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Posted by on Oct 15, 2013 in Equipment, Pilates, Repertoire, Reviews | 0 comments

Circular Movements to Re-Shape the Derierre

Circular Movements to Re-Shape the Derierre

Movement is my medicine,  my drug of choice and my daily mantra.  As a result, I have earned a reputation for being an active-oriented teacher.  “Action Jackson” has been a nickname for longer than I can remember, and I have been told that it seems my “ever-ready” batteries almost never seem to run down.

It may, therefore, come as no surprise that I have fallen madly in love with the Balanced Body Pilates Orbit. As a tool in the studio, the Pilates Orbit in my opinion, is a perfect compliment to the reformer in facilitating circular, rotational movements for the upper and lower body.  I use the Orbit quite a bit in concert with my cycling activities and love the lifted, toned shaping I feel of my 50+ derierre with each use.

Essentially, the Pilates Orbit is a “mini-mat on wheels” and given the curves and shape of the lion share of our client’s bodies, I find it the perfect compliment to the “length and depth”  as well as the “vertical and horizontal” alignments we use on the reformer, tower and Cadillac equipment of the studio.

Challenging stability while moving “on wheels” is a sure-fire way to fire up the powerhouse.  It surely feeds my need for continual, active movement.

There are a myriad of Pilates exercises for which the Pilates Orbit can used for to strengthen the core abdominals.    A creative instructor will easily find a way to translate and transfer the classic Pilates exercises used on the mat and/or reformer to the Orbit.   It didn’t take long for my ”action-orientation” to find a number of challenging toning exercises to support re-shaping the bottoms of those walking into my studio.

Loving the Curves & Shaping the Butt

As a 50+ woman with clients that are also fighting the gravitational pull of life on their bodies, I wanted an additional way to shape, tone and stretch the muscles of the hip and legs while encouraging core balance and control and this little tool does the trick perfectly.  Students of all ages have joined me in loving not only the flow of movement, but the toning and balance control achieved with a few specific “circular movements” facilitated by the Pilates Orbit.

I spend no more than 10-12 minutes with the Orbit in a session hour.   After the abdominal series, I generally start with Orbit “knee stretches,” add a few push ups and oblique rotations just to get the blood flowing with the ease of the tool and then transition to a kneeling sequence that targets the quads, hamstrings, abductors/adductors as well as the internal and external rotators.

One particular movement, single leg adduction/abduction, garners quite a few “oohs and ahhs” from students.   In fact, many of my senior client/students beg to do this exercise just for the opening it helps to facilitate through the pelvis, hips and joints (Pictured).

Transitioning from kneeling to a supine, I encourage use of the Orbit for “frogs.” Assuming the “frogs” foot position and planting the sides of the feet on the Orbit, students are encouraged to perform 5-8 frogs with the pelvis stationary on the mat and then challenged to lift the hips (keeping the sides of the feet planted) and “frog” in/out for 5-8 more repetitions.   The last supine exercise I use is a bridge, whereby the feet are planted solidly on the Orbit and the torso bridged without moving the Orbit for 5 reps and subsequently performed in a controlled, slow movement away from the Orbit while still engaged in the “pelvic lift” for greater intensity and work on the hamstrings.

I always end in a standing position and use the Orbit for single leg balance work.  Challenging balance and stability on wheels – with controlled rotational sequencing through the internal and external rotators of the glutes – fully integrates the mind and body and yields a few more “oohs and ahhs” as we roll through the circular movements. [Picture supplied – Standing Balance]

Students end the session smiling with their spirits, as well as their rear ends, lifted a little higher.

Pilates4Fitness

Kneeling

  • Knee Stretches 8-10 reps
  • Rollout, Plank to PushUp (Hands on Orbit) 5-8 reps
  • Single Leg Abd/Adduction 5-8 reps [picture supplied – Single Leg Abduction]

Supine Bridge

Pilates4Fitness

  • Frogs 5-8 reps
  • Pelvic Lift 5-8 reps

Standing – Balance, Control and Abduction

Pilates4Fitness

  • Single Leg Lunge 5-8 reps
  • Single Leg Lunge with Circle 5-10 reps [picture supplied – Rotational-Lunge]
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Posted by on Oct 5, 2013 in Featured, Pilates, Repertoire | 0 comments

Pilates Footwork on the Reformer

Pilates Footwork on the Reformer

The Pilates footwork on the Reformer is a fundamental section in a Pilates workout.  Footwork is often the first series of exercises to be taught on the reformer but despite this it shouldn’t be mistaken for a basic exercise.

Although called footwork, it actually encompasses the whole body; in particular the spine and pelvic position and of course, the legs.  For those horsey people amongst us, I am sure you have heard the expression “no foot, no horse” and it’s no different for us!

Footwork on the reformer is simple yet powerful and for a teacher, provides great insight to the client’s imbalances.  The footwork enables the client to develop correct foot, ankle, knee, leg and hip alignment.  It will also develop strength and flexibility in these areas.  This makes it a perfect exercise for both prevention and rehabilitation of injuries to the lower limbs which are aided further by the varying levels of spring resistance on the reformer.

Footwork Exercise I: Toes

This exercise can be carried out with the feet in parallel or in a Pilates V position (heels together, toes apart).  The toes – all of them! – should be on the bar and the heels lifted so you are on your tip toes.  The heels should stay in the highest possible lifted position as the carriage is moved in and out.  It is tempting to allow the heels to lower as you straighten the leg, this should be avoided as the legs are not then receiving the full stretch and benefit of the exercise.

Footwork Exercise II: Arches

In my experience many clients find this footwork position one of the most challenging.  In this exercise the arches of the foot are placed on the foot bar and the feet are in parallel.  The heels of the feet should be reaching under the bar and the toes should be gently reaching over the top of the foot bar, being careful not to scrunch the toes up.  You should feel a stretch through the soles of the feet which should be maintained throughout the exercise.

Footwork Exercise III: Heels

In this exercise the heels are placed on the bar and the toes should be in a straight line.  Sometimes it is taught that the toes should be pulling back toward the body and sometimes that the toes be lengthened toward the ceiling.  Neither is incorrect, it depends what you want to achieve with the exercise.

In this case we keep the toes lengthened toward the ceiling.  The foot needs to stay still as if you are standing on the floor, while the ankle, knee and hip joints should hinge as the legs glide in and out.

Footwork Exercise IV: Lift/Lower

This is a fab exercise and enables the client to feel a good stretch through the front and back of the leg.  With the feet in a parallel (or sometimes V position) and heels lifted, the legs are straightened.  Then whilst keeping the legs straight (but ensuring the knees are not locked), the heels are dropped under the bar.  As well as feeling a nice hamstring stretch, a stretch through the sole of the foot should also be felt.  When returning to the start position the heels should be lifted.

There are many variations in the footwork but they all work to strengthen and align the body.  Our poor feet take a lot of mistreatment from the shoes we wear and our daily lives and are often a little neglected and taken for granted!  However they deserve our full attention sometimes and the benefits of the Pilates footwork series will be felt throughout the whole body.

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Posted by on Apr 22, 2013 in Pilates, Repertoire | 0 comments

Pilates Matwork Repertoire – The Hundred

Pilates Matwork Repertoire – The Hundred

The Hundred exercise in Pilates got its name because you hold the exercise for 100 counts.  In classical Pilates matwork repertoire you start your session with The Hundred to warm up, get your breathing strong and your blood oxygenated.  It strengthens your abdominals, develops trunk stabilisation and stimulates coordination.

Point of caution: Work at your own pace and if your neck feels strained do not continue.

Start Position: Supine with your knees bent, imprinted spine, inner thights connected.  Place your arms by the side of your body maintaining sense of space underneath the armpits, palms down.

Movement: Inhale to prepare – Exhale, lengthen through the back of the neck, contract abdominals and flex the thoracic spine as you reach and hover your arms over the floor; simultaneously extend your legs and pump your arms energetically up and down in small movement; Inhale for five pumps and Exhale for five pumps.

Checkpoints: Maintain stability throughout to avoid upper back tension, avoid overly tucking the pelvis, initiate movement of the arms at the shoulder joint, not elbows, emphasise downward motion of the arms, draw your abdominal in on contraction as opposed to appearance of ‘popping belly’.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: whiplash, cervical, shoulder and lumbar issues (i.e. disc herniation, bulging disc, prolapsed disc), groin strain, osteoporosis.

Initially, the Hundred started from supine position and legs extended and the movement would be to lift the legs from the centre, maintaining pelvic and shoulder stability.  As that proved to be too difficult the adaptations followed.

Adaptations:

1) Head and feet on the mat, focus on breath and shoulder stability

2) Feet on the mat with upper body flexed, focus on breath, shoulder stability and abdominal engagement with imprinted spine

3) Adaptation 2) but with legs in tabletop position

To finish hug your knees to your chest, release the head down to rest or progress to the next exercise.

VIDEOThe Hundred

Special thank you to Anoushka Boone of Pilates in Motion Studio for providing supporting materials and feedback.

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