Tighter and Taller with CoreAlign® at Pilates on Fifth

I woke up this morning with a tingling tenderness striping my ribs as I curled up to muzzle my alarm. It had been awhile; a fair amount of time since I found myself greeted by evidence of effectively engaging my pectorals and the encompassing serratus anterior. This is partially due to my negligence of exercising the upper body, and consequently, the significant stabilizing muscles that support the shoulder periphery. Why? To be frank: I simply don’t like to. I admit that as a dancer I tend to train the lower body with a dueling interest and inclination for flow. I enjoy exercising with luscious continuity that leaves me feeling longer and leaner.

In between yesterday’s afternoon clients, Katherine and Kimberly Corp invited me to partake in a demo lesson on the studio’s newest contraption, Balanced Body’s CoreAlign. Pilates on Fifth was selected as the New York City headquarters for CoreAlign instructor training, as well as private sessions and group classes for the public. Katherine and Kimberly guided me through a series of gentle but exigent exercises that instantly stimulated the core abdominal and back muscle groups. With muscular firing patterns initiating at the gluteals and hamstrings, CoreAlign triggered an immediate and increased awareness of my backline. This neuromuscular strategy delivered a direct recovery of my alignment from head-to-toe. Moreover, CoreAlign paired postural maintenance with graceful and sinuous circular movements of the arms and legs that satisfied my appetite for fluidity and fun! It was a mere 30-minute taste of a holistic workout residual in the way I am walking and working throughout today.

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling tighter and taller, CoreAlign is an excellent fitness companion to clientele of all ages, levels, and lifestyles. Not only is CoreAlign is safely accessible to professional dancers and athletes, but also senior citizens, weekend warrior, post-operative rehabilitation and the usual Pilates devotee.

December 7, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, The Pilates Center of New York 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.

Pilates and the Secret to Flat Abs

Take a look in the mirror and turn to the side. Pull your naval to your spine as much as you can. (Make sure you don’t expand your ribcage while doing this, just pull your abs in as much as you can.) Is this the way you are doing your abdominal exercises? Or are you allowing the abs to “pop” and pushing out against the abdominal wall? If you want flat abs fast, then pull IN!! Note the two pictures: in Picture A, the subject is pulling in the abdominals. (Some books use the phrase “drawing in”.) Even during Hundreds, the abs remain “IN” with the belly button pinned to the front wall of the spine. Now look at Picture B. The same subject is demonstrating what pushing OUT against the abdominal wall looks like. Do you see the difference? Click here for our podcast on this topic!

Though the aesthetics of flat abs is what we all can see and understand, the real reason for “pulling in” the abdominals is to activate the Transversus Abdominis. The Transversus Abdominis is the deepest layer of the four abdominal muscles and its chief role is to protect the lumbar spine. The fibers of the Transversus Abdominis, or “TA”, run horizontally, encircling the torso like a corset. When engaged, it compresses the abdominal contents and provides support for the lower back. Unlike the three other abdominal muscles (from deepest to most superficial, the internal obliques, the external obliques, and the rectus abdominis), the Transversus Abdominis is a muscle of endurance, not a muscle of strength. Additionally, while the three more superficial muscles mobilize the spine into flexion, lateral flexion and rotation, the TA does not play a part in mobilizing the spine.

The Abdominal Muscles

The Abdominal Muscles

AAAAAAH! What does all this mean?! How do you know whether or not your TA is working? You watch for popping abs! Try this: the next time you are in your favorite Pilates mat class or doing your favorite Pilates DVD and you do the Hundreds, keep an eye on your abdominals (without over-flexing your neck, so glance down only periodically)! Can you keep your belly button pulled to your spine throughout the exercise? Or do your abs pop at some point? If your abs pop, your TA has stopped working.

How do you strengthen your Transversus Abdominis, get those flat abs you want AND protect your lower back in the process? More Pilates!! Actually, that’s not entirely true. Many exercises can become “flat ab exercises” now that you know about the star role of the TA. Remember, the TA is a muscle of ENDURANCE… so you can only increase its endurance (ability to contract over time) and not its strength. Thus, when you discover your abs have popped, you MUST go back to an easier version of the exercise, re-establish, and re-start. For example, if your abs pop halfway through the Hundreds, bend your knees and pull your belly button to the spine to re-establish the connection. Then, you can decide to keep them bent OR to straighten them again ONLY if you can keep the connection!!

So good luck, follow these steps… and say hello to FLAT ABS!

December 10, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates Posts. Leave a comment.

Get the most out of The Hundreds at any level!

We featured the Hundreds in our Pilates on Fifth/UltimatePilatesWorkouts video podcast (Episode 01) .  When we get questions about Pilates training and technique, questions about the Hundreds often come up.  If you are new to Pilates, you might be wondering what it’s all about.  Well, the goal of the Hundreds is to challenge abdominal endurance, specifically the Transversus Abdominis and obliques.  The objective is to keep the abdominal muscles flat (which is the REAL secret to flat abs) while keeping the head and shoulders off the mat and the legs extended on a diagonal.  While doing this, keep your belly-button pulled in tight and your spine and pelvis supported.  But if you can’t do The Hundreds with your legs straight without losing your abdominal connection, don’t fret!  There are many way to make The Hundreds easier… we can help!  Here are ways to make Hundreds more do-able.  Try these when you’re doing one of our FREE Pilates workouts online!
1)      Keep the knees bent
2)      Keep the legs down
3)      Keep the head down
4)      Keep the head and legs down
5)      Don’t do all 100 counts!!  Why not start at 50, or even 30, and then increase from there?

What should you do if your neck starts to hurt more than your abs doing Hundreds?? Then try modification #3.  If your lower back starts to hurt, try modification #1 or #2.   If you start out great, and then can’t seem to keep it all together, then try modification #5.  Remember, Rome was not built in a day!  Doing even a portion of The Hundreds every day will get you on your way to stronger abs, a flatter tummy, and better posture!

December 3, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.