The Ladder Barrel

What is a Ladder Barrel?

Fair question!  It’s a piece of equipment that is used for assisting in Pilates exercises.  It looks a bit like a ladder and a barrel connected together – funnily enough!

The barrel connects to the ladder rungs via a sliding base – so you can adjust the distance between the ladder and the barrel.  Making it a very versatile piece of equipment for stretching, strengthening and flexibility work and can suit all heights and builds. The barrel part has a padded surface to increase comfort. (Rumour has it a beer keg was used to make the barrel in the original machines!)

The Reformer, Trap table (or Cadillac) and WundaChair are more well known pieces of equipment that we have had in our studio for many years.  But the ladder barrel is the new addition to the family at Central lakes Physio.  We just love finding new ways to torture you!


Ladder barrel

Why Should I Use it?

Joseph Pilates designed the Ladder Barrel as one of the original pieces of Pilates equipment.  Pilates equipment classes are a brilliant way to gain strength and flexibility in a controlled and mindful way.  And Joseph Pilates believed that using the equipment makes exercising more efficient.

The curved surface of the barrel helps to support the spine and encourages it to curve more evenly when moving into exercises that require spinal flexion, extension and side-bending.  The body is made of curves so it makes sense to exercise it using some curved surfaces!

It is also a really nice, simple piece of equipment.  When starting out all the moving levers and springs of the the reformers and trap-tables can sometimes be a bit intimidating.  However, the ladder barrel is beautifully stationary and still – it is you who moves!

You Want to See it in Action?

We thought you might!  Here are some ideas of how the ladder barrel can be used:

Spinal Extension

There are some lovely spinal extension exercises that you can do on the ladder barrel.  This one is called The Swan, which is an exercise you may know from the mat repertoire or other Pilates equipment.  It’s going to really work your hamstrings, glutes and your spinal extensors – the muscles that keep you upright.  So a great postural exercise to have you standing tall and strong!

Spinal extension Ladder Barrel Pilates

Spinal Flexion

Yes, this one looks incredibly simple – it is incredibly simple! But it just feels amazing on the spine, particularly the upper back.  Just relaxing over and breathing can give you a wonderful feeling of opening up through the thoracic spine.  You’ll stand up again and feel a foot taller, we promise!

Tummy Tummy Tummy

Want to work on that 6-pack?!  There are lots of ways to work your abs on the ladder barrel, this one is also working your legs.  Combine this with some lovely spinal extension when you lie back down and arch back over the barrel too.  Three birds with one stone!


There are all sorts of lovely stretches and mobility exercises you can do on the Ladder Barrel.  This is a picture of a hamstring stretch.  Additionally, you can reach forward to reach your hands to the barrel to increase the stretch.  You can also do your glutes, quads, inner thigh muscles, all whilst feeling beautifully supported and comfortable.

Ladder Barrel hamstring stretch

If you would like to find out more about our Pilates classes then check out our Pilates page on our website.

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