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.

The Q Angle and Pilates, part two

q-angleOn Friday, we discussed the Q Angle and how it affects womens fitness. The Q Angle can be the culprit of many knee injuries for active women. However, infusing a regime of conditioning exercises that target to strengthen the muscles around the knee can reduce the chance of injury. Pilates offers an array of such exercises that are not only low impact, but increase knee muscular strength and stability. We have incoporated a list of these preventative exercises below. Before we go into the list, there are a couple of things we would like to note!

1) You’re not going to change your bones, but you can strengthen the muscles around the knee and in the upper thigh to reinforce proper biomechanics.

2) Pilates is an excellent form of cross-training, but to really prepare your knee for the stresses placed on it with your favorite sport, exercises that do involve gravity, plyometrics and controlled instability will be absolutely necessary. There is a great article on ACL injury prevention exercises at about.com.

3) If you know your knees are vulnerable, then running may never be for you. But there is always the elliptical, the stair master, spinning, and our favorite, rebounding. Even though rebounding does involve more weight going through the joint, it is more gentle than running because the mat absorbs over 87% of the shock. Our clients and instructors who are not able to run because of knee pain can typically rebound without any pain at all.

4) With all exercises, standing or supine, make sure that your knee is tracking over the center of your foot… between the 2nd & 3rd toe. For more information, click here.

5) It is also wise to check if your femur (thigh bone) in rotating internally or externally as you bend or straighten your knees.

Some exercises that specifically target the musculature around the knee which may enhance overall knee stability. All of these exercises are either featured in one of our podcasts, our Pilates on the Go! DVD, or one of our specialty leg workouts at UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com. This list is certainly not all inclusive; it’s simply some of the exercises that popped into mind first.

Mat

Shoulder Bridge

One Leg Kick

Single Leg Stretch

Short Plank 3

Side Leg Lift Series

Standing Balance Exercises

Ball

Footwork

Bend & Stretch

Standing Squats with ball against wall (reduce range if necessary)

Stretch Band

Footwork with Band

Side Lying Series

Side Lying Bend & Stretch

Kick Back

Reformer

Footwork

Bend & Stretch

Knee Stretches (not for knees in their vulnerable state)

Chair

Foot Press on Long Box

Standing Leg Press

Forward Step Up (harder)

Forward Step Down (even harder)

Cadillac

Bend & Stretch

Supine Bend & Stretch

Side Lying Side Kick Series

Squats

As we mentioned in our previous blog about the Q angle & Pilates, your Q angle will not decrease regardless of how diligent you are with your exercises. However, as an increased Q angle increases the chance of injury, these exercises, done with proper biomechanics and alignment will strengthen the muscle around the knee, creating a much more stable joint. For a visual of the Q Angle, click here. To better understand the Q Angle and how it can affect your fitness regime, click here to read on with Elizabeth Quinn’s article.

April 27, 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 4

golf-pilates-pics-41To complete our series of articles outlining the ideal set-up for the golf swing, we will discuss the importance of shoulder placement.  As with all aspects of alignment, Pilates can help build body awareness and bring attention to bad habits!

Our first article discussed ideal alignment in the set-up, which stated that the shoulder of the dominant hand should be slightly lower than the other, as the dominant hand should be slightly lower than the other, as the dominant hand holds lower on the club.  Because the dominant hand is lower (the right hand in the photo), this sets the spine on a slight tilt to the right, which should be maintained during the back swing.  Thus, from the side, a forward lean, and from the front, a sideways lean, is present.

“One of the most common faults is to have the right shoulder too low at address,” explains Rick.  (See picture below left.)  “This creates a position that forces the arms to dominate the backswing instead of the core muscles, which should be in control.  Also, when the right shoulder is excessively low, the body is not centered, which prevents a sound pivot as the shoulders are unable to turn at 90 degrees to the spine.  The result is a powerless swing which could lead to injury.”

golf-pilates-pics-42 golf-pilates-pics-43

Rick continues, “Less common is a tilt to the left, or to the side of the non-dominant arm.  (See picture above right.)  The elbows of both arms should be loosely bent — not locked — so that the arms have energy in them without being rigid.”  The picture below shows the side view again, from the side of the dominant arm, which you can use to improve your positioning further.

golf-pilates-pics-44To continue improving your body awareness and to strengthen your abs and back more, try Obliques Roll Back, Swimming and “the Banana” from the Side Leg Lift SeriesObliques Roll Back strengthens the spine in rotation and flexion, Swimming targets the muscles of the back and “the Banana” strengthens the obliques and improves lateral flexion.  For simple arm exercises that will help rid the body of excess shoulder tension, try Pilates in Ten — Arms!

“Tis the season for golfing again, so brush up on your golf game and blow the competition away when you hit the green again!  Contact Rick Nielsen at Power Golf Pilates, powergolfpilates.net!

April 16, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Simplifying the Saw

saw“The Saw” is one of those Pilates exercises that a lot of people “just don’t get.”  At first glance, it might just look like a hamstring stretch, but it’s actually more complex.  The Saw is a classical Pilates exercise that increases flexibility of the spine and strengthens the core.  The goal of the exercise is to use the abdominal muscles to rotate the spine, then flex the spine over the leg, scooping in the abdominals.  You can also think of it as combining the classical Pilates exercises of Spine Twist and Spine Stretch Forward.  Now, because some flexibility in the hamstrings as well as freedom of movement through the hip flexors is required, you might find it necessary to sit on a small cushion or even in a chair so that it is easier to keep the focus on the spine and the core.  It’s very important to start the exercise with your pelvis in neutral (think vertical) alignment.  First, rotate your ribcage to one direction, feeling like you are growing taller as you rotate.  Then, imagine that you’re trying to round your spine over a beach ball….  You have to lengthen first, then round to try to go over the ball.  The opposite hand reaches to the outside of your foot, as if you were planning to saw off your baby toe.  The other arm naturally rotates so that the thumb faces the floor…. It’s simply more comfortable!!  For a detailed video of how to get the most out of the Saw, visit our Pilates on Fifth podcast at http://pilatesonfifth.com/video/2007/10/03/saw/.  We also feature the Saw in many of our Mat Pilates Workouts at www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com.

April 10, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Why pelvic placement is important in Pilates

pelvic-motion-lateral-viewWhen we worked in Japan, we would never have guessed that we’d be writing an article about the pelvis! Despite our dance training since age 3, we had never stopped to learn or even think about the role the pelvis plays in the body.

While climbing the corporate ladder, we were no longer dancing, but we were running 7 miles in the morning, barely stretching and then sitting all day long — usually 10 hours at least — to make sure our Japanese colleagues knew we were serious hard-workers. In retrospect, knowing more about the pelvis and its surrounding the muscles would have saved our poor wittle backs (and probably increased our productivity too!)

Even if you’ve only taken one Pilates class in your life, your teacher most likely mentioned your pelvis more times than you could count! So why is the pelvis so important? In layman’s terms, it connects the upper and lover halves of the body. Tightness in the muscles that connect to the pelvis (which includes the abdominal muscles, hip flexors and hamstrings among others) cause problems in both the upper AND lower extremities. So YES — it’s pretty important!

So now for “Pelvis 101”: the word “pelvis” means “basin” in Latin. This is useful for visualizing how your pelvis should be positioned in relation to your spine and your femur (your thigh bone). If your pelvis were actually a basin full of water, you would want to walk, stand and sit keeping that basin completely level horizontally, so that the water wouldn’t spill out the front or the back. This is your “neutral” pelvis when upright and is depicted above by the picture in the middle. The term “ASIS” refers to your hip bones and the term “PSIS” is most easily described as those dimples you may see on the small of your back (though not completely accurate). You can see that the “basin” in the middle would not spill water down the front or back of your legs!

Likewise, an “anterior tilt” pictured on the left and a “posterior tilt” depicted on the right show common misalignments in the body. Think of it this way: in an “anterior tilt”, the hip bones move forward (anteriorly) relative to the pubic bone (the basin tips forward) and in a “posterior tilt”, the hip bones move back (posteriorly) relative to the pubic bone (the basin tips backwards). For those readers who care about the detailed anatomical definitions of all this, click here!

Since Pilates mainly occurs lying down, think that you rotate the above picture clockwise 90 degrees to put all the images on their backs! When lying down, a neutral pelvis is defined by the hip bones and the pubic bone in the same horizontal plane. An anterior tilt is seen by the lower back arching and the pubic bone dropping towards the floor and the hip bones rising, and a posterior tilt is seen by the lower back curling towards the mat with the pubic bone rising and the hip bones dropping.

In Pilates, all three positions are used, so you must listen to your instructor and know where your pelvis is at all times! Here are three exercises that require the three different positions: Swan Dive (pelvis moves from neutral to an anterior tilt); One Leg Circle (pelvis stays neutral throughout); and Rolling Like a Ball (pelvis stays posteriorly tilted throughout.) Want more? Our UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com website offers a full technique video on the training page just on the pelvis so log on and watch it!

March 5, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Why core strength training relies on instability

my_first_pilates_workout_watchdogWhether using balls, BOSUs or balance discs, athletic trainers and personal trainers alike know that instability is the key to training the core.

The deep muscles of the core are involuntary muscles that engage automatically when subjected to instability.  In other words, one can go through a lengthy traditional workout involving elaborate weight machines, free weights, etc., but unless instability is introduced into the training regime, the core musculature may not be targeted at all.

Given the right cues by a qualified trainer, one can learn to activate his/her core musculature in traditional abdominal work.  For instance, most Pilates mat exercises do not involve instability (unless you’re doing Pilates on a boat), but you can activate the core by deliberately engaging the muscles of the pelvic floor.  (Think “kegel exercises” if you are not familiar with the term “pelvic floor muscles.”)  Activating the pelvic floor triggers the deepest abdominal muscle, the transversus abdominis, to fire.

good-for-website-4Another key core stabilizing muscle is the multifidus.  The multifidus is comprised of a series of short fibers that act as scaffolding for the spine.  The exercise shown above, the “Watchdog“, targets the multifidus because the spine is challenged to remain straight and NOT rotate as opposite arm and leg lift.  Almost anyone who has ever been to physical therapy for a back injury has been given this exercise because it targets the multifidus.

Keep checking back for more information on this unique muscle and the exercises that strengthen it!  In the meantime, if you just can’t wait, try our “Get on the Ball“, “Meet your Core” and “Small Ball Toning Workouts” on www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com as all provide ways to introduce instability into your workout and target your multifidus!

March 3, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. 1 comment.

Break it Down!

pai-2Ultimate Pilates Workouts offers the most comprehensive Pilates instructional videos and DVD downloads available online! The simple, effective and exciting approach draws from the technique repertoire of The Pilates Academy International. The Pilates Academy International is New York City’s leading Pilates instructor certification center. Headquartered in New York, and offering satellite certifcation centers worldwide, The Pilates Academy International has a reputation for certifying highly respected and knowledgeable Pilates instructors.

The Pilates Academy International advocates a system that fosters extensive understanding of anatomy and biomechanics. Providing our students with the necessary tools and information regarding the science of the body in turns produces instructors capable of working with clients with injuries and special conditions. Graduates of The Pilates Academy International are sensitive to pregnant, senior, athletic, injured and rehabilitating clients alike. They are also equipped with an extensive set of exercises perfect for strengthening both beginner and advanced students. The Pilates Academy International acknowledges the broad spectrum of Pilates followers and therefore, effective applications of the method.

pai_logoUltimate Pilates Workouts expands on the principals of The Pilates Academy International by making its resources available online. As creators of both The Pilates Academy International and Ultimate Pilates Workouts, we understand that convenience counts too! We realize that many of our clients have busy schedules and cannot always commit to working out at our studio on a regular basis. We empathize with this situation, but believe that personal fitness should be able to find its way into your life both consistently and conveniently! Ultimate Pilates Workouts translates the exercise repertoire of The Pilates Academy International and makes it free to view from the convenience of your own at home computer! Free pilates online! And, pilates at home! With New York City’s top certifying Pilates instructor trainers! Who could ask for more?

How about more personal instruction? Sure! It’s important to execute each Pilates exercises with a clear understanding of its anatomical structure and fitness goal. Therefore, it is essential that each exercise be broken down to get the ultimate Pilates workout! To help you break down Ultimate Pilates Workouts for a fuller understanding of each exercise’s choreography, breath, shape, goals and modifications we’ve made The Pilates Academy International student manuals available to our Ultimate Pilates members!

The Pilates Academy International offers instructional manuals in Pilates Mat, Reformer, Cadillac/Tower, Chair, Barrels and Special Conditions. These manuals coincide with the exercises offered on Ultimate Pilates Workouts!

aprThe Pilates Academy International student manual collection is perfect for Pilates instructors looking to brush up on their skills, Pilates certification students preparing for examination (perfect for PAI students!!), and Ultimate Pilates Workouts members looking for further exercise clarification at home. To view Pilates Academy International manual samples online, click here! Browse the list of Pilates Academy International courses offered and their corresponding manuals.

Interested in purchasing your Pilates Academy International manual today? Perfect! Visit the Ultimate Pilates Workouts Shop menu, or click here!

Let us help you break down your Pilates workout with The Pilates Academy International!

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