Booty call! The anatomical and aesthetic benefits of the gluteus maximus

shoulder bridge pilatesWho doesn’t want a butt that seems to defy gravity and fill out that snazzy pair of jeans? Of all body parts, women AND men care about their derrieres. After all, Mia Michaels choreographed an entire routine for the third episode of “So You Think You Can Dance” (click here to watch) around the appeal of a pleasant posterior. But a beautiful backside is not all that is obtained by strengthening and toning the gluteus maximus!

First of all, human beings’ unique gluteus maximus is a consequence of upright walking. (click here to read more.) BUTT (ha ha ha), because we in the developed world spend most of our time sitting at desks, our gluteus maximuses on the whole are “woefully underdeveloped” (click here to read more.) A weak gluteus maximus not only leaves you with droopy jeans and sagging skirts, it also wreaks havoc on the lumbar spine, the sacrum, the hip joint and the lower leg!

A strong gluteus maximus not only helps tense the thoraco-lumbar fascia (thus providing additional support to the low back), but also indirectly stimulates the multifidus to fire. (click here and click here to read more.)
As the gluteus maximus should engage at the point of the heel strike when walking, when it is weak, the trunk lurches backward at heel strike on the weakened side, thus straining the lumbar spine and causing imbalances in the pelvis, sacrum and hip joint.

BUTT, Pilates offers many exercises to strengthen the gluteus maximus safely and effectively! (click here for this excellent back and butt toning workout!) First of all, engaging the gluteus maximus at all times when performing prone exercises is important. This helps to stabilize the pelvis so that the lower back (lumbar spine) does not over-extend in any prone extension exercise. For example, in Breast Stroke, only the thoracic spine is meant to extend and keeping the gluteus maximus engaged helps ensure that the lumbar spine does not extend and the pelvis remains in neutral.

For exercises such as Swan Dive and Double Leg Stretch which require full spinal and hip extension, engaging the gluteus maximus keeps pressure out of the lumbar spine and helps create even extension along the backside of the body.

If the above mentioned prone gluteus maximus exercises cause any discomfort in the lower back, try lying prone over an Arc Barrel so that the lumbar spine is in flexion. Then practice lifting one leg at a time into extension to concentrate on firing only the gluteus maximus while leaving the erector spinae relaxed. This can be challenging, but with practice, it can be done!

Exercises such as Shoulder Bridge, Hip Rolls with Heel Lifts and Heel Squeeze are excellent ways to focus on pure hip extension, i.e. pure gluteus maximus work without extending the lumbar spine. In Shoulder Bridge, the spine stays neutral throughout and the pelvis must be stabilized using the gluteus maximus and the abdominals against rotation. Hip Rolls and Hip Rolls with Heel Lifts adds articulation of the spine and while lifting and lowering the heels targets the hamstrings more than the gluteus maximus, the latter is still challenged by holding the hips in extension at the top (and stabilizing against rotation!) Finally, Heel Squeeze is a great way to practice keeping the pelvis in neutral since you can focus on all three bony landmarks – the hip bones and the pubic bone – remaining in contact with the floor as you engage the gluteus maximus. Advanced students may add a lift of the thighs as the heels squeeze ONLY if this can be performed with a neutral pelvis and spine.

Finally, standing lunges target the gluteus maximus and a slew of other muscles as well. In the classical Pilates mat repertoire, lunges and squats are not included, but if you plan on running to a gym and doing lunges/squats to strengthen your gluteus maximus, please keep the following tips in mind: 1) keep your abdominal muscles pulled in and engaged at all times; 2) do not allow your lower back to arch as you lunge or squat and 3) make sure your knees bend directly over the 2nd and 3rd toes without rolling out or in as this puts undue strain on the knee joint.

Lastly, oftentimes we Pilates instructors say “squeeze your glutes” when we really mean “contract your gluteus maximus.” This is merely for time and does not reflect one’s lack of knowledge in what the various muscles do! So please know that 95% of the time, when your instructor says “squeeze your glutes,” she/he means gluteus maximus!!

Best wishes for a terrific buttsky this summer!!

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July 2, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. 1 comment.

Tired of your Exercise Routine?? TRY SOMETHING NEW!!!!

stretchAt our Pilates Studio, we hear people complain often about being sick and tired of their workout regime.  There is actually a really easy remedy to this problem:  quit your typical workout regime for  a week or two, and try new things!!  With the beautiful weather comes the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, so why not take a walk, ride a bike, etc?  Better yet, why not try something you’ve never tried before?

Trying new things not only refreshes your mind, but also gives your overworked muscles a break, while introducing movement and stimuli to often dormant muscles.  Moving the body in planes of motion different than what you typically do can reap lots of benefits, including balancing out muscle groups as well as exposing you to a weakness that you may have not known that you had.  With that knowledge, you’ll have something new to target when you return to your regular fitness routine.

You will be amazed with the outcome if you give your mind and body a necessary break.  You’ll come back to your usual Pilates routine refreshed, revived, and invigorated!!

May 28, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Pilates and weight loss, part 2

my_first_pilates_workout_watchdog1In our last article, we discussed many factors that contribute to weight loss.   Today, we explain how lack of sleep inhibits successful weight loss.  For all those who force themselves to stay up late and get up early, this article is for you!

The body produces many hormones, two of which are directly related to sleep and appetite.  One is ghrelin and the other is leptin.  Ghrelin is produced in the stomach and triggers hunger, while leptin is produced in adipose tissue and signals satiety, in other words, it tells the body “I’m full.”  In healthy individuals, ghrelin levels are naturally higher before a meal and leptin levels are naturally higher after a meal.

When one is sleep deprived, however, ghrelin levels climb and lower the levels of leptin in the body.  A sleep-deprived body receives signals that it is hungry beause the appetite control hormone leptin has been “turned off” by the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin.  A study in the journal PLoS Medicine shows the correlation between short sleep duration and high levels of ghrelin.  Over a 15 year period from 1989-2004, the study shows that people who consistently sleep only five hours a night exhibit a 15% increase in ghrelin (the appetite stimulant) and a 16% decrease in leptin (the “I’m full” signal).

According to the researcher behind the study, Emmanuelle Mignot of Stamford University, this proves a regulatory problem exists in people of today’s “unnatural” society.  Before the desk job became the dominate characteristic of modern work, the human race engaged in physical activity daily as a natural part of life.  Physical activity both increases one’s appetite and one’s need for sleep.  But today, most of us are sedentary much of the day, yet forgo sleep to try and squeeze more work into the day.  So we’re not getting enough physical activity AND we’re not sleeping!  Thus, the hormone ghrelin is flowing causing us to feel hungry and eat more, though we’re not engaging in the activity necessary to burn the calories of the additional food intake.

Most people tend to brag about how little sleep they get or how little sleep they need.  Somehow, sleeping less has become the sign of a “hard worker” or a “dedicated employee,” but please don’t fall into that trap!  Sleep is good!  You can do the “Hundreds” thousands of times and do Pilates workouts (or any workout for that matter) until you are exhausted, but if you are not sleeping adequately, the hormone ghrelin is most likely thwarting your progress.  Sleep is not only replenishing, it also serves to balance these important hormones — so get to bed — NOW!

Our next article will discuss how stress is related to weight gain so tune in next time!

March 18, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

A Great Review of UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com

As we embarked upon the world of blogging, we started reading other fitness blogs just to see what the whole thing was about.  We stumbled upon a number of blogs, and one that we really loved is Every Gym’s Nightmare (www.everygymsnightmare.com), written by Kelly Turner.

Her fitness blog is fabulous…. It’s not a Pilates blog per se, but it’s a super fun read and very informative.  She offers a great perspective to the fitness world on the sometimes delicate balance between a healthy focus on diet & exercise as opposed to a fanatical one.  Because we liked her blog so much, we asked her to review www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com on her site.  Happily, she didn’t take as much convincing as others that we really offer free Pilates workouts online!  She jumped right in, and here’s an excerpt from her blog:

“I started with the beginner video, because I am a beginner at Pilates. I know I’m in shape, and am usually prone to jumping into advanced things before I know the basics, but decided to do this properly and learn the fundamentals.

The cueing was perfect. Instead of becoming confused trying to figure out on my own if I was doing an exercise properly, I knew exactly where I should be feeling things and what motion I was trying to achieve. I’m a trainer, I know how hard it is to cue for the core, but with Katherine’s direction, I knew exactly what to do.

…Pilates is perfect for focusing on your core, and how to engage, and keep it engaged, throughout all the exercises. It’s a full body, low impact, flexibility and strength workout. I’m hooked.

It’s the perfect melding between a good sweaty workout and yoga. I get my flexbility and calming effect, while appeasing my gym side with reps and muscle fatigue.

I really recommend this site for all levels: beginners to test the waters for free and see if they like it, and the most advanced Pilatuers (pronounced pi-la-tooooooors) for great downloads of workout with equipment and the Reformer…”

But don’t just read this!  Go to Kelly’s blog and read the entire review.  While you’re on her site, make sure you bookmark her site and sign up for her email alerts.  Kelly holds weekly give aways (yes, free stuff!), and she makes it very easy for her readers to submit to win.  You also might learn something in the process!

February 9, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Top 10 Reasons Pilates on 5th clients love ACTIVCORE®

So, after two wonderful weeks of ActivCore® integration at Pilates on Fifth, we thought that we would survey our clients and see what they had to say about it.

For starters, everyone “loves it”! Because the same comments kept popping up over and over, we’ve compiled our own Top Ten List…. TOP TEN COMMENTS WE HEAR ABOUT ACTIVCORE®:

10. “Wow! I really feel my core!”

9. “It’s so intense!”

8. “I didn’t know I had those muscles!”

7. “It’s like my lower back pain just dissolved”!

6. “I can feel myself getting stronger!”

5. “It’s so intense!”

4. “Why am I shaking after only 4 reps?”

3. “I’ve never felt my inner thighs work like this!”

2. “I feel like it’s correcting all my bad habits!”

1. It’s so intense!”

And there you have it. With one system, you get a core strengthening, ab flattening, muscle targeting, inner thigh shaping, lower back pain relieving, super-intense workout. Who could ask for anything more?

January 23, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.