Tag: Pilates Exercise of the Month

Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Seal

Jocelyn Paoli, Stott Certified Pilates Instructor

Purpose: To massage the spinal muscles, work the powerhouse, test balance and coordination. It is often done at or near the end of a mat routine.

1. Sit at the front of your mat with knees bent to your chest and heels together. Open your knees to shoulder width. Hands reaching through the legs to hold outside of ankles.

2. Tip back and balance on your tailbone. Bring your feet just above the mat. Keep the knees within your frame; scoop the navel deeper.

3. Inhale, roll back, pulling your feet with you. Balance on the base of the shoulder blades. Allow your legs to extend slightly until your feet are over your head (head stays on mat). Clap the heels 3 times (like a seal clapping its’ flippers).

4. Exhale as you roll forward to the starting position, tucking your chin into your chest. Balance and clap the heels together 3 times. Your heels should not touch the mat.

5. Repeat 5-8 times; feeling the massage up and down the muscles of your back.

Checklist:
Maintain a constant C curve of the spine.
Never roll onto your head, neck or shoulders – only the base of the shoulder blade.
Initiate rolling back from the powerhouse not from the head.
Don’t use momentum when rolling up. Roll up slightly slower than you rolled back to challenge the abs.

Note: Omit this exercise if you have an acute back injury.

Modification: You can begin without the claps and add 1, 2, then 3 claps as balance improves.

Visualization: Imagine you are on a rocker, balancing on the edges of both the front and back; trying not to tip over in either direction.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: SIDE KICK SERIES: UP/DOWN

PURPOSE: The 2nd exercise of the Side Kick series: this exercise works the hips, buttocks, outer thigh, and stretches your inner thigh muscles.

Set-up : Lie on your side and align your body against the back edge of the mat. Prop your head up on one hand and place the palm of the other hand on the mat in front of you. Position your legs in a 45-degree angle in front of your body. Feet are slightly turned out in a Pilates V.

1. Inhale, lift your top leg straight up to the ceiling and point your toe. Lift your leg only as high as you can manage with it remaining straight.

  1. Exhale, resist gravity, flex your foot, and bring it back down to starting position. Think of reaching and stretching your leg out of your hip.

3. Repeat 5-8 times on each side. Bring your legs back together to prepare for the next exercise in the series, Small Circles.

 

 

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Modifications:

If you experience discomfort in your shoulder, wrist or neck, lay your head down on your arm. You can also use a rolled up towel under your neck for added support.

Head to Toe Checklist:

Remain long and lifted in the upper body as you kick your leg up and lengthen it down. Don’t roll your leg inward. Keep a slight turnout in the hip and thigh throughout the exercise. Stabilize your body with the powerhouse. Nothing moves but the kicking leg.Shoulder and hips remain stacked. Think of controlled movements.

 

Visualization: By the end of the exercise, the kicking leg should feel longer.

 

Jocelyn Paoli, Pilates Instructor

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Double Straight Leg Stretch

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Purpose: The fourth exercise in the Stomach Series targets the powerhouse to the extreme.

1. Lie on your back with hands behind your lifted head; one on top of the other, (not interlaced). Elbows wide.

2. Extend your legs straight to the ceiling, heels together and toes turned out slightly, squeeze inner thighs, sink navel toward spine.

3. Inhale and lower your straight legs down toward the mat for 3 counts. Stop if you feel your lower back begin to arch.

4. Exhale as you raise your straight legs toward the ceiling. Don’t allow the legs to pass 90 degrees; the tailbone does not leave the mat.

Complete 8-10 times. To end bring both knees into chest.

Checklist:
Remain perfectly still in your torso.
Engage the glutes and inner thighs to support and protect your back.
If your back arches off the mat as you lower your legs, you are taking them too low. Bring shoulders away from ears.

Note: If you have a delicate back, place your hands in a V position just below your tailbone (palms down) and leave your head down.

Visualization: Imagine your legs are attached to springs above your head. You must stretch the springs on the way down and resist their pull on the way up.

Jocelyn Paoli, Pilates Instructor

Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Hundred

One of the signature abdominal exercises of Pilates.

 Purpose: To strengthen the abdominal muscles, develop upper body stabilization and stimulate circulation to warm up the body in preparation for the mat workout.

1. Lie on your back; pull your knees into the chest and feel the entire length of your spine on the mat. Lengthen the back of the neck; slide your shoulders down and back.

2. Lift your head and shoulders off the mat bringing chin toward chest. Reach your arms long, past your hips and straighten both legs up toward the ceiling. Squeeze your buttocks and inner thighs together.

3. Begin pumping your arms straight up and down as if you were tapping water. Keep the movement slightly above the mat and your arms straight.

4. Inhale for 5 counts (pumps) and exhale for 5 counts (pumps).

5. Lower your legs to a 45 degree angle, or to the point just before your spine arches off the mat. Maintain this position, pumping your arms and breathing for 100 counts (10 full breath cycles).

6. To finish, lower your head and bring your knees into the chest.

Checklist:

  1. Shoulders are down and back while pumping the arms.
  2. Make sure you are sinking your belly into your spine throughout.
  3. Don’t bend the wrists while pumping; keep stretching through the fingertips.
  4. Keep arms synchronized while pumping.

Note:

  • If your lower back begins to hurt, bend your knees in toward your chest.
  • If you develop neck pain, lower your head.
  • A shoulder injury may prevent you from pumping your arms. Simply reach long or pump softly.

 

Visualization:    Imagine your arms beating out the tempo to a piece of music.

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
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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

Visualization:

Imagine your are floating upward – levitating.

Modifications:

Omit the 3 count pulses.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Teaser 1

 

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Purpose:  Humorously referred to as “the mother of all sit-ups”, the Teaser tests your powerhouse control to the fullest.  At the peak of the exercise, momentarily hold the position, “teasing” the balance.

 

1. Lie on your back with legs extended at a 45 degree angle.  Heels are together and toes turned out slightly.  Stretch your arms overhead by your ears.  Don’t allow your back to arch or your ribs to pop out.

 

2.  Maintain the scoop; inhale; raise your arms, head and shoulders in sequence, peeling the upper body up off the mat vertebra by vertebra.  The chin is toward the chest.  The fingers reach for the toes.

 

3.  Hold the “V” position, balancing on your tailbone. Exhale; begin rolling your spine back down to the mat.

 

4. When your head has touched the mat, stretch arms overhead to the starting position and repeat 3-5 times; inhaling as you float up; exhaling as you peel down.

 

 

Visualization:  As you roll down, imagine each vertebra touching the mat the way your fingers travel on the keys of a piano.

 

Checklist:

Breathe during the exercise or you will not be using your muscles efficiently.

Don’t lower legs past the point of control. If you feel back discomfort, raise legs up to the ceiling.

Take your time, relax your mind and find your rhythm as you go.

 

Note: If you suffer from a stiff spine, perform the exercise with your feet against a wall.

 

Modified Leg Position:  If you have difficulty sitting up all the way, slightly bend the knees, keeping the toes higher than the knees, as you lift and lower the body.

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

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Purpose: 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. 1.   Inhale; Keep scapulae stable and round the trunk 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.

 

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

 

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

 

Visualization: Imagine your are floating upward – levitating.

 

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

 

Modifications:

Omit the 3 count pulses.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Pike on Floor or Stretch Pumping Arms on the Wunda Chair

 

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Purpose: This exercise increases flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back, plus  challenges the powerhouse.  It’s a great prep for the Mat exercise, Teaser.

 

Starting Position: Sit on the floor facing the chair, weight just back of sit-bones.  Place your feet on front edge of chair with legs together.  Arms long, reaching forward, palms on raised pedal.  Shoulders down and stabilized.

 

  1. Inhale;  Prepare.  Exhale; Nod your chin, increase spinal flexion to maintain C-curve.  Engage abdominals as you press the pedal down (arms can be slightly bent).

 

  1. Inhale; Lift the pedal back up with control, keep abs engaged.  Lengthen the spine  and release the pedal.  Exhale.

 

3.  Repeat 3-5 times.

 

Head to Toe Checklist:

*Maintain scapular stabilization to avoid neck, arm or shoulder tension

*Keep abdominals engaged throughout exercise

 *Keep arms in same position relative to torso so the pedal is depressed by abdominals, not      by pushing with the arms

 

Modifications:

Sit on a foam cushion or platform extender to decrease gripping in hips.

 

Pilates Exercise of the Month: SWAN DIVE

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Purpose:

To stretch and strengthen the muscles of the back, neck and shoulders. An advanced exercise that uses momentum as well as control and precision. Concentrate on moving the entire body in one solid piece, gradually increasing the range of motion with each repetition.

 

  1.  Lie on your stomach with your palms pressing into the mat & directly beneath your shoulders. Legs extended long on the mat, tighten the backs of the thighs and buttocks.  Engage abdominals.

 

  1. Inhale; engage muscles of upper and middle back to press your body up into a high arc. Chest is lifted, neck is long; straighten your arms as much as possible.

 

  1. Exhale; bend your arms, lowering yourself back to the mat. Do this stretch 2-3 times to warm up your back muscle for the Swan Dive.

 

  1. On the last stretch upward, release your hands from the mat and Inhale; rocking forward onto your breast bone with your arms extended in front of you as you lift your legs (keep them straight) behind you. Dive forward like a Seesaw, swinging your legs up behind you.

 

  1. Exhale; use the momentum of the forward dive to swing upper body up toward ceiling. Keep arms and legs straight throughout the rocking motion.

 

  1. Continue to rock back and forth, making each successive dive larger than the one before.  Repeat 4-6 times. Then sit onto your heels with your forehead on the mat to release your lower back.

 

Visualization:

Imagine your hands and feet are at the opposite ends of a Seesaw as you dive up and down.

 

Checklist:

Keep the body rigid as you rock with legs glued together and arms straight.

Remember to engage your abdominals throughout the Swan Dive to protect the muscles that run along the spine.

If it’s difficult to keep heels together, allow them to separate slightly, not releasing the muscles of the buttocks.

Don’t toss head back and forth.  Lift from the chest and lengthen back of neck to secure the weight of the head.

 

Modifications:

Lift & lower upper body only; keeping legs extended long on the mat.

Perform Swan Dive with a slow rock- gradually increase momentum as you progress.

 

Note:

This is an advance Pilates exercise. If you have any back issues don’t do the exercise. Slowly build up to the stretch portion #1-3.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: SPINE TWIST

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Spine Twist (November 2013) 

 

 

Purpose:  To work the muscles of your waistline (olbique abdominals) and wring the  stale air from your lungs as you stretch the muscles of your back.

 

1.  Sit very tall with your arms stretched to either side of the room; palms down, fingers long.  Legs are straight and held tightly together; toes point up to the ceiling.

 

2.  Inhale deeply, pull your navel into your spine; as if you were being cinched at the waist.

 

3.  Exhale, for 3 counts, twist your torso to the right.  Sit Taller and increase the rotation with the next 2 breaths.  You can sustain one long exhalation, or a gradual exhale on each count.

 

4.  Look toward your back arm as you turn.  Stay perched on top of your hips, lifting taller and straighter; squeezing your buttocks and legs.

 

5.  Inhale deeply, return to center with your chest high.  Keep your arms in your peripheral vision, shoulders down.

 

6.  Repeat to the left side, lifting even taller and longer through the waist; returning to center.

 

7.  Repeat 3-5 sets on each side.  

 

Visualization:  Imagine you are wringing the air out of your body as you would wring water from a wet towel.

 

Modifications: Sit on a foam custion, edge of mat or cross-legged if you have tightness in lower back, hamstrings or hip flexors. 

 

Head to Toe Checklist:

Don’t let the back shoulder hunch up when turning.

Legs should stay even when twisting.

Use your breath to increase the stretch.

Don’t sink into your back as you twist.  Lift tall out of your waist.