Pilates Movements Explained Part 2

Part 2

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A continuation from last weeks movements explained.

Bridge

In Pilates we have two types of bridges, articulated and neutral. An articulated is emphasizes spinal flexibility. Where as in the neutral bridge the spine moves as one piece.

Table Top

In this position your knees are bent and your feet off the floor and your inner thighs are lightly engaged. This position teaches you how to effectively “train” the  abdominals  really challenging the transverse abdominus.

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Pilates for Cyclists Part 2

cyclists

 

Let’s dive right into a few Pilates equipment  exercises to implement in the cyclists cross training program.

Pilates Footwork: This is is great for proper knee and leg alignment, stretches calves and strengthens and mobilizes ankles.

Footwork

Stomach Massage Flat:

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Feet in Straps Circles:

Side Lying Push Away: Strengthens the outer thighs
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Chest Expansion: Opens the Chest

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Supine Arms: Builds Strength in the Upper Body

Long Box Pulling Straps: Strengthens back.

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Articulated Bridge and  Push Away: Strengthens the Hamstrings and Low Back.

Superman: Back Strengthener

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Standing Splits: Strengthens Inner and Outer Thighs

Pike and Reverse Pike: Strengthens Upper Body and Abdominals.

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Reverse Pike/Tendo Stretch

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There are many more exercises in the Pilates  repertoire as mentioned above these are just a few.

As always don’t forget to stretch.

 

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 .

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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

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

 

 

Lateral Flexion

Mermaid, Side Bend.

Side Bend

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Extension

Swan, Swimming, Leg Pull Up, Shoulder Bridge.

Leg Pull Up

Leg Pull Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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.

 

Weekly Challenge

This weeks exercise is the Single Leg Hip Raise

 

 

 Targets the glutes, core, low back ,hamstrings and lumbo pelvic stabilization.

Targets the glutes, core, low back ,hamstrings and lumbo pelvic stabilization.

Source 

 

Lie on the  with your right knee bent raise your left leg up inline with the right knee arms open in T position.  Engage your ab muscles, press into your  right heel raise your hips up. At the top there should be straight line from your shoulder to your hip and thigh. Hold at the top for 2-3 seconds then lower back to the floor. Repeat.  3 Sets of 15-20 reps.

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!

 

 

 

Pilates and Running

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Whether you run for fun or you are serious about running marathons, trying to improve your speed or endurance or you are just starting out, including Pilates in your weekly routine will help you to remain injury free and strong.

Here are a few benefits of Pilates for runners:

Pilates stretches and strengthens you at the same time and will use muscles that are not specifically used in running.

Pilates will improve a runner’s overall strength, flexibility, balance and mobility.

Pilates exercises will help keep the pelvis in a  stabilized  level plane therefore allowing the extremities more range of motion and flexibility.

Pilates will improve a runners posture by elongating the spine and strengthening the muscles of the back as well as maintaining proper alignment in the knee ankle and foot.

Your core will be a lot stronger thus helping to relieve the pressure on your joints.

Here are a few Mat exercises to add to your training routine.

 

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Pilates Mat Exercises Part 1

Roll Up

(Rolling up slowly and incrementally helps to lengthen the muscles of the low back, increases the flexibility and articulation of the spine and increases core strength).

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Lie on your back, reach your arms up over your head, keeping the back of your lowest rib on the mat. Inhale, reaching your arms up towards the ceiling,  exhale and lift your head up between your arms, continue the rolling up

and reach towards your feet.  Return to the start position by gently squeezing the buttocks and tuck the tailbone to begin the roll back.

Single Leg Circles

(Great for stretching hamstrings, increasing flexibility and mobility of hips, core control, pelvic stability)

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Lie on your back, straighten your leg towards the ceiling, pointing the foot, maintain the stability of the pelvis. Circle your leg across your body and down and out and away from your body. Repeat circles in each direction, lower leg and repeat on the opposite leg.

Saw

(Increases spinal rotation, stretches mid and upper back, lengthens low back muscles, lengthens the hamstrings, lengthens the quadratus lumborum which lifts the hip,creates balance in pelvis).

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Sit up tall with your legs straight and open, shoulder width apart. Reaching your arms out to the side. Rotate torso to one side, reaching the arm in front towards the little toe of the opposite foot.

Return to the starting position with our evening distributed on the sit bones and repeat the rotation on the opposite side.

Swimming

(Strengthens the back and hip extensors,improves pelvic stability, opens the chest).

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Lie on your stomach with your arms reaching overhead and your legs straight. Lift the right arm and the left leg, switching to the left arm and right leg quickly without rocking your hips from side to side.

A few reminders:

Keep your abdominals engaged, keep your shoulders away from your ears and breathe!

Hope you enjoyed this  post, part 2 posting soon. Let me know if you add these exercises to your routine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.