Month: June 2014

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Pull the Pedal Up or Elephant on the Wunda Chair

Pull the Pedal Up or Elephant on the Wunda Chair

Benefit: To develop abdominal control, scapular stabilization and strengthen shoulder girdle.  This exercise is 100% Powerhouse, making it difficult to perform.  A trained professional must spot throughout exercise.

Starting Position: Face the pedal and place the palm of your hands on the edge of the chair with fingertips hanging off.  Step 1 foot on the pedal to press it down, step the other foot on.  Glue your heels together and lift so you are balancing on your tip toes.

    1.  Inhale; Keep scapulae stable and round the truExnk in a Pike position, scooping your abs. Float your head between your shoulders.


    1. Exhale; with Powerhouse strength, lift pelvis up towards ceiling allowing weight to shift  into hands.  For 3 counts, lift pedal higher to top of its range.


    1. Inhale; lower pedal down with control.  Bring pedal just above base (not quite to the floor), maintain the pike position.


  1. Complete 3-5 reps, lower pedal all the way down. Step 1 foot left; then the other, not letting the pedal rebound.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Maintain scapular stabilization to avoid sinking through shoulders
  • Keep head aligned with spine, think of dropping top of head toward floor
  • Stabilize around shoulders and through arms to avoid losing control
  • Don’t let your body rock or your hips move from side to side


Imagine your are floating upward – levitating.


Omit the 3 count pulses.

The Minimalist Shoe

If exercise is part of your daily routine, you are probably aware that the right footwear is essential. As with all exercise equipment, footwear is rapidly evolving as research progresses and understanding human biomechanics improves. Popular athletic companies quickly jumped onto the latest “minimalist shoe” bandwagon producing Nike Frees, Reebox Flex, Vibrams FiveFingers, etc. Minimalist shoes are lightweight, flexible, and provide little to no cushion at the sole. Unlike typical running/cross trainers, the minimalist shoe structure lacks arch insoles, ankle support and does not provide extra “shock absorption” during activities. While these qualities may sound like the opposite of what one may want in a running shoe, research from the past decade suggests otherwise.

Minimalist shoes allow your feet to move freely, assimilating being barefoot. Our feet are built amazingly well and should be flexible and strong by nature. With a shoe that is essentially “bare,” the muscles of your feet are properly able to move, strengthen and better assist your foot in action. The foot has two primary functions: bearing weight and propulsion. These functions require a high degree of stability. In addition, the foot also has to be flexible so it can adapt to uneven surfaces. Supportive, cushiony shoes with thick, stiff soles keep your feet fixed and restrict the ability for them to move around. Over time, the muscle groups responsible for moving your feet begin to atrophy. This weakening of the muscles in your foot and ankle forces other muscles to compensate to pick up the slack. As a result, those supporting muscles (i.e. calves, shins, etc.) become tight and overworked, increasing the risk of injury.

Along with weakening muscles, the ligaments and joints that make up your foot become stiff and unable to maintain the natural arch needed to bear weight efficiently. When the arches in your feet collapse, it causes your feet and ankles to sink inward, known as pronation. Excessively pronating will force the knees and hips out of alignment. This in turn affects the entire kinetic chain and leads to abnormal gait patterns and running mechanics. Excessive pronation, along with poor foot strength and flexibility, are all associated with several common problems including back/knee pain, tight hamstrings, IT band pain, ankle sprains, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and postural complications.

Much research has been done to find a solution to fix and prevent these common injuries associated with poor foot strength and mobility. Minimalist shoes, like Nike Frees and other similar structures, were developed with the purpose of correcting foot function rather than inhibiting it. As mentioned before, the whole idea of a minimalist shoe is to mimic being barefoot. These types of shoes allow the same degree of flexibility to help improve balance and strength, provide feedback from the ground to the sensors in your feet that provide shock absorption, and yet still have a measure of protection for your feet from the environment (i.e. rocks, glass, concrete, etc.). Over time, the muscles in your feet gradually become stronger and more stable because they are able to fully do their job.

If you decide to make the switch into a minimalist shoe, there are a couple things to keep in mind. Because your feet are accustomed to cushionier, supportive soles, it will take time for them to acclimate to the change. Progress slowly and let your body adapt at its own pace. If you are a runner, don’t expect to jump right into the same mileage at first. Start with shorter distances on level ground for at least the first month to allow your feet, shins, and calves the chance to adjust.

It’s also a good idea to begin running on grass and dirt trails instead of hitting the hard pavement right away. Less cushion in minimalist shoes means your feet will have to more efficiently absorb the impact of running. Starting your transition on softer surfaces will help ease your feet into becoming better shock absorbers. As long as you are aware and mindful about progressing into minimalist shoes, there should be no worry of injury or over stressing your feet. Once your body adapts to the new shoes, you’ll notice how much stronger, more flexible, and better balanced you and your feet become!

Importance of Shoulder Roll

Swimming ability at the SAC is at quite a reasonable standard however with a few minor adjustments and basic tips you can improve your technique, endurance and timing drastically.

Today I will focus upon freestyle technique and how with a simple change you can improve not only your technique but also your personal well-being while swimming. One of the main problems when people swim this stroke is their body position and how they swim constantly on their front. This is an extremely static position and can cause excessive stress upon certain parts of your body.

A huge help would be to start or at least try swimming freestyle with a side – front – side rotation, or a body roll. This creates a shoulder roll movement which is extremely important for a variety of reasons:

1)      Less strain= as your shoulders have more movement and are not subject to all the strain from the arm pull, not only will your stroke feel looser but your body will after your swim. This will also help avoid nasty shoulder pain and poor posture.

2)      Larger pulls with less effort = as your body will stretch further automatically, you consequently have a larger reach but haven’t used any extra energy.

3)      Your body is more streamline = a more streamline body position is always desirable in swimming and by swimming on your side for half of the swim will result in not only a quicker swim but also a more efficient swim.

So how can you achieve all of this?

Drill -Kick Change

With your body you are going to roll side to side with each stroke

Start off on your side with your lower arm raised above your head, head resting on this arm and your upper arm down by your side (arms in a 6 o clock position)

You will then kick 12 times and then complete your arm pull by doing a normal stroke lifting the upper arm up and over. This is where you will roll to the other side now facing the opposite side of the pool, arms now switched along with the body

Repeat the 12 kicks and complete 40 yds (2 lengths or 1 lap) of this changing each 12 kicks

Now reduce the kicks to 10 kicks for 40yds, then 8 kicks for 40 yds, 6 kicks for 40yds and finally 4 kicks for 40yds. This is a 200 yd swim (10 lengths or 5 laps)

When you get down to 4 kicks the stroke will almost be at full stroke again however you will have a constant body roll with that stroke.

It’s relatively simple to practice this drill however it is hard to incorporate new techniques into your everyday stroke so thinking about this stroke while swimming is also very important.

Full stroke

You want to be switching the body with each stroke, giving you an extended reach, shoulder roll and a more streamlined body position,  however you need to keep you head still looking downwards while the body is rotating, until you need a breath.

Thanks for reading and hope this helps your techniques. I am often round the pool or in the pool so if you have any questions about this or anything else to do with swimming don’t hesitate to ask.

Have you tried speed bag/Heavy bag training?

Have you had a chance to use the boxing equipment and trainers at the Seattle Athletic Club? The training is interactive and great calorie burner. The format of martial arts is to teach you proper technique, timing, coordination, endurance/stamina drills. The calorie expenditure is awesome, if you weigh 125 and did 1 hour of speed bag/heavy bag burns 340 to 400 and if you weigh 175 and did 1 hour of speed bag/heavy bag burns 613 to 700 calories! These are great numbers for consideration, and if you add jump rope, agility, and medicine ball training the calories count grows by 100s more!

A few things you need to know before you start your training. You will need a pair of boxing gloves to protect your hand from bruising, and cuts. When you use a speed bag make sure the bag is at eye level to keep punches, and strikes at a proper distance, and body positioning.

Beginning Speed Bag training

Let’s get your gloves on and approach the speed bag. You want to stand in front of speed bag with hands up at chin level, elbows at shoulder level (think hands 1 on top of each other) you are only using 50 percent power on this apparatus. You will keep your palms facing down and strike the bag with the pinky of the top hand, and let the bag bounce forward 1 time back 1 time then strike with the other hand. It is a rhythmic sound of 2 hits bag bounces then strike. You will need lots of practice, and patience. The timing learned, and eye hand coordination will help you in any sport

Beginner heavy bag training

You are warmed up with speed bag now let’s try some heavy bag work. Stand in front of the heavy bag with gloves on with 1 foot forward, and keeping hands up at chin level this time palms face each (guard up) and hands clinched tight. Try to punch the bag with the front hand (jab) then your back hand (cross punch) called a set. Do 10 sets then switch and do the other side of body to build muscle balance. You will find the cardio/stamina training is excellent and great therapy for stress. If you feel the technique is to challenging feel free to schedule a session with one of our martial art/boxing coaches to clean up your form.

Jody Garcia

Live the life of a warrior!

Workout Outside!

Spring is here and there’s no better way to get out and enjoy the sunny Seattle weather than to do so while working out! Don’t snub the outdoors for your routine weight lifting program in the gym. You’d be surprised how easy it is to get a full body workout done sans gym equipment. Plus, think about all of the extra Vitamin D you’ll be soaking up while you exercise.

Another benefit of exercising outside is that it’s different. We are all creatures of habit and often shy away from the unknown. What many people don’t realize is your body craves variety. Too much of one thing is never good. Switching up your usual exercises with an entirely new program not only fights boredom, but also prevents your body from reaching a plateau. That being said, here’s a quick circuit to help get you started with something new outdoors. All you need is a playground and a little creativity. Time to kick into gear, no excuses!

  1. Hanging knee tucks (works abs, lower back, lats, shoulders, forearms)
    1. Grip onto a sturdy branch or monkey bar with your hands shoulder width apart
    2. Keeping your core engaged, pull both knees up towards your chest contracting your abs. Do not swing legs up or arch your lower back.

Tip: be sure to keep your shoulder blades down and back throughout the whole movement.

  1. Pushup knee tucks (works chest, shoulders, abs)
    1. Start in the pushup position, hands shoulder width apart and abs engaged
    2. Bring your body down, touching your chest to the floor
    3. As you push up, pull one knee in toward your chest and back down
    4. Repeat pushup and pull in opposite knee toward chest

Tip: To modify, perform the pushup off of a bench or from your knees

  1. Bench Plyo step ups (works legs, core)
    1. With one foot on top of the bench and the other on the floor
    2. Propel straight up bringing your opposite knee up towards your chest. Jump as high up as you can.
    3. Land back in starting position

Tip: Make sure you push your weight through the heel of the foot on top of the bench and keep your knee behind your toes. To modify, perform the exercise without the jump.

  1. Bench dips (works chest, triceps)
    1. Start with hands shoulder width apart and body right next to the edge of the bench.
    2. Descend down, keeping elbows straight back until arms are bent ~90 degrees
    3. From there, squeeze elbows together as you push your body straight up to starting position, keeping your spine close to the edge of the bench

Tip: Avoid letting your elbows flare out to the sides

  1. Monkey Bar Jump pull-ups (works legs, back, biceps)
    1. From the ground, jump straight up gripping tightly on the bar and pulling your body up as high as you can.

Tip: Momentum from the jump will assist in pulling your body up. The harder you jump, the easier it will to pull yourself up! 🙂

  1. Bulgarian Split Squats (works glutes, legs)
    1. Facing away from the bench, keep one foot on top of the bench
    2. Sit back on your standing leg, pushing your weight into the heel and keeping your knees behind your toes.
    3. Lunge back as low as you can, aiming to get the thigh of your standing leg parallel with the floor.

Tip: Avoid bending forward too much; focus on keeping your chest and chin up.