could cause some imbalance → see your teacher for more information or concerns for each exercise




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