Pilates Movements Explained

Part 1

 

Below are two specific movements that are taught and many times mentioned in Pilates classes.

C Curve

The C-Curve describes the shape of the back after the deep abdominal scoop. This is also a great stretch for the spine.  One classic Pilates exercise that uses this shape is the Spine Stretch Forward.

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Balance Position

In this position you are balancing slightly behind your tailbone. The key in maintaining this perfectly balanced position is to engage or pull in your deep abdominals.  Another classic exercise that uses this position is the Rolling like a Ball.

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In the next few weeks I will explain a few more of these Pilates movements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pilates for Cyclists

cyclists

The weather is nice and an increasing number of cyclists are out, whether they are riding for fun or riding for a cause or riding in a studio/ gym class.  Cycling is a great low impact form of exercise, however the downfall of cycling it often times leads to imbalances in the body. When cycling, the main focus is on the lower body, as a result  this leads to overly developed quads and calves, tight hamstrings and low back, overworked and tight hip flexors and the bent over or rounded shape of the spine and shoulders leads to poor posture, resulting in  rounded shoulders and thoracic kyphosis,  and  low back pain.

It is recommended  to add cross training to your routine  in order to work different muscles. By doing this you will  strengthen  the areas that are  weak, stretch where you are  tight and  as result balance your  body.  Yep, I am saying it, adding Pilates to your weekly routine will help with your  overall performance.

The focus on the “power house” or “core” in Pilates will allow cyclists to have more “oomph” or power from their lower body to pedal  along with improving flexibility and strength and proper alignment.   Your upper body strength will increase, low back pain will be prevented, improved balance, with the different types of breathing used in Pilates sessions the ability to ride for longer periods of time will improve and as mentioned before any imbalances in the body you may have will be corrected.

I will be sharing a few Pilates exercises  both equipment based and ones performed on the mat for those of you that are not able to make it a studio.

Part One:  Mat Work

Pelvic Curl:

Great for spinal articulation and strengthens the low back.

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Spine Twist: 

Increases spinal rotation and strengthens the core. Great stretch for back .

Spine Twist

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leg Pull Down:

Stretches the Achilles Tendon, strengthens the core, the scapular and lumbopelvic stabilizers, hip flexors, hamstrings and gluteus maximus.

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Shoulder Bridge:

Works the powerhouse and hamstrings, back extensors and glutes.

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Thigh Stretch:

Stretches and strengthens the quadriceps, increases torso stabilization, and strengthens the back.

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Kneeling Side Kicks:

Strengthens the abductors hip flexors, shoulders, lats. Great for hamstring flexibility and stabilizes pelvis.

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Swimming:

Strengthens the back and hip extensors and works the glutes at the same time. Great for pelvic stability.

Side Leg Bananas:

Strengthens the hips and obliques and great for torso stability.

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Single Leg Kick:

Strengthens the hamstrings,back extensors and glutes. Stretches the quads and improves the stability of the shoulders.

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Pilates Pushups:

Strengthens the entire body and improves upper body strength.

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Side Leg Bicycle:

Strengthens  the hips and glutes and improves the stability  of the pelvis and torso.

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Seal:

Great for balance and coordination. Fantastic massage for the spine and just plain fun.

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These are just a few of the Pilates mat exercises that can be included in your daily routine.   Stay tuned for part two , equipment based Pilates exercises in the next few weeks.

 

 

 

 

A Healthy Spine

 

There are two popular quotes from Joseph Pilates that many are familiar with and if you have never seen them or heard anyone say them here they are:

” You are only as young as your spinal column.”

” If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.’

When you really think about it, it makes complete sense. Our bodies/spines are designed to move with freedom not with restrictions.  The exercises in Pilates works all the movements of  the spine to keep it healthy, flexible and strong.

The spine is worked in extension ( backward bending), flexion (forward bend), lateral flexion (side bending), rotation (twisting). By working the spine in all different directions we create a proper balance and maintain proper alignment and posture.

Before I show you some of the exercises that goes along with each spinal movement, I would like to explain axial extension or lengthening.  All the movements in Pilates focus on lengthening  the spine or creating space, we do not collapse or sink into the movements. We always want to think of lengthening.

Below are a few of the exercises that goes along with the above mentioned movements.

Flexion

Chest Lift, Hundred and The Roll Up.

Pilates Hundred

Pilates Hundred

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rotation

Side Bend Twist, Spine Twist, Criss Cross

Spine Twist

Spine Twist

 

 

 

 

*important to note the rotation comes from the spine not the shoulders or neck*

 

 

Lateral Flexion

Mermaid, Side Bend.

Side Bend

Side Bend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extension

Swan, Swimming, Leg Pull Up, Shoulder Bridge.

Leg Pull Up

Leg Pull Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope you enjoyed this weeks post. Feel free to share.

 

Weekend Highlight: Athleta and Barre3

Liz and Allison and Jodie

Hi guys,

This is a slightly different post from the norm. This past weekend I was able to combine two of my favorite things ( other than Pilates:)) and that is going to one of may favorite fitness apparel stores, Athleta and taking a Barre3 class.  Athleta is an awesome fitness apparel store that has three locations here in Houston and they offer different free fitness classes in their stores.

As many of you know I like to change my exercise routine often, cross training is definitely something I promote, go ahead mix up your training routine.

A little background /insight on the workout, from the Barre3 website:

We draw from multiple influences to create innovative classes that focus on length, grace, and a healthy body.

Sadie Lincoln, barre3 founder, works closely with a team of experts including yogis, professional dancers, doctors, and athletes to craft highly efficient workouts. Focusing on a unique combination of dynamic movement and isometric holds, the sequences work strategically to transform the body and develop long term postural benefits. A continuously evolving variety of movements keep the classes challenging, fun, and fresh. Whether you work out in the studio or at home, barre3 fits your life while enhancing it with greater functional strength, higher energy, and a sense of ease.

Barre3

Barre3

 

Athleta and Barre3 partnered up to allow fellow Houstonians to experience a live Barre3 class.    Liz Fitzgerald, the Franchise Development Manager and Master Trainer Allison Beam came down and hosted/taught the classes this weekend, these two ladies were just so very nice and you could see their passion and love for the workout.  Their excitement for upcoming session was contagious!!

 

Franchise Development Manager and Master Trainer

Franchise Development Manager and Master Trainer

Full disclosure, I have taken quite a few in studio Barre3 classes and the workout is phenomenal.   This weekends class did not disappoint, yes I felt the burn and the shaking muscles. The workout is based on isometric holds, which work your muscles to their deepest point, the one inch moves increases your body temperature ( hello sweat!!) and the dynamic moves raises the heart rate.  

Forward fold stretch

Forward fold stretch

 

Twist

Twist

 

If you are not able to experience a live class, (they have a few studios here in Texas), you can order the DVDs from their site or sign up for the online subscription classes.  If you would still like to learn more, connect with them on Facebook .

What was your highlight from the weekend?

Weekly Challenge

A Pilates routine is not complete without the Pilates Hundred.  I like to include the ball in the sessions to keep the lower body still.

 

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Pilates Hundred with a ball

 

Source

Lie on your back with legs in table top position keep your shins parallel and curl up keeping your shoulders away from your ears. Pump your arms inhale for 5 breaths and exhale for 5.

Keep your abs engaged and keep your eyes on your thighs.

Have a great week.

 

Let’s Talk Feet

 

Our feet are our foundation and the Pilates Method can help us keep our feet strong and flexible.  We tend to “forget” about our feet until they start to ache.

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Happy Feet

 

Just like the rest of our body we need to “exercise” our feet regularly.  We have 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 ligaments, tendons and muscles in our feet so lets give our feet a workout. Go barefoot sometimes and feel the earth beneath your feet, wiggle and spread your toes to get the blood flowing trust me it’s a glorious feeling.

Did you know a lot of foot injuries are a result of a weak core?  Having a weak core can cause you to compensate by changing your gait.  As I have mentioned in a previous post the footwork series on the reformer as well as on the other pieces of Pilates  equipment used in class, helps to mobilize and strengthen our feet and always in Pilates we are working our core.

If you are not able to take a  Pilates class here are a few exercises for your feet that can be done anywhere and anytime.

1. While standing, lift your toes and spread them apart.

2. Curl and uncurl your toes.

3. Use your toes to pick up marbles.

4. Lift and lower your big toe only.

5. Lift and lower your baby toe only.

6. Glide your big toe away from the other toes and back again.

7. Repeat the above move but with the little toe only.

8. Stretch your toes with pedicure pads, this also helps to realign the bones of the feet.

Lets keep our feet healthy and happy.

 

 

 

Pilates Spine Corrector

For todays post I thought I would share a video  of Joseph Pilates working out using the Spine Corrector.  This piece of Pilates equipment stretches, strengthens and aligns the spine and it is great for opening up the chest which allows for deeper breathing and preventing that computer posture ( think rounded shoulders etc).  While improving our posture by strengthening the back extensors, you will also be stretching your trunk flexors.  You are able to work your entire body in every range of motion.

Movement is medicine.

 

 

Pilates and Running Part 2

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These exercises are a continuation from the previous post.

As always check with your doctor before engaging in any exercise activity.

Swan Dive

( This exercise is great for  increasing back extension as well as strengthening the back extensors, hamstrings and gluteals).

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Lie on your stomach, palms on the mat.  Lift your upper body into extension as you press your hands into the mat. Reach the arms forward while rocking your chest towards the mat.

Bring your hands back underneath you and catch your body in the Swan position.

* Remember to keep head, neck and spine in alignment, keep your abs engaged the entire time. *

Side Kick Kneeling

( Great for challenging your balance, torso and pelvis stability, improves hamstring and hip flexors  flexibility, strengthens shoulders and lats and strengthens the hips).

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From a kneeling position,lean over to one side until your hand touches the mat. Extend your leg to the side to hip height. Keep your bottom hip pressed forward so your torso is as straight as possible.

Kick the top leg forward and back, 6-10 times is sufficient and switch sides.

Corkscrew

( Increases spinal rotation, back flexibility,scapular stability and core control.)

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Lying on your back, straighten legs to the ceiling. Tilt your legs to one side,allowing your hips to lift off the floor. Allow your legs to swing  down towards the floor, circle through center and up the opposite side.  Keep your legs together, shoulders anchored, and make smooth even circles in both directions.

Clam Shells

( Strengthens gluteus medius.)

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Lie on your side, heels are in line with the gluteals.  Hips flexed at 45 degrees, knees at 90 degrees.  Abdominals are engaged and your pelvis is neutral.

Keep your ankles and feet glued together as you abduct the top leg, without allowing your hips to roll back. Repeat 10-15 times on each side.

Thigh Stretch

( Stretches and strengthens quadriceps, core control.)

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Kneeling with your ares extended, parallel , hinge back keep pressing the pelvis forward, leading with the pubic bone.  There should be no movement  in the body only at the knee joint.

I hope you enjoy this little sequence.

Have a great week and stay warm!

 

 

 

Hamstrings Strength and Flexibility

 

Our hamstrings consists of 3 muscles the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris.

The hamstrings cross 2 joints, the hip and the knees, and they are involved in hip extension as well as knee flexion.

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(Picture source)

Runners and weekend warriors  tend to neglect their hamstrings in their strength training and flexibility routines and resulting at times in strains, tears and pulls. Many times this injury occurs because of a muscular imbalance, the quadriceps being more dominant or stronger than the hamstrings. This type of injury is very difficult to heal, sidelining runners/athletes for weeks.

The injured hamstring can be classified by the following:

Grade 1 is a mild strain with a few muscle fibers being torn.

Grade 2 is a moderate strain with significant loss on strength

Grade 3 is a complete tear of the muscles.

In order to prevent injuring the hamstrings, it is important to implement exercises that both strengthen and stretches  the hamstrings. Pilates is a great addition to any fitness routine, because Pilates creates an evenly conditioned body therefore eliminating imbalances.  Personally what I really like about the flexibility side of Pilates is that you are always moving, there is no static holding of the exercises. As one of the principles of the method is control, you are able move your body with proper control and stability.

Another benefit of Pilates, which we all hear about is that Pilates builds a strong core. The core is not only the deep abdominals , but it also includes your low back muscles, pelvic floor, the muscles around your hips and your glutes. Having a strong core will help your body to move more efficiently and with precision.

Here are a few Pilates mat exercises that will help to strengthen not only the hamstrings but the other muscle groups as well.

Leg Pull Down

Get into a plank position, with shoulders over wrists, the inner thighs together. Lift one leg towards the ceiling with your foot pointed. Lift one leg  and pulse it twice towards the ceiling. Lower the leg and repeat on the next leg.

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Keep your hips lifted as the leg lifts. Repeat 6 times on each leg.

Leg Pull Up

Get into a reverse plank position, wrists  under shoulders and hips lifted high. Lift one leg to the ceiling and pulse up twice. Lower the leg to the mat and repeat on the other side.  Repeat 6 times.

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Swimming

Lie on your stomach, reaching your arms overhead and your legs straight.  Lift the left arm and right leg towards the ceiling, and quickly switch arms and legs maintaining the balance on the center of your torso.

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Keep your neck long and no shifting of the hips.

This next exercise is part of the Pilates abdominals series of the 5 exercises used to strengthen the abdominals and to develop pelvic stability. but it also gives you a nice stretch for the hamstrings therefore improving its flexibility.

There is no strength with out flexibility.

Single Straight Leg Stretch

Lie on your back, round your and head and upper body off the mat, reaching one leg to the ceiling and the other leg extended and reaching to in front of you. Place your hands on the leg that is reaching towards to the ceiling.

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Pulse the leg towards you twice and quickly switch legs and repeat on the other side.  Keep your torso still as the legs move, abdominals engaged, maintain stability in the low back and pelvis.

Let’s keep our hamstrings strong and flexible. Hope you enjoyed this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Challenges

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This week I would like you to  have positive thoughts. Think  positively and with appreciation for all your body has done for you.  I am not stopping there I would like you  to think about all you have accomplished in your life. One positive thought a day.

We all need to be reminded to do this. Stop being so hard on your self.   See you here next week for an exercise challenge.

I hope to inspire and motivate you. Have a great week.

 

 

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