Worcester Pilates – Pilates Exercise of the Week – Shoulder Bridge

 

This weeks “Pilates Exercise of the Week” is The Shoulder Bridge. This is an amazing strengthening and stretching exercise for the whole body. It challenges the abdominals and the hamstrings to work together to keep the pelvis stable. The exercise works to strengthen the back of the body including the glutes, hamstrings and back while also giving a nice stretch and openness to the front of the body.

In this exercise really be mindful about keeping the knees in line with the shoulders and the pelvis still. Focus on the articulation of the spine as you roll up and down through the exercise. I like do the first Shoulder Bridge variation at the start of my practice to help warm up the spine and back and then later in the order I will do the Intermediate Shoulder Bridge version where you add the kicks of the legs (as seen as the end of the video).

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Shoulder Bridge

Goal of the Exercise:

The Shoulder Bridge works posterior muscles to maintain the lift of the hip, as well as focuses on spinal articulation.

Benefits:

  • works articulation of the spine
  • strengthens glutes and hamstrings
  • stretches front of body including hips

 

Execution:

  • Lie on back with feet flat on the floor and knees bent
  • Place hands by the side and firmly press palms and forearm into the floor
    Keep the knees, feet and legs parallel and in line with the hips and shoulders
  • Inhale as you lift up the hips, then the lower back, middle back lifting up into a straight line from the knees to the shoulders
  • Focus on lifting up through the spine bone by bone, focusing on the articulation of the spine. Keep the sides of the body long and work to create length in the spine.
  • Exhale as you roll down the spine, again focusing on the articulation of the spine
  • Watch that your knees don’t turn in or out as you roll. If you see this happening place a yoga block or small ball between the thighs/knees to maintain the leg alignment
  • 5 Reps

Worcester Pilates – Pilates Exercise of the Week: Criss Cross

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Criss Cross

Goal of the Exercise:

Criss Cross is the final exercise in what is known as the “Abdominal Five” Series or what I call the “Fab Five”. Criss Cross is more popularly known in the fitness world as “bicycles”. It’s main focus is on proper twisting of the trunk of the body using the Powerhouse and specifically working the obliques.

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the abdominals specifically the obliques
  • Challenges and works rotation of the spine.
  • Develops pelvic stability

Execution:

  • Lie on your back and bring your knees into your chest
  • Curl your head and shoulders off of the mat and bring your chin to your chest
  • Place your hands behind your head, letting your hands support your head. Use your abdominal strength to keep the head and shoulders lifted not by pulling forward with the hands.
  • Inhale as you bring your right knee into your chest and extend your left leg out at eye level, similar to Single Leg Stretch.
  • Exhale and twist the upper body to the right, bringing your left shoulder towards your right knee.
  • Inhale through center as you switch the legs and exhale twist towards the left bringing the right shoulder towards the left knee..
  • Stay high and lifted through the center as you switch from side to side, keeping both shoulders off the mat.
  • Keep the legs hugging into the centerline of your body as you reach the legs long away from you.
  • Maintain the hips anchored to the mat as you twist the ribs from side to side and work the powerhouse.
  • 6  –  8 Reps each side

Modifications:

  • For lower back sensitivity, keep low back connected to the mat and aim legs higher towards ceiling instead of out at eye level.
  • Legs can also be bent with feet flat on the floor and work the abdominal curl and twist by bringing the elbows toward the bent knees.
  • For neck issues you can rest the head down from side to side. Inhale to prepare, exhale curl up and over. Lay the head back down and then move on to the other side.

Pilates Better Than Stretching at Improving Flexibility

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A regular Pilates practice has many benefits such as strength, improved balance, improved joint health and increased flexibility. In a recent published study, a comparison of Pilates and Static Stretching was studied to see which was better at improving flexibility. Two groups of women over the age of 60 were giving either stretching exercises or Pilates exercises to do for 60 minutes, twice a week for three months.

Movements of the trunk such as flexion and extension, hip flexion and plantar and dorsiflexion of the ankle were evaluated before and after the study using a fleximeter. The results concluded that Pilates was actually better than Static Stretching in improving the flexibility of the study volunteers.

Pilates is more than stretching or working to build a six pack. If you would like to increase your flexibility, gain better strength, coordination and balance, start practicing Pilates. Worcester Pilates is a boutique Pilates studio in Worcester, MA offering private instruction on the Pilates equipment. Get a head start on those New Year’s resolutions with our current New Student Intro Flash Sale. Right now you can get 3 private sessions for $99 (usually $120). Sale expires 12-31-17 so get yours now!

 

Worcester Pilates: Pilates Exercise of the Week – The Hundred

 

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The Pilates Exercise, The Hundred. Extra puppy weight optional

If you have ever taken a Pilates class, most likely you have done The Hundred, and like most people you probably have a love/hate relationship with this exercise. The Hundred is the first exercise in the Classical Pilates repertoire and is a great abdominal exercise that warms up the body and prepares it to perform the rest of the exercises in the mat repertoire.

Benefits:

  • Challenges Core Strength and Stability
  • Targets and Strengthens Spinal Flexors
  • Promotes blood circulation
  • Centers the mind and body
  • Connects to the Powerhouse

How To Do:

  • Lay on your mat in a supine position with knees bent and feet flat on the floor
  • Bring your knees into your chest and lift your head, looking into your abdominals
  • Stretch your hands and arms along your side, with palms down and hands a few inches above your abs.
  • Pull your belly button down into your spine, engaging your abdominals
  • Breathe in for 5 counts and out for 5 counts, while pumping your arms 6-8 inches. That’s one full breath or 10 pumps. Do ten reps to finish for the full Hundred
  • To advance this and challenge your core more you can extend the legs straight up to the ceiling, or out to a 45 degree angle, or as low as you can hold the legs without the back arching.

What to Expect from Your First Pilates Class

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This is the time of year where we reflect on what we achieved over the past 12 months and look forward to a new year. This is also when most people begin to focus on making those New Year’s Resolutions, which mostly involve some sort of Health and Fitness goal. Am I right?

Maybe you have always wanted to try a Pilates equipment class/session and have decided to make that one of your goals for 2017. However, you are a little timid and maybe even scared of taking that first step. You have no idea what to expect and you are a little unsure of what this Reformer thing is that looks like a medieval torture device.

This post will banish those fears, answer your questions and get you ready to start your Pilates Equipment practice.

What is the Pilates Reformer?

The Reformer is the most recognized and popular piece of equipment or apparatus in the Pilates studio. This is the central piece of equipment used in most Pilates classes and studios. The Universal Reformer, so called because it is used for “universally reforming the body”, creates a balanced workout that is great for everyone regardless of fitness level. Auxiliary equipment you might find in the studio include the Chair, Cadillac or Tower; these pieces are often used at the end of a Pilates session to focus on the needs of the individual.

Invented by Joseph Pilates himself, the Reformer is a bed like piece of equipment with a moving carriage. The carriage is attached to springs that give resistance to the exercises performed on the Reformer. The Reformer has straps that both the hands and feet can be placed in for various exercises. Exercises on the Reformer are done laying down, sitting and even standing.

The Reformer offers all of the Pilates Benefits including: overall strength, flexibility, coordination and balance.

What to Wear or Bring to Your First Pilates Class?

For your comfort and ease of performing the exercises it is best to wear clothes that are more form fitting. Yoga pants or leggings and a tank top are perfect as they allow the instructor to to see how your body moves so they can check alignment and offer adjustments as needed. Avoid clothes that have zippers, toggles, etc. and leave your jewelry at home. These things have been known to cause tears or holes in the upholstery of the equipment.

Exercises on the Pilates Equipment are done in bare feet or with socks that have grippy textures on the bottom. So you can leave those fancy gym shoes at home. Contrary to popular belief that Pilates is just stretching, you will sweat in your Pilates workout. Bring a towel to wipe any sweat as well as a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated during your workout. Some studios will provide these items, but most often studios do not, so it’s best to be prepared and bring your own.

Arrive Early to Your First Pilates Session

I suggest arriving early to your first session. The studio may have paperwork or intake forms for you to fill out prior to your session. A good Pilates teacher will meet with you prior to your session to learn about your body, ask if you have any challenges or injuries so that they can adjust the class to your needs. I also like to introduce each student to the equipment which includes safety information, the parts of each piece and how to use the equipment. It’s important that before you begin working out on the equipment that you understand each part.

The right Pilates teacher will find out your goals, take into consideration your imbalances or injuries and create a plan to help you achieve your goals. Whether you are there to rehab from an injury or surgery, or simply to gain more strength and become more fit, the teacher should create a plan to achieve this, and work to find the right exercises and equipment to get you to that point.

While I strongly believe that Pilates is for everybody regardless of age, body type, fitness level, injuries or medical conditions there are some exercises that may need to be omitted or modified based on your individual needs. Finding out any physical limitations prior to the class/session will help your teacher to give you the best workout out for you and keep you safe.

What is a Typical Pilates Equipment Class Like?

Once you have met your teacher and have been introduced to the equipment it is time to get started. Typical Pilates sessions are 55 minutes in length. The work on the apparatus focuses on a full body workout with small and controlled movements using the springs for resistance. Just like a Pilates workout on the mat, focus is put on building core strength, but now we work against the springs to focus on control and centering.

Your session on the Reformer will be a full body workout. Classes typically start off with a warm up while lying down. As the class progresses you will focus on specific muscle groups through exercises that have you lying down, sitting, standing and even being in an inverted position.

Pay attention to the instruction and cues of your instructor. Their cues are important to make sure you are performing the exercise correctly, that your form is good and safe, and will help to make sure you are targeting the right muscles you should be using. Expect a lot of hands on instruction in your session. Most teachers like to help adjust the body so you can reap the full benefits of the exercises on the equipment as well as focus on proper body alignment.

While Pilates is low impact and safe on the joints, you will still find it a challenging workout. Sometimes the smallest of moves can be the hardest. Also, as previously mentioned, you will sweat. You might not sweat like you would in a boot camp or HIIT type of class, but you should find Pilates a challenging workout that still makes you sweat.

Final Words and Tips

After your first session you may find yourself a little sore. That is to be expected, but you may also find yourself feeling more flexible and walking a little taller with better posture.

During your session if you have any concerns or questions please speak up and let your teacher know. I prefer my clients stop me in the middle of an exercise to ask for a modification or clarification on the exercise, instead of waiting until the end of the class to ask a bunch of questions. This allows me to teach in the moment, and helps the student to fully comprehend the exercise and what I’m asking them to do.

Hopefully, you now feel more prepared to take on your first Pilates class and get a jump start on those New Year’s Resolutions. Give us a call or send an email to set up your “Intro to Pilates” session.

Worcester Pilates is a small, boutique Pilates Studio in Worcester, MA that offers private instruction on all of the Pilates equipment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pilates Principles: Centering

Pilates is often referred to as “a two way stretch from a strong and stable center”. Everything that we do in our lives, especially when it comes to movement, radiates out from our “Core” or our “Center”. In Pilates we refer to our center as the Powerhouse and we focus on initiating movement from this point. That is why the principle of Pilates, Centering is very important.

The Powerhouse starts with the rib cage down to the pelvis and includes the abdominals, back muscles, and glutes. In Pilates we bring focus to the Powerhouse to stabilize the body and initiate movement. Therefore building greater strength in our abdominals and helping our bodies to move more effectively.

As you move through your Pilates practice bring your awareness to the Powerhouse. Be mindful of initiating your movement from your Powerhouse and how the exercises radiate out from your center, into your extremities. Focusing on moving and stabilizing the body from a strong center will result in moving with grace, building more strength and alleviating back pain. This control of movement through a strong and stable center can assist you in other activities such as running, golfing, cycling and even just in your every day life.