MELT Your Body Workshop at Pilates on Fifth!!

Pilates on Fifth is proud to be hosting our first MELT Method workshop at our New York Pilates Studio on Monday, March 22 at 11am!  The MELT Method was created by Sue Hitzmann, and she and the MELT Method were just featured on LIVE with Regis & Kelly with resounding success.  View the clip of the presentation here (www.meltmethod.com).  The class will be held in our spacious, sunlit, penthouse Pilates studio from 11am-12:15pm.

Now you can experience  this amazing method for yourself!  Discover the benefits of MELT Your Body:

  • Prevent pain
  • Heal injury
  • Erase the negative effects of aging
  • Improve efficiency and performance
  • Reduce stress

Register in advance and save!!  Only $15 if you register in advance, $19 on the day of the workshop.  Purchase your spot in the workshop online here (link to http://shop.pilatesonfifth.com/category_s/36.htm) email us at workshops@pilatesonfifth.com or call 212-687-8610.  Space is limited, so register soon to reserve your spot.

Join advanced MELT instructor Karen Wells from Karen Wells Fitness.  Karen teaches at Georgia State University and has taught MELT to the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, the American Dance Festival, and Atlanta’s Several Dancers Core, just to name a few!  To learn more about MELT, go to www.meltmethod.com or check out www.facebook.com/karewellsfitness.

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March 5, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. 1 comment.

Programming for Results Workshop on February 17 at Pilates on Fifth, NYC!

The second annual Pilates Programming for Results Workshop was held at Pilates on Fifth in NYC on Wednesday, February 17.  We had a great group, all of whom are certified Pilates instructors interested in spicing up their routines.  As our NYC Pilates studio offers Pilates mat classes, Pilates Reformer & Chair Classes and well as private instruction in Pilates, we had a lively discussion about designing workouts for maximum effectiveness for each of these groups.

Pilates Reformer and Chair Class at Pilates on Fifth

August 2010 will mark the tenth anniversary of Pilates on Fifth, and over these ten years, Katherine & Kimberly have learned that programming successfully is the key not only to the clients’ progress, but to client retention as well.  It’s the delicate balance of the clients’ needs vs. their wants, the art of testing the threshold of their abilities without pushing too far, combined with the talent of making the workout both fun and effective at the same time.  We talked about how the different pieces of Pilates equipment relate to each other in terms of strength, coordination, stability and body awareness required, and we also highlighted the different attributes of each.

Danielle Russo, certified Pilates Instructor and Artistic Director of The Danielle Russo Dance Company, had the following to say about the workshop:

“Programming for Results pulls together everything you’ve gained as an Instructor with PAI, and applies it to the reality of client retention. With today’s reality of personal fitness and finance, it’s even more important to understand how to approach the field not only as an intelligent instructor, but as a business-person. You want to give your client a safe, smart and beneficial workout, and you want them to come back for more! This course helps you create a fitness program that will both foster healthful improvement for your client, as well as a loyal instructor-client network.”

Because of the fabulous reception, we will be holding another Programming for Results workshop on April 9, 2010.  Contact chie@pilatesonfifth.com for more information!

February 22, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

POSTURE ANALYSIS AND PILATES

This past weekend the Pilates Academy International held its very popular Anatomy, Biomechanics and Posture Analysis course at the Instructor Training headquarters at Pilates on Fifth in New York City.  The course was taught by Katherine Corp and Anna Hillengas, and was well received by the participants, a great group comprised of Pilates instructors and people who wish to become a Pilates instructor from New York, Philadelphia, Japan, Sydney and Spain.

My favorite part of the course is the Posture Analysis, as this is the point in the course where the somewhat “rote” memorization of anatomy and biomechanics comes to life in three dimension.   Suddenly the students discover their own postural abnormalities and can link their own posture to a muscle/group of muscles that are tight or loose, too-strong or too weak, or over/under-developed.  …And then there’s the “EUREKA!” moment, in which students realize WHY they’ve been having problems with a certain exercise or group of exercises.

Natural Curves of a Healthy Spine

Take, for instance, the case of excessive kyphosis of the thoracic spine.  While the thoracic spine is supposed to have a slight curve posteriorly (see picture right), the curve can become excessive, as in the picture below (see picture below).  In this type of posture, the muscles in the FRONT of the shoulder, the pectoralis major, minor, and anterior deltoids are usually tight, while the muscle in the back of the shoulder girdle, the middle & lower traps and the rhomboids, are usually long and weak as well.   The muscles in the back of the neck, the cervical extensors, however, will usually be tight.  While every case is unique, just by looking at the posture, you can assume that exercises like Breast Stroke and Swimming will be very difficult, if not impossible to perform with a great deal of success IN THEIR ORIGINAL PILATES FORM!  It is the job of the Pilates Instructor to find a way to work around the initial postural stumbling blocks so that clients can perform Pilates safely  (click here for our safety videos on Ultimate Pilates Workouts.com).  We suggest modifying exercises to start upright, or lying at the edge of a bed (or a Cadillac) to work the extensors just to bring the spine into a more neutral alignment.

Kyphosis

Curvature of the Lumbar Spine

Another example is the case of excessive lordosis of the lumbar spine.  Similar to kyphosis, the lumbar spine has a natural curve, but its curve is anterior (see picture right).  However, the curve can be excessive, as seen in the picture.  For these individuals, oftentimes the external obliques are usually weak, while the hip flexors are very tight.  In the back of the body, the hamstrings are relatively long while the erector spinae are short and tight.  People with lordosis who do Pilates have to be very careful with exercises like The Hundreds, Double Leg Stretch and Teaser, as it will be difficult for them to maintain a strong connection in their abdominal muscles against the weight of the legs.  We suggest starting with seated exercises like Half Roll Down or Obliques Roll Down, and doing supine exercises with the legs in the air with the legs in Table Top, or knees bent.  For more suggestions about Pilates exercises for Lordosis, we suggest you check out one of our Pilates Instruction Manuals or our training videos on Ultimate Pilates Workouts.com.

Vertical, Posterior Tilt and Anterior Tilt of the Pelvis

And finally, just not to leave any postural deviation out, there are those with the flat back posture.  These individuals distinctly do not have curvature in the lumbar spine, and the pelvis is in a posterior tilt as well (see picture left).   In terms of muscles, tight hamstrings are usually rampant, so don’t expect your client (or yourself, for that matter), to be able to sit right up on the sits bones with the legs outstretched in front…. It might not be possible!!  Be prepared to modify the start positions of all Pilates exercises that start seated with the legs straight, such as Spine Twist, Spine Stretch Forward, Saw, etc.  Additionally, the abs may be a little short and tight, so exercises such as Swan Dive, which involve full extension of the spine and lengthening of the abdominal muscles, may be challenging.

It’s actually easy to do a postural assessment on most people, but keep in mind that our abnormalities or affectations are not so big that it’s the first thing noticed.  Don’t try to make yourself (or your friends, for that matter), “fit” into one of the scenarios that we’ve included here.  We’ve mainly included them because it’s oftentimes much easier to understand something when you think of it in terms of extremes, and that’s what these cases are.  For example, Kimberly and I both have scoliosis (but our spines curve in opposite directions…), but it’s not so severe that it’s ever kept us from doing anything.  It merely explains why Katherine tends to roll to the right while doing Rolling Like a Ball, while Kimberly rolls to the left!

You, too can do a quick postural assessment that will help with your Pilates prowess.  In our search for pictures of different postural abnormalities/affectations, we came across a site that gave a how-to for postural assessments, and it’s quite thorough!  As we are not big fans of re-inventing the wheel, we just thought that we’d link to it!  Here is the link for “How do to a Standing Postural Assessment”: http://mindbodyfitness.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_to_do_a_standing_static_postural_assessment.

In a final note, learning Posture Analysis gives people watching a whole new meaning!!  Try sitting at a Starbucks and doing a quick posture analysis on by passersby, or even a postural analysis on the person standing in front of you at the bank or at the supermarket……  Happy watching!

January 27, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

PILATES ADVANCED CHAIR EXERCISES

Kimberly & Katherine recently taught the PAI’s Advanced Chair Course, Chair Progressions & Challenge to a group of fabulous Pilates instructors here at our Pilates studio in NYC.  This was an in-house course for our newer and most promising instructors.  For Katherine & Kimberly, it was an absolute blast to teach, and the instructors thoroughly enjoyed it as well.  We currently have quite a few Pilates Reformer & Chair classes on the schedule at the studio, and so now participants can anticipate even more exciting variety with new chair exercises being introduced in almost every class.

Handstand 3 with Haley

(continued)

Pilates Chairs today have all been developed from Joseph Pilates original design of the Wunda Chair.  All chairs have a platform, with a pedal to which springs attach to either support body weight or create resistance.  Joseph Pilates original chair also double as actual furniture.  Click here for more information.

Torso Press Sitting 5 with Chie

(continued)

Advanced Chair exercises are a FABULOUS way to increase strength and power training in a Pilates workout.  Because chair exercises involve lifting your own body weight and a lot of isometric contractions, your heart rate escalates…. And we know what that means… more calories burned!!!  A skilled instructor can pace the workout appropriately, infusing chair exercises throughout to keep the heart rate at an elevated level throughout the workout.

Side Leg Extension with Katherine

Anyone interested in Pilates for upper body strength will LOVE the chair, as there are great exercises for the triceps, pecs, deltoids and shoulder girdle stabilizers.  The one arm push up, hand on chair is an excellent triceps exercise (and pec!), and the Twist does wonders for the deltoids and the shoulder girdle stabilizers.

We always get questions about the best abdominal exercises and best core strengthening exercises… Enter the Chair! Exercises like Tendon Stretch, Single Leg Extension and Handstand are AMAZING for both abdominal strength and core strength. More importantly, they work your body in different planes of motion, with forces coming from a different plane than usual, giving your neuromuscular system an extra workout as well!

Tendon Stretch with Kimberly

If you have a chair & don’t yet know the advanced exercises for the Pilates chair, visit www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com.  From the shopping cart, you can download full Pilates Chair Workouts or download Pilates Teacher Training Videos on the Pilates Chair.  For a monthly subscription, you can enjoy anytime, anywhere online Pilates workouts on the chair.  In the not too distant future, we’ll be focusing our energies on a “Build a Workout” feature, with blocks of exercises on all Pilates equipment, including the Pilates chair, that can be mixed and matched to create your own unique workout.

And don’t forget that for free Pilates workouts online simply sign up at www.ultimatepilateworkouts.com as a Basic Member and the Pilates videos will stream directly from your computer!

January 22, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. 1 comment.

PILATES AND MUSCLE CONFUSION

One of our viewers recently wrote in, asking us if the principles of muscle confusion can be applied to Pilates.  Programs like P90X have soared in popularity due to the emphasis on Muscle Confusion, and their practitioners have seen amazing results. “Muscle Confusion”, most basically, is derived from two training principles:  the Specificity of Training Principle and the Overload Principle. Both of these principles can be applied to Pilates so that you will continue to reap all the benefits, including flat abs fast, lean legs and a lifted butt, and a stronger core.

The Specificity of Training Principle states that the body will adapt to the specific demand that is placed on it.  If you’re a Pilates beginner, it may take a while for your body to adapt to the new exercises you’ve given it, which is a good thing!  You won’t hit an exercise plateau as quickly as someone who is already fit.  However, once you’re able to do the Pilates exercises correctly in your class, while you will maintain your current level of fitness if you keep doing your Pilates workout in the same way, in the same order, etc., you will not necessarily get stronger and stronger.  This is where the Overload Principle comes into play.

The Overload Principle states that to continually adapt, the body must be placed under a stress that exceeds the body’s current capabilities.  In other words, with Pilates exercises, one must continually work at his/her own edge as opposed to work in the range that’s comfortable.  (That’s why your instructor is continually cueing you to pull in your abs more, to work more deeply, etc.)  This is also why certain exercises should always feel hard!  For example, once your body adapts to “The Hundreds” with your legs bent, you can then straighten the legs, and then proceed to lower them from there…. get it?  And with an exercise like “The Teaser“, the possibilities abound!  Most Pilates exercises can be made either more difficult or more intense relatively simply.

Upon researching more about Muscle Confusion online, we found two interesting articles, one for and one against the idea of muscle confusion.  Both have useful tips you can use (or not use!) in your teaching of Pilates.  One article (http://www.articlesbase.com/muscle-building-articles/how-the-muscle-confusion-principle-can-maximize-your-workouts-911684.html) LOVES the idea of muscle confusion, stating that even if your goal is NOT to build muscle, (and most Pilates enthusiasts are avoiding muscle bulk) you will achieve your goals much faster applying the muscle confusion principles.  On the other hand, the following article (http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Biggest-Muscle-Building-Fallacy-in-Bodybuilding&id=553415) scoffs at the over-emphasis on muscle confusion, pointing out (very convincingly) that if you do not allow your body time to give your brain valuable feedback, then you can’t really accomplish anything.  We agree!  You need to know where you are to really know where you want to go.  Be patient!

So, what’s the final answer?  YES! You absolutely can apply the principles of muscle confusion to Pilates workouts as well, of course dependent upon the type of Pilates that you are doing.  If you are going to a studio where the lesson is exactly the same every time, then, as you pointed out in your email, your body will adapt and eventually plateau to the extent that you stop seeing results.  However, if you are continually varying your Pilates workouts and routines, focusing on different muscle groups AND increasing the difficulty level appropriately, then you have effectively introduced the principle of muscle confusion and thus made it impossible for your body to adapt!  But remember, whether doing Pilates online or in a studio, you don’t want to change things up too quickly!!  Give your body enough time to give you valuable feedback.

For those of you who are utilizing our website for Pilates online, www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com, we recommend balancing your workouts between total body workouts and targeted workouts, such that are found in the Strong, Svelte & Savvy Series.  If you were to do one of the longer total body workouts on one day, and one of the targeted workouts for arms, legs, butt, back, etc., on alternate days, and then throw in some cardio 2-3 times a week, your muscles would be confused, but balanced and happy as well!  Keep the same Pilates training routine for 2-3 weeks, then increase the difficulty.

Incorporating props is another way to keep your muscles COMPLETELY confused!  The stability ball, foam roller and BOSU(R) will introduce new challenges with both core stability and strength, while the Pilates Ring and Stretch Band can be used to intensify the workload of certain muscle groups and simulate the Pilates equipment, respectively.  It’s all about how you put everything together!!

The bottom line is, even if you find a Pilates video or Pilates DVD that you love, don’t do the same one all the time!!  Our site has over 25 free mat workouts, so we encourage people to try different ones so that different muscle groups are continually being worked and challenged, and new exercises are continually being introduced.  Our new Pilates iphone app (debuting soon!!) will have workout plans included, so follow one of those for great success!

January 15, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. 1 comment.

The New Year and Resolutions

Happy New Year!!!

Now is the time of year that everyone flocks back to the gym, the personal trainer, the Pilates class, or the yoga studio after weeks, or even months of abandoning the regular “routine”.  At our Pilates studio, we too are jumping on the Resolution bandwagon with the implementation & promotion of “Fit & Fabulous in 50 Days!”, assuming, of course that 50 days would be about the time it takes to make a lifestyle change.  Actually, it’s very easy to resolve to make a change, either by deleting or adding something to our lifestyle, but how easy is it to MAKE the change?

Well, we decided to do a little poking around, and we found a number of sources that stated, and with a great deal of “authority” at that, that it takes 21 to 28 days to change a habit.  By this logic, if all of us can just stick with our new routines, whatever they may be, until January 31 or so, then we’ll have no problem keeping our resolutions until the end of the year.   …Yeah, right!  We all know that it’s not so easy!!

So, we continued to search for other articles about habits, and habit forming, and we came across this one (click here!) We highly suggest that you read it, but this article sites a study in which it took some participants UP TO 245 DAYS to change their habits!!!!  The average was around 66 days.  Well, if 66 is the average, then maybe we’re not too far off with our 50 day plan!

At our studio, because we offer not only Pilates (Pilates mat classes and Pilates Reformer classes, yay!), but also XTEND™, CARDIOLATES®, GYROTONIC®, and ActivCore, we figure we have enough in one location to keep even the most ardent sufferers of ADD satisfied and entertained!  Couple that with the whole idea of muscle confusion that has become popular, and our New Year’s Resolution plan should really kick off the New Year right!!

We’re actually looking for 10-12 people who want to be case studies at our Manhattan Pilates studio!  If you are interested, please send an email to projects@pilatesonfifth.com and please put PILATES NYC in the subject line!!

THANK YOU!!

Katherine & Kimberly

January 6, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

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!!

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

Why We Love Props For Pilates

yespilateshundredswithband-articleFrom exercise bands to BoSUs to stability balls, props can add challenges, assistance or variety to a regular Pilates workout.  The right prop can make a hard exercise easier and a simple exercise extremely challenging! Targeted use of props can also help spice things up for clients who have been practicing Pilates for years and need a little pizzazz thrown into their workout.

So why do we love props?  The first reason is simple and perhaps the most important: props help facilitate the proper execution of an exercise. They help clients achieve neutral, fire into the “right” muscle group and activate dormant muscles that have not been doing their job!  Pads and cushions help clients begin an exercise in as close to neutral alignment as possible, which is essential for a biomechanically correct, pain-free Pilates practice.  We would not survive at our New York studio without pads to place under clients’ heads to bring the cervical spine into proper alignment when supine or cushions for them to sit on to bring the pelvis into neutral.  Pilates Rings and Small Balls between the ankles or knees on certain exercises can help engage inactive inner thigh muscles and help clients deepen their abdominal contraction.  Arc Barrels or BoSUs can be effective teaching tools for prone spinal or hip extension exercises.  Placing the lumbar spine in flexion on the barrel helps deactivate the often over-active erector spinae of the lower back and can help clients isolate the erector spinae of the upper back or activate the hip extensors without going into lumbar extension.

Second, props help build the strength or awareness necessary to perform the “real” exercise properly.  The original Pilates exercises are fabulous and effective on their own, but some people just can’t do them right….yet!  Props can be the stepping stone a client needs to succeed in a Pilates mat environment.   The “Roll Over,” for instance, can be challenging for many individuals who lack either abdominal strength or spinal flexibility (or both)!  By performing the “Roll Over” on an Arc Barrel and beginning with the hips elevated, the client can build the strength necessary to execute the exercise properly without using momentum and jeopardizing the lower back.  Similarly, for those with tight lower backs (such as the authors here), the “Roll Up” can be absolutely lovely holding a 4 lb mini-body bar.  Of course one needs to be careful with the shoulder girdle given the extra weight, but this little bit of extra weight adds leverage where it is needed to assist with articulation of the spine through the tight spot.  As another example, those clients seeking to transition from “Hundreds” with bent knees to “Hundreds” with straight legs but still find maintaining a strong imprint challenging benefit from using an exercise band around the feet.  The band helps support the weight of the legs, and thus allows the abdominal muscles to build the strength necessary to maintain imprint, protect the lower back and support the lower body simultaneously.

Finally, we love props because they introduce muscle confusion training into a Pilates mat workout, which helps any body get more out of their Pilates routine.  Simply put, the muscle confusion training principle states that muscles adapt to a specific type of stress and need to be challenged in varied ways in order to continue experiencing results.  Muscles improve from being subjected to new and different stresses and challenges which is exactly what props can provide.  Athletes cross train for this very reason, as the body benefits overall from allowing certain muscles fibers to rest and others to engage.  Moreover, incorporating props into a Pilates workout can help prevent the well-known plateau effect and even boost clients over a “road block” that keeps them from progressing.  Use of props can kick up the intensity of the workout quite effectively without placing undue strain on the body.  In fact, research shows that something as simple as performing a bench press on a stability ball is 62% more effective than a bench press with the same weight conducted on a regular bench.  (Source)

Pilates props with Katherine and Kimberly CorpFurthermore, muscles performing the same action day after day “get bored” just as clients get bored with the same workout!  Varying a workout ensures that clients continue to see results and stay interested.  Pilates enthusiasts who regularly work out on the Pilates equipment already benefit from the muscle confusion training practice as integrating all equipment into sessions over the course of a week or month allows muscles to perform in different ways each workout.  Thus, just as “Side Bends” activates different muscles groups on the Ladder Barrel, Cadillac and Mat, so to does “the Hundreds” challenge the body in different ways using the Stretch Band, the BoSU and the Pilates Ring.  Focusing on different muscle groups and adding variety will not only enhance core stability, but also turn your Pilates routine into a fabulous cross-training program, which will improve your overall fitness and decrease your risk of injury.  (Source)

With all the props available today, one can quickly become overwhelmed when deciding which props to choose. Is your goal to challenge your client?  Help her do an exercise correctly?  Target his core?  Facilitate better alignment?  Knowing the merits of each prop and which ones best suit your clientele’s objectives is the first step to integrating props successfully into your Pilates workouts.  We have included a chart below to highlight the various benefits, but please keep in mind that the categories are exercise specific!  The exercise band, for example, can assist the “Roll Up” but challenge the “Double Leg Stretch.”  Also, one very dangerous trap to fall into is watching others use props and then copying them in your sessions.  Never EVER use clients as guinea pigs!  Incorporating a prop often changes the emphasis of the exercise, so be sure to try the exercise with the prop first before teaching it to an unsuspecting client.

In conclusion, we offer three basic rules of thumb to follow with regard to incorporating props into Pilates workouts.  First, choose a prop with a specific goal in mind for the client or class you are teaching.  (In other words, do not choose a prop because you, personally, are bored and need some entertainment!)  Second, remember that most clients can focus on one thing at one time.  Thus, multiple props used simultaneously tend to destroy — rather than enhance — the integrity of the exercise.  Though the picture to the right is humorous, you clearly want to avoid this scenario with your clients.  Finally, because props do change the original exercise a bit, be mindful of what is gained — and what could be compromised — with the addition of a prop.  Shoulder Bridge on the BoSU, for example, helps activate the core because of the instability, but the hamstrings may cramp because of the increased effort required to stabilize.

Pilates Props Table

The Pilates repertoire has not only withstood the test of time, it continues to impress and amaze both the fitness and medical worlds with its benefits.  Make sure to honor this system with thoughtful use of props that enhance the client’s overall Pilates experience.

June 26, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. 1 comment.

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.

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

Know your Anatomy and Become a Pilates Instructor Who’s in demand!!

kinesiology and pilatesA myriad of skills are required to be a highly skilled Pilates instructor, and one of the most important is a strong foundation in anatomy and biomechanics.  Rock-solid knowledge of anatomy will not only help you excel in your Pilates instructor training program, but also enable you to design more effective workouts, work with minor aches and pains, and address sports specific concerns.  With an arsenal of Pilates exercises on hand that target each muscle, you have all you need to serve you and all your clients’ needs!

Studying anatomy initially can be a little boring (it can seem like rote memorization), but whatever you do, don’t just memorize!!  The best way to learn anatomy while you are going through your Pilates instructor training program is to pick one muscle at a time, and then start moving! Find the exercises that target the muscle you want to “memorize“, and then do each Pilates exercise, concentrating on the muscle being worked.  The combination of the kinesthetic awareness with the visualization of the muscle will change your entire outlook on learning anatomy and biomechanics!  You’ll learn quickly, more effectively and more efficiently….and you’ll remember it too!

Thus, when your clients come in and tell you that their shoulder is bothering them, sore, achy, untoned…. whatever, you first know what questions to ask to pinpoint the possible source of the pain.  Does it hurt to reach forward?  Behind?  Out to the side?  From their answer, you must quickly decide (with your client’s feedback, of course) whether it is best to avoid that joint all together or find safe ways to address it.  The good news:  because you have spent so much time practicing your Pilates exercises while thinking of the muscles being used, you will know from your own experience which Pilates exercises will best target or avoid the muscle in question.  You can further strut your stuff by giving your clients two or three ways to target the muscle in question by addressing different planes of movement and different actions of the muscle.  And if you have a studio full of Pilates equipment, then you have even more ways to utilize your knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics with all the offerings that the Pilates Reformer, Pilates Cadillac and Pilates Chair afford.

June 17, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

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