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.

Katherine and Kimberly Corp on Ella Speakes!

Kimberly and Katherine Corp were guests on the Ella Speakes show on Monday, January 11, 2009.  They spoke about Pilates on Fifth and what is was like to own a small business in 2009, complete with the challenges and opportunities for growth and change that 2009 did provide.  You can find more information about her radio show, which is broadcast in the Oklahoma City area, at this link: http://radiotime.com/program/p_124073/Ella_Speakes.aspx .

Ella is one of the most gracious hosts we’ve worked with, and she generously informed her listeners of not only our studio, Pilates on Fifth, and our Pilates video podcast, but also our Ultimate Pilates Workouts website. We were able to speak in detail about everything our Pilates workouts site has to offer, and especially how to do Pilates correctly as well as Pilates for beginners.  We highlighted Pilates exercise routines such as the Pilates Morning Low Back Care Workout, My First Pilates Workout for Pilates beginners, as well as the Pilates Pink Ribbon workout, for survivors of breast cancer.  We stressed that the sort function on the site allows users to sort not only by duration, but also by LEVEL.  If you’re doing Pilates at home, you can select the level that’s completely right for you!

Finally, we encouraged Ella’s listeners to utilize our podcasts so that they know if they’re doing an exercise correctly.  From our podcasts page, look on the right side of the page for the list of exercises that have been covered.  From there, just look for the name of the exercise that you’d like to review!  It’s really that simple.

Ella was also kind enough to encourage her listeners to send in their testimonials, and even send us “before” pictures so that once you’ve embarked on your Pilates journey, you can follow it up with a fantabulous “after” picture with a story of your Pilates experience!  Feel free to friend us on facebook or send us an email at info@ultimatepilatesworkouts.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Many, many thanks to Ella Speakes for having us on her fabulous show!

January 12, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . 1, ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

The Tensor Fasciae Latae: new Starbucks drink or important muscle of the hip?

Side Clam and Book PilatesFirst of all, we’re joking!  To hear the correct pronunciation of this important muscle of the hip, click here! The correct pronunciation is fash-ē-ē-lā-tē or fash-ē-ə-lā-tə, not “LATTE” as in the coffee drink!  (But don’t you think it would make a GREAT name for a new coffee concoction?)

WePosterior View of Hip Muscles promise to finish our discussion of the gluteus medius and its importance in ground reaction force, but first, we’ll discuss the cousin of the gluteals, the tensor fasciae latae or “TFL.”  The TFL is part of the “gluteal group” of muscles and literally, the name “tensor fasciae latae” means “tensor of the fascia lata.”  Well, that’s not very helpful now, is it?!  Generally speaking, the muscle originates on the iliac crest and the outer portion of the ASIS and inserts into the iliotibial band (click here to read more.)  The tensor fasciae latae abducts the femur and assists with medial rotation and flexion of the hip.  Also, it stabilizes the pelvis on the head of the femur and through its insertion on the iliotibial band, stabilizes the femur on the tibia.

NAnterior View of Hip Musclesow here’s the catch:  when the thigh abducts, the gluteus medius should fire first and the tensor fasciae latae second.  However, in many cases, the tensor fasciae latae fires before the gluteus medius, which simply means the gluteus medius is not doing its job (more on this later!)  Also, though the tensor fasciae latae assists in medially rotating the femur, it should not be the ONLY medial rotator of the femur!  The adductors, specifically adductors brevis and longus and the upper portion of adductor magnus, assist with medial rotation of the femur yet are grossly underused by most of the population.  (More on the adductors later this week!)

EPosterior View of Gluetus maximus and Gluteus mediusxercise bands, small balls and Pilates rings are excellent ways to target both the abductors and hte adductors in the same workout.  Try “Tighten and Tone“, “Sculpt and Shape“, “Stretch and Strengthen” and the “Small Ball Toning Workout” on www.ultimatepilatesoworkouts.com.  For individual exercises, try Episode 112 “Side Lying Clam and Book” or any of our exercises such as Half Roll Down or Half Roll Down with Obliques squeezing the Pilates Ring or a small ball between your knees.

July 13, 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.

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!!

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

Golfers find better posture through Pilates, part 3

golf-pilates-posture-311Adding on to our week long investigation of the set-up of the golf swing and common problems to avoid, we’ll highlight another common problem and show you how Pilates can help.

PGA certified golf instructor and certified Pilates instructor Rick Nielsen cites “sitting in the set-up” as another habit that essentially kills all hope for a good swing!

As stated in Part 1 of our Golf and Pilates series, in the set-up position, “the knees should be slightly bent…”  So don’t squat!  Sitting in the set-up position displaces the body’s weight backwards, thus the relationship of your body to the ball is altered, as the picture below shows.

golf-pilates-posture-321The exercises we described last time – the Spine Twist, the Spine Stretch Forward and the Saw – are excellent choices here as well, as all three exercises bring awareness to spinal movement and proper posture.  To conquer the sitting habit, try this:

1.    Stand with your back against a stability ball against a wall, so the ball is between you and the wall.  The ball should be placed roughly at your lower back.  Take a step forward with each foot so that your feet are not directly under you.

2.    Inhale, pull in your abdominal muscles and bend your knees to no more than 90 degrees of flexion, keeping the spine perfectly straight.

3.    Exhale, extend your knees to return to the starting position.

You may be thinking, “how will this teach me NOT to sit?”  This exercise helps build awareness of squatting, as most golfers who have the habit of squatting don’t even realize they are doing it!

Did you feel your core muscles engage doing this ball exercise?  Most likely, the answer is yes!  Well, that is because the ball helps you remain vertical when you bend your knees so that your core muscles engage naturally.  When you perform a typical squat, you have no choice but to stick your backside out and lean forward so that you don’t lose your balance.

Interested in longer workouts?  Try the “Get on the Ball” Workout for more great ball exercises or “Meet Your Core” for great core strengthening workouts using the BOSU from UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com!  And if you’re interested in a golf lesson, don’t call us!  Contact Rick Nielsen at PowerGolfPilates.net.

April 15, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

Golfers find better posture through Pilates, part 2

power-golf-pilates-1Yesterday we showed you “ideal” alignment in the set-up of the golf swing.  Today, we’ll discuss one of the most common errors that negatively impact the success of the swing:  rounding the shoulders and the spine.

“Most golfers bend from the waist instead of the hip sockets due to lack of body awareness and the inability to physically do it,” says our favorite Golf and Pilates expert Rick Nielsen.  “The hip girdle and spine should be tilted forward about 25 degrees to allow the arms to hang freely and the club to move around the spine in a predictable manner.”

Rick suggests holding a golf club at your back to keep the spine straight before and then leaning forward from the hip socket.  “Of course your entire spine will not stay in contact with the club due to the spine’s natural curves,” says Rick, “but doing this can tell you if you are rounding your spine.”

The below picture shows proper set-up:

power-golf-pilates-2Not only does setting up with rounded shoulders and a rounded spine take the body out of the optimal alignment needed for a good swing, it could also lead to injury.  Rotating the spine abruptly with the spine flexed (rounded) instead of straight is more damaging to the discs and the surrounding musculature.

To build body awareness and strengthen appropriate muscle groups, try the following exercises:

1.    The Spine Twist:  This original Pilates exercise will teach you to keep your hips completely still and just rotate the spine. This will strengthen the deep muscles that stabilize the spine and build awareness of the ribcage and the hips as independently moving parts.

2.    The Spine Stretch Forward:  This original Pilates exercise takes you from a straight spine to a flexed spine and then back to a straight spine again…all using the abdominal muscles instead of gravity!  This is a great choice for those of you who may not know your spine is rounded to begin with!

3.    The Saw:  This original Pilates exercise combines flexion (rounding) of the spine with rotation, building abdominal strength and body awareness.

For all of the above exercises, it may be necessary to sit up on a cushion or pad if the hamstrings or hip flexors are tight.  The most important part of these exercises is to perform them from an optimal starting position, which means the spine should be as straight as possible.  It is ok to perform these exercises sitting in a chair as well!  (Hint….you could probably sneak some of these in at work!)

Interested in longer workouts?  Try the “My First Pilates Workout” or “Technique and Fundamentals” workout from UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com!  And if you’re interested in a golf lesson, don’t call us!  Contact Rick Nielsen at PowerGolfPilates.net.

April 13, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . 1. Leave a comment.

Can Pilates help reduce cellulite?

small-ball-toning-workoutThough Pilates was designed to re-align the body and re-balance muscle groups, many people — namely women — use Pilates for vanity!  From sculpted arms to toned abs to tighter hips and buttocks, Pilates definitely helps prepare the body for bikini weather!

But many people seek to “spot tone” and accomplish cellulite reduction in specific areas.  At our New York studio, second only to questions about weight loss, women ask “will my cellulite go away?”  Unfortunately, spot toning is not possible with Pilates or any other exercise system.  Cellulite reduction occurs only with fat loss.

Factors that contribute to one’s susceptibility to cellulite development are gender, race, age and body composition.  Women are more prone to cellulite development than men.  This is due to structural differences in the connective tissue that lie below the skin in men and women.  If you think of connective tissue as fish net stockings lying under the top layer of skin, men have smaller squares per inch in their fish net stockings, and the “netting” is thicker and lies more horizontal to the skin’s surface.  On the other hand, in women, the squares are larger, the netting is thinner and the strands of the netting lie vertical to the skin’s surface.  Thus, more fat breaks through the squares and produces the dimpling effect on the skin’s surface.

Moreover, studies have shown that caucasian women are more susceptible to cellulite development, whereas African American and Asian women are less susceptible.  Just as darker skin tones — those with more melanin — display a stronger resistance to UV rays, so to do darker skin tones show more resistance to cellulite development.  As the levels of melanin, and thus skin tones, can vary greatly among caucasians, an individual’s susceptibility to cellulite development will depend on genetic make-up.  The more an individual tans naturally, the more melanin in their body, and the more resistant to cellulite development they naturally are.  Redheads with blue eyes have the least amount of melanin in their bodies, while African American women with dark eyes have the most.

Next, the natural process of aging causes a decrease in firmness of the skin.  The older one is, the more susceptible they are to cellulite development.  Research indicates that most women start noticing cellulite most after the age of thirty.  This should not be new information to anyone, as wrinkles start to appear “suddenly” after age 30 as well.

Finally, body composition plays a part in cellulite development.  Bodies with a lower body fat percentage will be less susceptible to cellulite because the fat simply is not there!  Increasing your body’s lean mass (or increasing muscle tone) will not only help that percentage, but also increase the body’s metabolism, or capacity to burn more calories, even when the body is at rest.

Pilates helps increase muscle tone, so in a very indirect way, yes, Pilates can help.  But if your goal is to rid yourself of unsightly cellulite, you must do more than Pilates.  Both engaging in cardiovascular activity and consuming a sensible diet are key components that can not be overlooked.  As you know, we recommend CARDIOLATES, but any physical activity that elevates the heart rate is effective.

Losing overall body fat and increasing overall muscle tone will help you lose the unwanted cellulite!  So keep up with your Pilates, take a brisk walk a day and watch what you eat!

April 7, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Distinguishing good pain from bad pain in Pilates

spine-twistAs Pilates instructors, addressing a client’s questions regarding a sensation they are feeling in their body presents a challenge — and a dilemma. Sometimes, a muscle is working, which is “good pain,” but other times, pain is not at all good. So how do we answer?

We would love to be able to enter our clients’ bodies for that instant to evaluate whether the pain is good or bad, but alas, we can not! Thus it is important for Pilates practitioners to learn to distinguish good pain from bad pain.

If you are sitting down reading this, contract your gluteus maximus muscles (the ones you are sitting on) and hold the contraction until you start to feel the muscles tiring. (If you have an injury in your low back, sacrum or hips, please do not do this.) This is typically considered “good pain,” as it is the sensation you get from a muscle working. It is often referred to as “muscle burn.”

For a relatively safe example of bad pain, take your ring finger and gently pull it back towards your wrist until you experience discomfort. In most cases, because this joint does not have a lot of flexibility, you quickly feel discomfort and know instinctively that you should stop.

The difficulty in discerning the good pain from the bad pain in Pilates arises from practitioners experiencing bad pain and thinking it is good pain. They don’t want to give up or complain, so they continue exercising. One of the most common examples of this is neck pain in a Pilates session. Because many Pilates exercises require you to lift your head off the mat, the muscles in your neck must engage as well as the abdominal muscles. Many clients experience muscle fatigue in their necks quickly, and if they do not rest, this can turn into muscle strain.

Learning for yourself what is good pain and bad pain in your body is very important. Feeling your muscles working is normal, but feeling discomfort is not! If you have trouble distinguishing between the two, please discuss this with your Pilates instructor. Also, following a workout, delayed onsent muscle soreness is normal, so feeling sore the next day is not a cause for alarm.

Those of you at home doing workout videos, be careful about turning your head to watch the television while exercising! This is a recipe for neck pain!

April 6, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Key to the Core II: Core is more about just the Abdominal Muscles

core-strengthThe other day we googled “Pilates and lower back pain”, expecting to find a myriad of articles about how Pilates helps alleviate lower back pain.  To our surprise, the article which really captured attention was titled, “Is Pilates Bad for your Back?” (click here for the entire article with comments.) Most of us know that if Pilates is done incorrectly, then it may exacerbate lower back pain, but this article delved further, into Pilates’ emphasis on the role of the Transversus Abdominis and Multifidus.

When we first read the article, our initial reaction was a bit of incredulousness, as we thought that surely Pilates instructors both realize the importance of the full gamut of core muscles and cue accordingly, but the writers of this article seem convinced that Pilates instructors ONLY cue the transversus abdominis.  NOT SO, we say!!  Let’s face it, can you do ANYTHING just by engaging your transversus abdominis and deep pelvic floor muscles?  Aside from “drawing in” your abs and drawing up your pelvic floor muscles (as in Kegel exercises), the answer is unequivocally “no!”, as neither the Transversus Abdominis nor Pelvic Floor Muscles have any directional pull on bones.  They are muscles of endurance and contract tonically.

Now, as Pilates instructors, we all get in the habit of cueing the Transversus Abdominis, Obliques and Pelvic Floor Muscles in lieu of the Rectus Abdominis, Gluteus Maximus and other musculature because oftentimes our clients are often overusing those muscles anyway.  They simply don’t need to be cued…. that doesn’t mean they are not needed to perform the exercise!  Take the core challenge test, which we featured in our first, Key to the Core Blog (9/14/2008), and try to use ONLY your Transversus Abdominis and Pelvic Floor Muscles…. IMPOSSIBLE!!

There are quite a few AMAZING articles about core strength on the internet, so we could not possibly highlight all of them at once.  So, we’ll start with one of the more popular sites, about.com.  They feature a GREAT article on core strength, entitled, “Core Training -Good Core Training Takes More Than Ab Exercise” (click here to read article.) Once again, we encourage you to read the whole article, but, in summary, this article supports the concept that pure core stability consists of not only strengthening the core abdominal muscles, but also strengthening the muscles that improve the functional coordination of the spine, the pelvis and the hips.  Specifically, in addition to the abdominal muscles, multifidus and erector spinae, the writer mentions the hip flexors (yes, all of them), the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus,  the hip adductors, the hamstrings, and piriformis.  The article states “In other words,

“the goal of core stability is to maintain a solid, foundation and transfer energy from the center of the body out to the limbs.”  Fiona Troup, a physiotherapist and qualified Pilates instructor at the Sports & Spinal Clinic, Harley Street, quoted in the first article, concurs, stating, “a strong back means a combination of strong muscles in the buttocks, spinal area and shoulders not just a well-developed core area”.

So, with this new knowledge, as you’re doing your Pilates workouts, think not only of the muscles of the abdomen, but also all the surrounding musculature, working on balancing the muscle groups and creating a well-functioning body with a strong core as well as strong hips, shoulders, arms and legs!!  We recommend “Power and Precision Mat Workouts 30 or 45 minutes,” “Challenge Your Core Reformer Workout,” and “Power Chair Workout” on Ultimate Pilates Workouts (www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com)!

April 3, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

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