Joseph Pilates, who developed the exercise method bearing his name, created the Wunda chair as a small apparatus his students could use in their own homes. Newcomers to the Pilates method appreciate its ease of use, small size and affordability compared to larger Pilates apparatuses like the Reformer. Its versatility enables you to bend, pedal and push your way to a stronger, firmer, more agile body with just a few basic exercises.
Wunda chair exercises using the feet help strengthen the legs and ankles while also working your core. Beginners can start with a demi-pointe foot pump. Stand facing the chair and grasp the handles at shoulder height. Place the ball of your foot on the pedal and point your ankle so your heel lifts away from the pedal. Engage your abs as you press the pedal down with your foot, then lift your leg and foot back to the starting position. Try exercising your toes and core by sitting in the chair with your arms held out in front of you. Place the balls of both feet on the pedal so your knees are bent toward your chest. Push down on the pedal with both feet, then use your abs to draw your knees and the pedal back to your starting position. Complete up to 20 repetitions of each footwork exercise.
The Wunda chair can help you build strength in your arms and chest. Try pushups on the chair by lying on the seat on your stomach with both hands pressing down on the pedal. Bring the pedal up to your chest, then exhale as you push the pedal away from you again, drawing your abdominals in tightly to stabilize your torso. Repeat up to 20 times. To stretch your hamstrings while strengthening your upper body, try a one-handed push down. Stand by the side of the Wunda chair, facing the pedal. Bend forward and use one hand to press down and up on the pedal, letting your torso lift and lower with each press. Perform eight to 10 sets, then repeat with the other arm.
While the abdominal muscles should remain engaged and active in all Pilates exercises, specific moves on the Wunda chair offer an intense, focused workout for your stomach area. Try the Pilates corkscrew exercise, modified for use on the chair. Lie on your back in front of the chair with your legs lifted straight toward the ceiling and your arms extended behind your head to hold the chair pedal. Keep your torso still and your legs together as you draw your legs in a circle, first to the right, then the left. Never make your circle so large that your hips or torso rock back and forth. Complete six to eight circles.
Stretching on the Wunda chair helps increase your range of motion, improve your flexibility and decrease tension in your whole body. The seated mermaid stretch elongates and stretches your obliques, spine and hips. Begin seated sideways on the chair with your legs hanging off the side and your right hand rested on the pedal. Lift your left arm above your head as you bend your torso toward the right, pushing the pedal down with your right hand. Return to your starting position and repeat five to 10 sets before turning to the other side and repeating the exercise. Stretch your calves by standing facing the chair with the balls of your feet on the pedal. Lift your heels, then lower them to feel a stretch in your tendons and calves. Repeat five to 10 times.
Sarah Badger is a certified pilates and group fitness instructor, writer and dance teacher. Her work has appeared in "Dance Spirit" magazine and several literary journals. Badger earned her bachelor's degree in English and religious studies from Marymount Manhattan College, and currently owns a dance and fitness studio in upstate New York.