Here’s How To Build Up to the Most Challenging Exercises—Without Even Realizing It

What in the world is a "reverse burpee"? If just the sound of a move like that has you running for the woods (or at least out of the gym), you might want to stick around.

A reverse burpee, also called a half jackknife, involves lying down with your legs raised, rocking back onto your shoulders in a reverse crunch and punching your legs over your head, and then rocking back onto your sit bones while you lift your torso off the ground, ending with your torso and pointed legs in a V shape.

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It’s advanced, to be sure. But there’s a secret to helping you get there, which is progressively working up to it, until, sure enough, you realize you’re in the full position.

That’s the structure of this new power Pilates workout from East River Pilates instructor Brian Spencer. In a series of seated, hands-and-knees, and standing moves, Spencer builds you up to the most challenging variations of the exercises all by starting with the basics. This strategy lets you get your muscles warm and used to activating in a certain pattern before you attempt anything too tricky.

For example, before you try that reverse burpee, you’ll begin with some nice and friendly roll downs.

“We’re warming up our abdominals and our core from the top so she’s there for us for the rest of the class,” Spencer says.

The concept is similar to a weight lifting warmup, in which you practice with bodyweight before you attempt anything with heavy weights. It’s all about setting you up for success by avoiding surprises and snapping your muscles to attention, making moves that seemed like a total stretch just the logical next step. By the end of this 15-minute power Pilates workout, you’ll be amazed by everything you can do.

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