How to work your abs WITHOUT FLEXING YOUR SPINE!

short plank pilatesAs we wrote in our last blog, when a client asks to “work their abs,” it is very easy to fall into the trap of delivering an hour of flexion exercises.  Hearing our clients squeal “oh I feel my abs” is most gratifying, and as we all know, this result is most quickly achieved when many flexion exercises are performed in succession.

But for the spine’s long term health AND balance of the muscles in the torso, varying spinal movement is absolutely essential.  Additionally, exercises requiring stabilization in neutral add a new dimension of body awareness and abdominal work to a client’s routine.  Not only do such exercise help teach a client where neutral is in their own body, but also trains the muscles in the body to support the body there.

For starters, simple exercise like sitting upright, right on top of the sit bones, on the stability ball can start to bring awareness to the abdominal muscles’ role in holding the spine and pelvis in neutral.  Once this is mastered, practicing alternating lifting and lowering the legs (we call this “marching”) further challenges core strength.

Every piece of equipment, including the mat, includes exercises in neutral, so don’t forget to include them in your clients’ sessions.  The Reformer and Cadillac provide many exercises in which the spine is stabilized in neutral against the movement of the arms and legs.  These exercises can be modified for all levels, so beginning and advanced clients alike can benefit.  The Chair, on the other hand, offers many “neutral” exercises, but given the balance and core strength required for many of them, these exercises may not be the most suitable for the first session (depending on your client’s strength and ability, of course.)

Personally, we LOVE the prone exercises on the chair!  One of our biggest problems to this day is popping ribs, and the prone chair exercises help bring awareness to the muscles we need to use ALWAYS to prevent this from happening.  Because the weight of the legs is unsupported in this series, you can try backing the chair up to the Cadillac (providing your Chair and Cadillac bed are the same height) so that the client’s lower body is fully supported if necessary.  Likewise, side lying exercises on the Cadillac and Barrels are excellent ways to work all four layers of the abdominal muscles while working the legs or arms, depending on the exercise.

In fact, we encourage all readers to challenge themselves to incorporate at least 10 “stabilization in neutral” exercises into all of their sessions this week.  If you have a client with a disc injury (a herniation, etc.), you are surely an old pro at this!  If you have not yet HAD to program this way, staring now when it is “fun” is an excellent way to prepare for the client you will have – one day – who can not flex his/her spine.

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June 24, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . 1, Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings.

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