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.

Pilates lovers: challenge your core with this core strength test

core_challenge_small2If you’re a Pilates instructor or an avid Pilates practitioner, you most likely think you have a really strong core.  We certainly did!  So we searched the internet for a “core strength test” to prove our power.  What an eye-opener!  The test explained below and the video link provided shows you what we found.

Joseph Pilates did not invent this test, nor did we.  This three minute test was designed by Brian Mackenzie, a British sports conditioning coach.  We have videotaped it so that you don’t have to stare at a clock or a watch the whole time (although watching the second hand slowly make its way around the clock three times does add enhance the enjoyment facor as you can imagine!)  Hopefully our cues for proper positioning will help you out as well.  If you’re at work and can’t watch the video, the “test” proceeds as follows:

Elbow Plank (as pictured) for 1 minute
Lift one arm for 15 seconds
Lift opposite arm for 15 seconds
Lift one leg for 15 seconds
Lift opposite leg for 15 seconds
Lift arm and opposite leg for 15 seconds
Reverse, lifting other arm and opposite leg for 15 seconds
Return to the elbow plank for the final 30 seconds

That’s it!  If you feel your back starting to arch (which those of you who are slightly anteriorly tilted in the pelvs — like us — may find happens), you must bend your knees and rest for a few seconds before continuing.  And for that matter, if you experience any other discomfort, REST!  You have plenty of time to work up to the full three minutes.

One final but very important note:  WE’RE NOT PERFECT!  In fact, given our body types (anteriorly tilted pelvis), this test was extremely challenging, and we could not do the whole thing the first time we tried it.  For instance, in the video, I say “keep your shoulders level” and lamentably, mine are not level, though I am trying!

A strong core has been shown to benefit people in all activities from golfers to runners, from new moms to senior citizens.  Take your time with this test and remember:  core strength is a journey!  Enjoy the journey!

April 22, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . 1, 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 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.

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.

Pilates and breathing, part 2

rolling_like_a_ball_small1Yesterday we looked at the muscles responsible for breathing.  Today we will discuss how the Pilates technique encourages one to breathe.

We learned that the diaphragm moves up and down — down for the inhale to suction the air into the lungs and up for the exhale to expel the air from the lungs.  Since air goes into the lungs, the only part of the body that needs to expand on the inhalation is the lungs.

Thus, the Pilates technique encourages keeping the abdominal muscles contracted throughout the exercises for both inhales and exhales.  Instead of allowing the abdominal cavity to expand — as you might in “belly breathing” as often encouraged in yoga — imagine the air filling the lower lobes of the lungs.  Breathing in this way expands the side and back of the ribs.

To help understand this, place your hands on the sides of your ribs with the fingers wrapped toward the back, thumbs down.  Now inhale and feel your ribs expand sideways, without letting your ribs pop out to the front or your abdominals inflate with air.  Also, don’t let your shoulders rise!  If this does not come naturally at first (as it did not with me at all) don’t despair.  With practice, this becomes easier and more natural.  Then exhale, and feel your ribs close again, like an accordian being compressed from each side to push the music (air).

As you work on breathing, please remember first and foremost that oxygen is necessary for exercise!  If you find the breathing confusing and find it creating stress and tension, then breathe comfortably.  Give yourself time to implement this breathing style naturally so that you continue to enjoy your Pilates workouts.

Our Ultimate Pilates Workouts site has a free technique video just on breathing, so if you would like more information, we suggest you watch this video!  Also, start with simple Pilates exercises such as the Half Curl and the Half Swan to perfect your breathing technique before moving on to more challenging exercises.  Rolling Like a Ball is another great exercise for practicing “side and back of the rib” breathing as the shape of the body makes it easier to visualize.

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

CARDIOLATES®: A smart way to add cardiovascular exercise to your workout regime

reboundingWe all know cardiovascular exercise is essential for both the health of our hearts and the maintenance of lean body mass. But most of us hate it!  Over the years, we have gone back and forth with a love/hate relationship to cardio exercise, sometimes forcing ourselves to do it.  Not surprisingly, many of our clients at Pilates on Fifth expressed the same sentiment. Clients say they feel they need to do cardio to lose the “layer of softness” (a nice way of saying fat!) that conceals the beautiful muscles they have toned and sculpted with Pilates, and yet finding a cardio regime that they are motivated to do has proven difficult.

In 2007, a paper by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association stated that “to promote and maintain health, all healthy adults aged 18 to 65 yr need moderate-intensity aerobic (endurance) physical activity for a minimum of 30 min on five days each week or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 20 min on three days each week.” To read the full article, click here. While this can seem a bit daunting at first, the article subsequently states that the exercise can be broken up throughout the day.  And many of our clients were doing sufficient amounts of cardio to meet the guidelines set forth by ACSM and AHA, but as we looked over at their figures on the treadmill or on the elliptical machines, we lamented at the fact that all the work we were doing in their Pilates sessions was absolutely being derailed during their cardio sessions.

Searching for a form of cardio we could recommend to our clients, we developed CARDIOLATES®. We knew we needed to find a method of cardio that reinforces Pilates’ alignment principles and optimal posture, and then we discovered rebounding!  Rebounding has been derived from trampolining (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trampolining) like you’d see at the Olympics, but is quite different in the sense that rebounding is meant for sustained bouncing.  It is very powerful exercise, but the intent is NOT to get a lot of height.  Rebounding combines the forces of acceleration, deceleration and gravity, and as a result strengthens every cell in your body. So, we thought, by rebounding with careful attention to alignment and posture, every cell of the body can be strengthened in the body’s optimal alignment! The CARDIOLATES® rebounding technique focuses on maintaining the body’s vertical axis and thus strengthens the deep postural muscles in the body’s ideal upright alignment.  And this ideal alignment is reinforced with every bounce!

Below we’ve listed a whole myriad of benefits of rebounding in general.  These benefits are NOT limited to CARDIOLATES® rebounding, but we would like to add that with the CARDIOLATES® rebounding technique, you can add the benefits of strengthening the core, the postural muscles and body symmetry as well!  To find the source of this information, click here.  Dr. Albert E. Carter and Dr. Morton Walker collaborated to create this list.

Exercising correctly and regularly has great benefits for our health.

1.     Rebounding provides an increased G-force (gravitational load), which strengthens the musculoskeletal systems.

2.     Rebounding protects the joints from the chronic fatigue and impact delivered by exercising on hard surfaces.

3.     Rebounding helps manage body composition and improves muscle-to-fat ratio.

4.     Rebounding aids lymphatic circulation by stimulating the millions of one-way valves in the lymphatic system.

5.     Rebounding circulates more oxygen to the tissues.

6.     Rebounding establishes a better equilibrium between the oxygen required by the tissues and the oxygen made available.

7.     Rebounding increases capacity for respiration.

8.     Rebounding tends to reduce the height to which the arterial pressures rise during exertion.

9.     Rebounding lessens the time during which blood pressure remains abnormal after severe activity.

10.  Rebounding assists in the rehabilitation of a heart problem.

11.  Rebounding increases the functional activity of the red bone marrow in the production of red blood cells.

12.  Rebounding improves resting metabolic rate so that more calories are burned for hours after exercise.

13.  Rebounding causes muscles to perform work in moving fluids through the body to lighten the heart’s load.

14.  Rebounding decreases the volume of blood pooling in the veins of the cardiovascular system preventing chronic edema .

15.  Rebounding encourages collateral circulation by increasing the capillary count in the muscles and decreasing the distance between the capillaries and the target cells.

16.  Rebounding strengthens the heart and other muscles in the body so that they work more efficiently.

17.  Rebounding allows the resting heart to beat less often.

18.  Rebounding lowers circulating cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

19.  Rebounding lowers low-density lipoprotein (bad) in the blood and increases high-density lipoprotein (good) holding off the incidence of coronary artery disease

20.  Rebounding promotes tissue repair.

21.  Rebounding for longer than 20 minutes at a moderate intensity increases the mitochondria count within the muscle cells, essential for endurance.

22.  Rebounding adds to the alkaline reserve of the body, which may be of significance in an emergency requiring prolonged effort.

23.  Rebounding improves coordination between the proprioceptors in the joints, the transmission of nerve impulses to and from the brain, transmission of nerve impulses and responsiveness of the muscle fibers.

24.  Rebounding improves the brain’s responsiveness to the vestibular apparatus within the inner ear, thus improving balance.

25.  Rebounding offers relief from neck and back pains, headaches and other pain caused by lack of exercise.

26.  Rebounding enhances digestion and elimination processes.

27.  Rebounding allows for deeper and easier relaxation and sleep.

28.  Rebounding results in better mental performance, with keener learning processes.

29.  Rebounding curtails fatigue and menstrual discomfort for women.

30.  Rebounding minimizes the number of colds, allergies, digestive disturbances, and abdominal problems.

31.  Rebounding tends to slow down atrophy in the aging process.

32.  Rebounding is an effective modality by which the user gains a sense of control and an improved self image.

33.  Rebounding is enjoyable!

So there you have it!  Why endure a cardiovascular regime that you hate, when you could rebound and have a blast???  For more information about CARDIOLATES® classes in NYC, click here, and to find CARDIOLATES® near you, click here.  If you are interested in the CARDIOLATES® DVD, click here!

March 30, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Pilates for two: Spice up your workout! part 3

air-pushup-couples1So far in our Valentine’s special “Pilates for two” series, we have toned the abdominal muscles with the “Oblique” exercise and sculpted the outer thigh muscles with the “Outer Thigh Toner.”  Now, the “Air Push Up” strengthens and tones the arms.

Start position:  stand facing away from your partner, back to back.  The closer you are together, the easier it may be to balance, but if you want to challenge core strength, step away from one another!  The man holds the middle of the band shoulder distance apart and the woman holds the ends of the band.  Elbows are bent close to the sides with the fists in front of the shoulders.

Inhale, pull in the abdominal muscles and lengthen through the spine.  Make sure the neck and shoulders are relaxed.

Exhale, without elevating the shoulders, extend the elbows to simulate a “push up” in the air.

air-pushup-couples-2Inhale, return to the start positon with control, trying not to rock back and forth on the feet.

Exhale, repeat, adjusting the tension as necessary by either changing the hand position on the band or stepping away (or closer to) one another.  Repeat 10-12 times.

For you men out there, if you find this exercise too easy, don’t fret!  Working with lighter tension can strengthen the smaller muscles of the rotator cuff which always work to stabilize the head of the humerus in the glenohumeral joint.

For more great arm workouts, try “Pilates in Ten Arms” from the Pilates on Fifth Video Podcast or “Strong, Shapely Arms” from the Strong, Svelte and Savvy series of workouts on UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com.

March 27, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

“Dance as though no one is watching you”…. but do Pilates like everyone is!!

single-leg-stretchYes, we know that Souza did not end his famous poem as such, but if we’ve learned one thing from the filming of our Pilates workouts, it’s how to increase the intensity of your . If you don’t think Pilates is hard enough, then imagine that you are doing Pilates in an Olympic arena, equipped with a full panel of judges who score you based on proper execution…. WOW!! Take it from us, it’s grueling. You can take a “beginner’s” workout and turn it into one of the best workout sessions just by focusing on all the little details and fine tuning. We like to think of it this way: as long as you’re investing the time to work out, then why not get the most that you can out of your session? Here are some few helpful hints based on what we’ve gleaned from filming our Pilates videos for the site:

1) Pull your abs in!! …And when you think they’re in, pull in a little more! Then, with every new exercises and every other repetition, repeat!

2) Straighten your knees fully! We know that we’ve written about the knees before, but it really is a way to kick up the intensity and get the whole body involved.

3) Open the shoulders! Involve the muscles of the upper backto keep the shoulders from rounding forward and create that beautiful, trademark Pilates posture.

4) Don’t forget your glutes! When doing side lying or prone exercises, your glutes (the muscles in your buttocks) are key to stabilizing your torso and upholding Pilates as a total body workout.

So there you have it! Just a few simple tips to help you get the most out of your Pilates workouts. Also, in addition to the four points above, proper form and technique will make the Pilates exercises even more effective. If you need help with an exercise or just want to know if you’re doing a Pilates exercise correctly, simply check out any of our podcasts. (link to podcasts)

March 26, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

Pilates for two: Spice up your workout! part 2

couples-outer-thigh-tonerEarlier this week, we showed you a great exercise to tone and strengthen your abdominal muscles.  Today we’ll show you an exercise for toning the outer thighs.  Even though the men might not be as eager to tone the outer thighs as women, this exercise also challenges and improves balance.

Here’s how to execute the outer thigh toner exercise:

Start Position:  Stand next to each other with a stretch band tied around the outside ankle.  Stand far enough away so that the band is not too loose to start (but not too tight!)  Pull in the abs, lengthen through your spine and inhale to prepare.

Exhale and maintain your balance as you lift the outside leg to the side.

couples-outer-thigh-toner-2Inhale, lower the leg back to the start position (but no need to transfer full weight to the leg as you will be repeating the movement!)

Exhale, repeat, trying not to maintian perfect balance for 8-10 repetitions.  Repeat with the other leg.

Remember, exercises with the stretch band require cooperation and teamwork!  By working on control and focusing on precision, you can both tone your muscles….without knocking each other over!

Want to do more workouts together?  Log onto UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com for lots of FREE full-length Pilates videos online.

March 25, 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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