A new fan of ActivCore at Pilates on Fifth!

ActivCore FEX at Pilates on Fifth

On March 13 & 14, 2010, we conducted our fifth ActivCore FEX™ Basic Course for Pilates instructors, Physical Therapists and fitness professionals.  We had eight attendees in the course, and it went fabulously!  We were especially happy to have Tyler Joyce, a Physical Therapist from Princeton Orthopaedic Association assisting the course as well.  Below is a testimonial from one of the students.

My first encounter with ActivCore FEX was at Pilates on Fifth here in New York City. Being a former competitive swimmer, professional trained dancer, and Pilates instructor I assumed I would have enough core strength, flexibility, and muscle control to tackle the ActivCore exercises – I was quickly humbled. I began using ActivCore at Pilates on Fifth and since then have experienced a significant change in my core strength, upper body strength, balance, and overall control and awareness of my body. I also had an adductor injury acquired from dancing and was working with physical therapists as well as practicing Pilates to try and recover from the injury. In doing the ActivCore exercises I was able to recover fully from my injury as well as pinpoint the weaker muscles and strengthen them to prevent a further occurrence. I decided without hesitation to take the certification course. Since then I have been using ActivCore with clients. I have found concepts that some clients had a hard time finding, such as core engagement, with able to quickly tap into with ActivCore. Not only this, but clients get excited with the rapid improvement they see. ActivCore has truly influenced me personally as a dancer, but has also made a significant impact on my clients.

April 5, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

ActivCore® Fast Track Basic and Intermediate Courses at Pilates on Fifth

Kimberly and Katherine Corp taught 4 intensive days of ActivCore® training to Pilates professionals, PT’s and GYROTONIC® instructors from Pilates on Fifth in NYC, from Brooklyn, and from Toronto, Canada. This fast track course was structured with the ActviCore FEX® Basic course on days 1 & 2, followed by the ActivCore FEX® intermediate course 5 days later. Thus, students could complete the required Basic course plus the 25 practice hours before moving on to Intermediate.

Toni Mercogliano doing "Pec Flies" on ActivCore®

The course covers the gamut of exercises in ActivCore’s Function EXercise curriculum.  The Basic course covers highly effective exercises for the lower body, including outer thighs, inner thighs, glutes & hamstrings, as well as upper body exercises for the chest, back and arms.  Despite the varying strength levels in the class, everyone easily found a version that he/she could do effectively.  And all participants saw immediate improvement.  For example, Rena Lichtblau, owner of Pilates by Rena noticed that after the first day, the pain in her hip was diminished while the range of motion increased, and EVERYONE was sore from the upper body exercises, especially the pull ups!

The next four days were spent practicing the exercises, both doing them and teaching them.  …And there was no shortage of volunteers at Pilates on Fifth of Pilates instructors and clients to work with the ActivCore FEX® system and experience the results.  We even held an in-house ActivCore® workshop during this 4 day break for all Pilates on Fifth’s ActivCore® graduates, with much success.  Kurt Gorrell, a Pilates instructor at Pilates on Fifth as well as a gymnastics instructor at Chelsea Piers and Suzanne Gerdes, another Pilates instructor at the studio and a graduate student of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Columbia University, were in attendance, creating workout plans to use with their clients.

The second weekend, the Intermediate FEX course, commenced with learning the EXTREME exercises.  Sound daunting?  Well it is!!!  These exercises take the ActivCore® exercises from the Basic Course, and take them to the next level.  This provided the immediate opportunity to introduce the most unique feature of the Redcord Equipment, the bungees!  Participants were able to experience the magic of weightlessness, even with the most difficult of exercises.  It’s really not magic, but the feeling is so incredible that it almost feels as such!  For example, take the exercise below, the Side Plank.  This exercise is VERY challenging, requiring a great deal of strength in both the abductor of the bottom leg, the obliques, and the shoulder girdle stabilizers.  For many people, this would call for too much strength, which is why the ActivCore FEX® Intermediate series teaches how to place a sling around the pelvis to take the offweight the body.  Voila!  A previously insurmountable exercise is do-able!!  Toni Mercogliani, owner of Toni PT and Pilates, loved the offweighting techniques because of the easy crossover and application with her Physical Therapy clients.  She also loved the upper body exercises, as shown!

Kurt Gorrell from Pilates on Fifth doing "Side Plank"

The final day of the fast track course ended with a written exam as well as a practical review of all the material covered in both courses.  Here are some pictures of the exercises covered!

February 4, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Ground Reaction Force: The source of your power!

Newton's third lawDo you remember learning Newton’s third law in a science or physics class?  Don’t worry, we didn’t think so!  This is the law that states “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Well, in a nutshell, Newton’s third law explains ground reaction force.  When we run, jump, throw something, etc., we push against the ground to get power, and the ground returns the exertion of the force to help us get that power.  If this doesn’t make sense at first, imagine trying to throw a ball while treading water in a deep pool.  Clearly, without a stable surface to push against with the legs, a person in a pool could not propel the ball the distance he could if he were standing on firm ground.  In a pool, the legs and torso can do relatively little to help, so the shoulder, elbow and wrist joint must produce the majority of the force necessary to throw the ball.

If muscles in the hips and legs, particularly the gluteus medius, are weak or injured, then the scenario on land is not much better than that in water!  When we push against the ground and the ground returns the exertion, the joints of our bodies must transmit this force in the best anatomical and most efficient way possible.  In other words, all the muscles of the body must be recruited at the right time to accomplish the task at hand.  Muscles must “fire” sequentially to prepare the body to hit the ball, leap the hurdle or perform the double back flip with a twist.  Thus, if any muscle along the kinetic chain is weak, underused or injured, then the transmission of forces will be inefficient and faulty, and other body parts must take on more work to make up for the “weak link.”

Using the tennis serve as our example (see chart below) 54% of the ball’s speed should come from the trunk and back, hips and legs.  Fifty four percent!  This means that before the shoulder even becomes involved in the serve, the body from the shoulders down generates more than half of the power that gives the ball its speed.  Of course the remaining power comes from the upper body:  the shoulder joint is responsible for 21% of the power, the elbow, 15% and the wrist, 10%.

Ground Reaction Force for Tennis Serve_Pilates

If the gluteus medius is weak, the torso, back, shoulder, elbow and wrist compensate for the lack of power by taking on more of the force.  As discussed in a previous blog, the gluteus medius is a key stabilizer of the hip, especially when the weight is on one leg.  When “winding up” for the serve, the body’s weight is on the same leg as the serving arm.  The muscles are loaded with power and funneled into an explosive serve.  A weak gluteus medius results in decreased power and INCREASED potential for injuries.  In fact, research shows a weak gluteus medius contributes to shoulder and elbow injuries not only in tennis but in baseball, swimming and golf as well.

What can you do?  Well, strengthen your gluteus medius of course!  In our previous blog, we listed all the Pilates exercises that are great for doing just this, “Side Leg Lift Series,” “Side Lying Scissors,” “Side Lying Clam and Book,” etc.  But, unfortunately, if the firing pattern for hip abduction is faulty, the TFL (tensor fasciae latae) fires BEFORE the gluteus medius.  Ideally, the gluteus medius fires before the TFL, but the reverse is true for many people.  No matter how fabulous a Pilates instructor you are, teaching someone NOT to use a muscle is far more challenging then teaching them to use one!

This is where ActivCore is absolutely ideal!  Because the Redcord system allows for the off-weighting of clients, chronic “misfiring” during hip abduction can be remedied without complex imagery, vocabulary or body awareness.  The reduced load enables the client to perform hip abduction with the proper sequencing of muscle firing. Pictures 1 and 2 below shows the regular Side Lying Abduction exercise and pictures 3 and 4  shows the same exercise off-weighted. For more information on ActivCore or the Redcord system, please visit their respective websites at www.activcore.com and www.redcord.com.  If you would like to enroll in the teacher training for ActivCore, please visit our teacher training page for upcoming training dates!

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activcore sidelying abduction Picture3activcore sidelying abduction Picture 4

July 16, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

The “other” Glutes!

side leg liftsIn our last blog, we discussed the merits, both aesthetic and anatomical, of a well developed gluteus maximus (click here to read!).  But since the “glutes” do get lopped together often in cueing, today’s blog will discuss their differences and similarities.

First of all, the gluteus maximus is the most superficial of the three and gives the buttocks is lifted, curvy shape (when well toned, of course.)  Underneath the gluteus maximus lies the gluteus medius and underneath that lies the gluteus minimus.  Their sizes are in the name: large, medium and small respectively.  If the gluteus maximus gives overall shape to the buttocks, then the gluteus medius and minimus can be said to give shape to the hip.

The gluteus maximus extends and laterally rotates the femur at the hip, and is responsible for bringing the torso upright from a stooped position when standing.  The gluteus medius and minimus ABduct the femur, but primarily stabilize the body when standing on one leg.  In fact, an often used “weak link” test to determine a weak gluteus medius is to see if the subject can balance on one leg.  If the gluteus medius isn’t firing properly, the subject can not stabilize the body on one leg at all.  Additionally, both the gluteus medius and minimus assist in medially rotating the femur.  However, once the hip is flexed to ninety degrees, the action of the gluteus medius shifts and it aids in laterally rotating the femur.

In Pilates mat work, the gluteus medius and minimus get their moments in the sun during the Side Leg Lift series of exercises.  This includes Side Kicks, straight forward Side Lying Abduction of the femur, Side Lying Scissors, Side Lying Bicycle, Banana, and the side lying exercises with the exercise band, Side Lying Clam and Book. However, this pair of muscles is always stabilizing in any standing exercise on the chair or cadillac and in footwork on the reformer, to name a few.

Because the Tensor Fascia Latae also abducts the hip, targeting the gluteus medius and encouraging it to fire first (as it should) can be challenging.   ActivCore and the Redcord system offer fabulous exercises for strengthening the gluteus medius safely and effectively.  Because of the unique off-weighting system, ActicCore provides direct, acheivable gluteus medius conditioning exercises that can help even the most body UN-aware person isolate the gluteus medius and strengthen it.  A strong gluteus medius improves Ground Reaction Force which helps distribute forces evenly through the body during actions such as the tennis serve (click here to read more) and the baseball swing.

More on the gluteus medius and Ground Reaction Force next time!

July 3, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. 2 comments.

ACTIVCORE® cured my neck and shoulder pain

ActivCoreFEX 007When we first started doing ActivCore ® , we couldn’t wait to try every exercise that we could get my hands on.  As dancers, we’re also always first enticed by the exercises for the legs and the core… the upper body exercises have always been a secondary focus.  However, as we began the training and learned more about ActivCore’s amazing ability to get the right muscle to fire in the right amount at the right time, we started wondering if there was any hope for the nagging neck and shoulder pain that we had been silently suffering with off and on for years.  Katherine had lost hope that anything would make her pain go away.  It had actually become so bad that I couldn’t finish the last sip in a tall glass of water without being forced to support the weight of my head in my free hand!!

To our amazement, the secret recipe for completely “fixing” shoulder and neck pain was ActivCore ® … particularly the pull ups and the push ups.  Who knew?!  The first time we tried the pull ups (not being able to do a single pull up on my own), we knew we were using our legs more than our arms, but we LOVED the way it opened my shoulders and how we were so connected through our backs.  Because ActivCore ® allows you to set the difficulty appropriate to your own personal strength level, you really can’t go wrong.  We have all our clients doing their own personal pull ups with the ActivCore Activation Station ® because of its incredible adjustability.

With the push ups, because the ropes are unstable every direction except straight down, we were total wrecks…. both of us on the left side  (for different reasons, we promise!!!  We’re not clones!!!)  Neither of us could really complete one push up without our left arms freaking out and shaking like gangbusters.  We couldn’t keep the rope still!!  ….And that’s when it hit us.  None of the local stabilizers in the left shoulder were firing.  It was like they were on vacation on another planet.  The solution?  Find the setting on the ActivCore Activation Station n® that would allow us to complete four push ups without collapsing or shaking uncontrollably.  Then I repeated three more sets of four, adjusting the height of the ropes or where I was standing so that I could alter the level of support.

In the first week, we probably did the pull up and push up sequence 2 times….. that’s a total of about 32 pull ups and push ups, and both our shoulders and necks felt better after that one week, not to mention that we felt like our posture improved immensely.  (…And we’re not the only ones who’ve said this!  One of our best friends and workout buddies said to us the day after doing one set of pull ups:  “Could it really be possible that my posture is better after only one session????”  The answer:  yes!)

Pull Ups 003Now, we’re completely addicted to the pull ups and push ups!!  Katherine’s neck pain is gone, and I no longer have to hold the back of my head when I’m enjoying my last sip of my favorite beverage.  Kimberly’s rotator cuff pain is gone, too!  We make both push ups and pull ups a mandatory part of our ActivCore ® workout sessions, and as a result we have happier necks and shoulders!!

June 10, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

Better Posture in One Week with ACTIVCORE!

Pull Ups 003We have been pleasantly surprised with another benefit of ActivCore:  not only does it improve posture, but ActivCore improves posture fast!!!  ActivCore features many exercises for better posture that are fun, challenging, and, of course, core strengthening as well!  We noticed better posture on ourselves after one week, but we largely dismissed it because as Pilates instructors, we work out all the time.  However, after working with our own clients and talking to dozens and dozens of clients at our Pilates studio, (www.pilatesonfifth.com), the results are unanimous:  with ActivCore, posture improves after just one session!!!!

When we were kids and our mother constantly said, “stand up straight!” and “don’t slouch!”, we grew accustomed to thinking that good posture had everything to do with the degree of one’s laziness and very little to do with muscle weakness.  How wrong were we!  (Well, we were kids after all!)  For optimal posture, the muscles surrounding the shoulder girdle need to be strong enough to maintain that great posture without your conscious brain having to think about it all the time.  And for us, and dozens of others at the studio, the pull ups in the ActivCore repertoire have been our secret weapon to better posture INSTANTANEOUSLY!!  Who knew??

With ActivCore Pull Ups, you can perform different varieties, and the most striking feature is that you can completely adjust the level of difficulty to your own ability.  Thus, we have eighteen year olds to 70 year olds doing Pull Ups at our ActivCore activation stations, and they all love it!  One of our clients told us yesterday that she is “obsessed” with the ActivCore machines because she’s never been able to work her upper body so effectively.  Another client came to us after her first session and said, “Could one session have made my posture better?”  And the answer is, yes!!!  And with ActivCore, all of us, Pilates instructors and clients alike keep coming back for more because with all the exercises you see results so incredibly quickly.

And for those of you who may not like Pilates because of the coordination required, look no further!!!  ActivCore does all of this without requiring its practitioners to learn any fancy choreography.  The ropes do the trick for you.  Once you start to work with ActivCore, you will see for yourself…. and watch your posture get better and better in the process.

May 14, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

Add power to your push-ups with Pilates and ActivCore©

We’re sure you’ve all heard some version of the phrase “if you’re stranded on a deserted island, how do you keep your muscles bulging and ripped? Push-ups, of course!”

When push-ups are done correctly (i.e., pulled in abs, strong gluts, energized legs, etc.), they really do tackle every major muscle group. Even if you start with your knees down and progress to more advanced versions, push-ups help strengthen your core. But don’t forget, a strong core can help strengthen your push-ups!

Whether you already have excellent push-ups and are looking for a challenge or are looking to gain strength to be able to DO a good push-up, the ActivCore FEX© system can be your solution. Our clients from weight lifting men to willowy women have seen dramatic strength improvements using ActivCore©.

The instability of the cords adds two new and important dimensions to your push-ups: 1) keeping the cords still as you perform the push-ups triggers deep stabilizers of the shoulders and torso to fire, increasing both shoulder stability and core strength and 2) maintaining alignment of the torso three-dimensionally (preventing sagging or piking hips, rotating pelvis and rocking side-to-side) further strengthens the core and creates important muscle memory for proper alignment in other endeavors. Exercises range from simple, rehabilitative movements to intense, core strengthening workouts.

As dancers, both of us have always struggled with upper body strength and neither of us has ever enjoyed working on upper body strength. Thus it has remained our “weakest link” all our lives! We got the ActivCore FEX© system for our studio on January 9th and WOW! The increase in strength is dramatic, and we’re both enjoying the journey, too!

And for you men out there, if you want to see some “real men” practicing on ActivCore©, click on this link and watch the video of Norwegian skier Kjetil Andre Aamodt, the only Alpine skier to win 8 Olympic gold medals in addition to many other titles, using ActivCore© to train.

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March 10, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

We have a new love in our lives: ActivCore. It’s AMAZING!!!!

Many of us here at Pilates on Fifth just went through the training, and the system is truly revolutionary — you can’t escape your core! Gone are the days of “I don’t feel this at all”, or “Where am I supposed to feel this again?” The nanosecond we performed even one exercise in the ActivCore repertoire, we knew—beyond a shadow of a doubt—what muscle was being targeted. And this is the same with everyone…. No one has to tell you!

activcorefex-029It may sound a little hokey, but watching people experience ActivCore for the first time is a little like observing evangelical ministry. Across the board, there is an “I BELIEVE” moment at which people either discover a muscle that has been dormant all too long or feel a muscle being worked more intensely than they ever have. Read more testimonials here!

We Pilates folk naturally love ActivCore because of its incredible focus on, you guessed it, the core! We also love that it emphasizes the deep stabilizers of each joint to reinforce proper biomechanics. This attention to alignment and proper firing patterns makes us very happy, but others have a different reason for loving ActivCore. The rest of the bunch love it because the work is so incredibly intense. SUPER intense. Because the target muscles as well as the deep stabilizers of both the joint and the core work synergistically in any given exercise, the muscle work feels compounded — exponentially! Click here for some videos!

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In the essence of safety, your instructor will start you off with a very do-able version of an exercise. However, think before you say, “That’s too easy, can you make it harder?”, because the answer is “YES, WE CAN! AND WE WILL!” And you will feel it! It’s an intensity that we rarely get to experience – so targeted, so “core-centric” (our new word for the blog), and so different from anything you’ve ever done before!

activcorefex-053In fact, with ActivCore, the possibilities abound. Even with one simple exercise, there are dozens and dozens of ways to make it easier, harder, more intense, less intense, etc. Because of this, users build strength very quickly! Charting progress is fun and easy, because it’s both swift and remarkable.

We now have three ActivCore stations  at our studio, so if you’re in or around New York, come on in! Just mention that you would like to include ActivCore in your session. You can even mix and match and do a little Pilates spiced with a little ActivCore. We will customize it for you.

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If you are not in NYC, just visit www.ActivCore.com. There they list the other studios that feature this amazing new system, and they also have all sorts of groovy information and videos about the entire program. If you would like your studio or the studio you attend to look into acquiring ActivCore, we’d love to hear from you and will be happy to answer questions! Just reach us at activcore@pilatesonfifth.com or call 212-687-3787.

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January 16, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.