Tips for Tackling the Teaser

teaserThose of you Pilates enthusiasts who know us or who have watched our Pilates workouts also know that the Teaser, given the fact that we have such tight lower backs, was a real zinger for us to master.  While it was possible to accomplish something that looks “Teaser-esque” using sheer momentum, that is hardly Pilates’ version of the Teaser.  A “perfect” Teaser should be executed with control, finesse, methodical in nature every time.  After all, the real secret to the Teaser, besides abdominal strength, is SEQUENCING!!  Getting sequencing correct in the Teaser can be your Golden Ticket to better success with not only this Pilates exercise, but also more enjoyable Pilates workouts from here on end.

Try these ten tips for tackling the Teaser step by step:

1. Rome was not built in a day!!  Spare yourself frustration and don’t try to conquer the Teaser on your first try.

2.  Don’t compare yourself to others…  As we always say, the gods of Pilates are fair!!  Sometimes people with very little experience can just do the teaser because of a very flexible spine, forgiving ratio of torso to leg length, or whatever.  Simply focus on you and your needs!!

3. Work on the Pilates exercises that will help you execute the Teaser a little bit every day.  Even 5 minutes a day will do the trick.  Actually this will be much more effective than working for 20 -25 minutes on the same muscle group, which will simply cause a lot of fatigue.

4. Make sure that you can do the following Pilates exercises to strengthen the upper fibers of the abdominals:  Half Curl, Hundreds, Half Roll Down, Roll Up, Rolling Like a Ball, Open Leg Rocker Balance, Open Leg Rocker

5. Make sure that you can do the following Pilates exercises to strengthen the lower fibers of the abdominals and hip flexors:  Scisorss, Double Leg Stretch, Hip Twist, Roll Over, Open Leg Rocker

6. Go through the progressions of the Teaser.  Start with Teaser 1, not Teaser 3 or 4!!  Make sure that you can do each Tier relatively well before challenging yourself with a more difficult progression.

7. For Teaser 1, really work on rolling through the spine and finding the proper place to arrive for the “V” sit.  Remember, you are not directly up on your sits bones!!   For those of you who have difficulty lifting the torso off the mat, using a stretch band around the feet or holding a weighted medicine ball or mini body bar (3-5 pounds is usually more than enough!) will assist you by carrying your weight forward for you.

8. For Teaser 2, try the modifications with only one leg lifted at a time.  Perfect these, and then move on to the both legs lifted version.  Even when you progress to both legs lifted, you can always bend your knees slightly to start just to make the lever a little bit shorter.

9. For Teaser 3, and all teasers really, make sure that you are directing your energy forward to the level of your own knees and not up to the ceiling, for example.  Lifting your chest too high and too soon will typically pull the lower thoracic spine into slight extension, making it very difficult to complete the exercise.

10. Take a private lesson if you can!  Despite the best efforts of Pilates videos and tips, there is no substitute for excellent one on one instruction!!  A skilled Pilates instructor will be able to discern exactly where the weak spots may lie and help you immensely with the Teaser and other Pilates exercises.

Many of our Pilates mat workouts feature The Teaser in all sorts of variations, so enjoy!!

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June 4, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Shape Up for Summer! Awesome Abs & an Incomparable Core

flat-abs-fastWhether or not you plan on baring your midriff this summer, you can never go wrong with exercises to flatten your abs and strengthen your core.  But don’t just start doing crunches!  The secret to flat abs lies in the proper activation of all the abdominal muscles, not just the vanity muscles on the surface.  Here are some tips to get you flat abs fast, just in time for summer!

We all know “six pack abs” look like, but this refers to just one muscle, the rectus abdominis.  Underneath the rectus abdominis, there are three more distinct layers of abdominal muscles that can be targeted to create amazing abs and a super strong core.  Thus, the best bet for an ab-flattening, waist tightening, core energizing workout is to target all of these muscles with a variety of exercises that move the body in different planes of motion and recruit the fibers of the upper and lower abdominal muscles!

Let’s start from the inner muscles and move to the outer muscles:

Transversus Abdominis (also written as transverse abdominis or “TA”):  This is the muscle that, when targeted effectively, will give you super flat abs, and also create support for your lower back.  While ideally one should keep their transversus abdominis engaged throughout their Pilates repertoire, this can be difficult at first!

If you have a hard time remembering to keep your TA engaged during your Pilates workouts, there are a couple of simple exercises that you can do to tap into this very important muscle. We also suggest our Pelvic Placement technique video for a thorough explanation of how to support the pelvis and engage the TA. To view this video, click here.

1)  Supine (lying on your back):  Make sure that your pelvis and spine are neutral, with your knees bent, feet a comfortable distance away from your hips.  Place your fingertips just inside your hip bones.  Draw up the muscles of the pelvic floor as you draw in the abs, careful not to over-engage the abs or change the shape of the spine (both of which will recruit the internal obliques as well as the TA.)

2)  Prone (face down) on All Fours:  With hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips, ensure that your pelvis and spine are neutral.  Inhale to prepare, then exhale and draw your navel to the front wall of your spine away from the floor, without changing your spinal shape.  Hold for 2-3 breaths, then relax and repeat.

3)  Side Lying:  Lie on your side with your head resting on your outstretched arm, aiming to bring your body into one long line from your ankles to the top of your head.  Place your top hand on your top leg.  Without changing your position at all, flatten your abs, and, if possible, lift your legs a little bit off the floor.  (This will engage your glutes too, of course!)

Because the Transversus Abdominis compresses the abdominal contents when it contracts and is not a muscle with a directional pull, your spine will not and should not change shape, even when you fully engage it.

Internal & External Obliques:  These muscles work in tandem, so for practical Pilates purposes, we will not separate them.  The obliques flex the spine (bend us forward), laterally flex the spine (bend us sideways), rotate the spine (twist right or left).  Thus, to sufficiently target the obliques, exercises need to incorporate all of the above spinal motions.  Here are some suggestions for effectively zapping the obliques!

Flexion:  Half Roll Down, Hundreds, Roll Over Hip Lift

Side Bending:  Side Leg Lift Series 3, Side Plank, Side Bends

Rotation:  Spine Twist, Obliques Roll Back, Saw

Rectus Abdominis:  This muscle is our “six pack” muscle…. and also the strongest flexor of the trunk.  We Pilates folk like to encourage proper recruitment of the obliques as well as the Rectus Abdominis, but we cannot deny that at the end of the day, the Rectus is still our strongest flexor!

Exercises to target the rectus abdominis:  Roll Up, Rolling Like a Ball, Roll Over and for a challenge, Jack Knife, Corkscrew and all the Teasers.

For a detailed description of any of the exercises listed above, visit www.pilatesonfifth.com/video and find the applicable podcast!

All original Pilates, classical Pilates and contemporary Pilates workouts target the abdominal muscles, but it is up to you – especially if you attend a large class or do videos – to make sure you are keeping your belly button pinned to your spine to the best of your ability.  For two short workouts that target all these abdominal muscles (and more!) and really pack a punch, try Flat Abs in Fifteen or Arms & Core workout in the Strong, Svelte & Savvy Series on UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com!

April 29, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. 1 comment.