The Ladder Barrel and Step Barrel was originally created by Joseph Pilates in New York City around the mid 1930's along with many other Pilates apparatuses he invented such as the Reformer, Trapeze, and Chair.
Joseph created the Barrel to increase the strength and flexibility of the spine in flexion, back extension, and lateral flexion to improve overall torso mobility. It's also very useful for strengthening the abdominals and improving overall flexibility.
The Ladder Barrel along with the Step Barrels are still used today in professional Pilates studios around the world that offer the entire Pilates repertoire.
These two lightweight, portable and inexpensive versions are made out of high density foam, are used for group classes and home programs.
The light weight Barrels truly brings an amazing opportunity to practice movement experiences that were once very exclusive to now being more available for most people to enjoy.
The Pilates Arc has more of a gradual slope and is more welcoming to most people where as the the Clara (designed after Clara Pilates, Joseph's wife and business partner) has a higher arc, thus providing a greater support for the lumbar spine, more precise pelvic placement, and safer spinal extension.
Compared to the Clara Barrel, the Pilates Arc has a triangular piece called the step that can be detached from the Arc. Once taken off, the client has another opportunity to choose how much stretch or how much challenge they want depending on which side of the arc is use (either the low slop side or the sharper, higher slope side.
Both of the light weight barrels have several built in ribs which can be used as handles to ensure proper upper body placement.
What's neat about the Pilates Arc is that it can be flipped over creating a dynamic surface, allowing the body to feel a rocking sensation that can be either challenging if the exercise calls for balance and stability and or ultimately relaxing when doing Rolling Like A Ball.
If someone is particularly tall or short, you can adjust the fit of the arc using towels or sticky pads to support the head, the shoulders or the low back. If by chance the lightweight barrels are too slippery or too firm, you can place a sticky pad or an exercise mat over the surface for more support.
Lastly, in order to keep the Pilates Arc from slipping and to pad the upper body when lying over the arc, place the arc on an exercise mat, preferably a Pilates mat.
Me on the Clara
Pilates Arc anatomy