Contrology® Ladder Barrel: Love at First Touch

Contrology® Ladder Barrel: Love at First Touch

It was love at first touch with me and the Ladder Barrel. In a studio full of equipment, I hardly noticed it. But as I was led across the floor in its direction for the first time, the studio lights seemed to dim. My instructor said something about a Swan before quickly fading out of view. All I remember is the feeling of stretching my spine over the barrel, then using it to support my movement through space.

When you fall in love, sometimes you don’t want things to change, and in the case of the Ladder Barrel, that was certainly true. I’d tried different Ladder Barrels – wide ones, high ones, those with ladders of all sorts. Sure, I was biased, but the bottom line was, different just didn’t mean better.  In fact, the various derivations fell under the category of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Of course, progress is inevitable, and love should be patient and kind, as long as there is respect and care between both parties.

When Balanced Body CEO Ken Endelman and his team of engineers first set out to design the Contrology Ladder Barrel, I was skeptical. Jay Grimes’ personal Ladder Barrel lived at the Vintage Pilates studio on Sawtelle, and any new design was going to have to be better than his. Jay’s barrel followed Joe’s specifications, including the deliberately measured curvature of the barrel – appropriate for all bodies, big and small. It guided the spine to round, arch, and side bend with length and flexibility. It provided feedback so students could address tightness, asymmetry, and weakness. Jay reminded us that Pilates shouldn’t feel comfortable or easy, and the equipment assisted students in working for the reward of good health.

When Jay and I had our final design evaluation with Ken, his engineers had already spent over a year constructing a Ladder Barrel that was progressive without losing the integrity of its purpose. The main sticking point was the adjustable base. Jay was always against moveable bases, partially because students and teachers were adjusting inappropriately, and largely because the base would get stuck during adjustments or become unstable during movement. So we settled on a mechanism that kept the base as stable as Jay’s barrel.

Throughout the process, Ken showed great care and respect for our needs as both students and teachers. In the end, we lost none of Joe’s genius. We gained a piece of equipment with great craftsmanship that has an easy-to-adjust base for extremely short or tall clients. I’m in love with it, and I think you will be too.


Learn more about Sandy:

Instagram – Vintage Pilates

Website –

Sandy Shimoda is the owner of Vintage Pilates, a business devoted to teaching Joe Pilates’ original work with the guidance of Jay Grimes. Instagram: Vintage Pilates, Website:



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