Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pilates vs. Yoga

What really is the difference between Pilates and Yoga?  Which one should you do?  The answers may surprise you.  Lets start by looking at this diagram for a visual of the differences:

Joseph Pilates was inspired by both Eastern and Western forms of exercise when developing his method, so there are many similarities.  As shown in the center of the diagram both improve posture, reduce stress, increase flexibility, and work on balance.  In both classes you might rest in Child's pose or Shell.  Exercises may include: Cat/Cow, Thread the Needle, Treading in a Downward Dog, Plank, or Seated Twist.  

However, each has their own sequence and flow of exercises.  This promotes a different pace with each class.  One big overall difference is the breathing.  In Pilates you pull in your stomach rather than allow it to fill with your breath.  Pilates is also continuous movement instead of holding postures as in Yoga.  

Another difference is that Pilates can use equipment with springs for resistance for quicker results when looking to tone up.  In summary, both are safe and effective forms of mind/body workouts.  Choose your favorite or do both to compliment one another.    

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Break It Down: Elephant

Part of the long stretch series on the reformer is an exercise called the Elephant.  This one can be challenging since the client is unable to see most of the work going on.  They need to rely on using body awareness to feel their abs scooping to pull their feet back under them.  
Purpose- stability of shoulders, movement from waist, stretch hamstrings

Preps- Hamstring Stretch on Chair, Knee Series, Reverse Elephant, knee bends to stretch

Form- Straight arms/legs, chest is open to keep the shoulders wide, tail tucked under the heels, toes lifted, round/flat back 

*May not be appropriate for those with certain shoulder problems or balance issues

Modifications- move feet closer to bar if hamstring are tight, Pilates V stance, low/high bar

How to Advance- Single leg Elephant, walk feet all the way to shoulder rests

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shoulder Injuries

Recently I attended a Shoulder Workshop taught by Brett Howard who is part of the United States Pilates Association.  It was a seminar full of hands on learning and class planning for case study clients with shoulder injuries.  

Injuries are common with clients, especially when they involve muscles of the rotator cuff.  The four muscles shown below (SITS) help to stabilize, rotate, and abduct the shoulder girdle.  

Here are some examples of what potential injuries may occur and how to help modify and heal:

Shoulder Subluxation & Dislocation 

  • Light weight bearing only, lots of stability work 
  • Ex: Kneeling/Planks holding, Long Stretch prep (shift front/back), Chair One-Arm Push Up, Single Leg Kick, Lat Pulls (single or both)

Frozen Shoulder

  • Avoid weight, increase mobility (work through frozen spot), lots of stretching for upper back muscles
  • Ex: Shoulder Circles, Spider on wall (walk hand up wall), Arc Barrel exercises to open up chest

Acromioclavicular Joint Separation

  • Light strengthening, stability/mobility around joint
  • Challenging to Abduct/Adduct
  • Ex: Neck Roll

Rotator cuff (tear or impingement)

  • Avoid weight, focus on core strength
Click here for other ways to stretch and strengthen your shoulders.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book Review: Pilates Space. The Workbook for Inspired Entrepreneurs

Want to start a fitness business?  Look to this handbook to assist in everything from how much space you will need, how to schedule out your time, to what color to paint the walls.  This book has all the basic tools to get you started in your business plan for the future.

The book "Pilates Space" by Jens Lange Nicola Conraths-Lange is a must for those teachers looking to open their own studio.  It is very easy to read and broken down into sections for quick reference.  Even those who already own their own business would benefit from the small suggestions found throughout.    

You will learn tools such as how private clients are the key to paying your rent, what your logo says about your company's style, how to pick equipment to maximize your space with group classes, and incentives to use to keep a loyal following.  This book will put together a written business plan for your success.  "Pilates Space" is a must for any current or future fitness entrepreneur! 

Monday, April 11, 2011

DVD Review: Tracy Anderson Method Mat Workout

Tracy Anderson is a big name in fitness working with Hollywood stars such as Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow.  She uses her background in dance to sculpt long, lean lines in the body using a variety of unique exercises.  This is a complex yet effective workout which everyone will enjoy to firm up and slim down.  

"The Tracy Anderson Method Mat Workout DVD"  includes a dynamic warm up, standing chair leg work (similar to ballet bar work), core sequences, arm weight series and cool down stretches.  You will definitely feel the burn and work all those smaller muscles!  I recommend you take breaks with each section until your body is better able to adapt to these new movements (especially during the arm sequences).  

This is a great DVD to add to your collection to spice up your workouts.  Get a toned behind, sexy arms and narrow your waist all in an hour.  A great compliment to cross train with Pilates also.

Click here for more Pilates DVDs to add to your collection. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Workout Playlist

Music can enhance any experience.  Make sure you pick soothing and inspiring songs to add to your personal workout or class playlist.  Here are some tune suggestions to help spice up your Pilates music selection:
  • Ambient Artists:
  1. Yanni "Almost a Whisper"
  2. Enigma "Once in a Lifetime"
  3. Cafe Del Mare "Morning Mood"
  4. David Gray "This Years Love"
  5. Erotic Lounge 
  6. Ray LaMontagne "Let It Be"
  • Classical Artists: 
  1. Beethoven "Symphony #9"
  2. Chopin "Piano Nocturne in Ebm"
  3. George Frideric Handel "Water Music"
  4. Mozart
  5. Vivaldi "Autumn"
  6. Bach 
  • Current Artists:
  1.  Bobby McFerrin
  2. Colbie Caillat
  3. Dido "Thank You"
  4. Enya
  5. Jack Johnson "Lullaby"
  6. Michael Buble "Home"
  7. Norah Jones "The Nearness of You"
  8. Rockapella
  9. Sarah McLachlan
  10. Seal "Amazing"

Monday, April 4, 2011

TRX/Pilates Fusion

TRX exercises can help make your Pilates workouts stronger and vice versa.  It is also a good way to add variety to class for more advanced clients.  Both forms of fitness (TRX and Pilates) focus on the core, strength and stability.  Get creative with your workouts and see amazing benefits when you blend the two together.  Here are some examples:

  • Ab Series of 5 or 100s: feet or hands in the straps at mid calf length

  • Bridging/Pelvis Press: mid calf length
  • Standing Cadillac Arms such as Circles or Butterfly (see video for reference):  mid length
  • Atomic Push Ups/Pikes: mid calf length

  • Boomerang (Click for video demo): mid calf length
  • TRX Squats (Ballet Leg work + pulses, Russian Squats): mid length
  • Teaser: hands or feet in loops, add in a twist at the top, mid calf length

  • Side Planks/Hip Dips: mid/mid calf length

  • Curl Ups/Roll Ups: resisted or assisted, mid calf length
  • Oblique Leg Raise (Tick Tock/Corkscrew): mid calf length
  • Body Saw (prep for Long Stretch): mid calf length
Want to learn more about how TRX and Pilates compliment each other?  Click here

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Posture 201: Kyphosis

Trust me...you do not want to end up an old hunched over lady (that goes for guys also).  You can spot them from a mile away.  They lean over shopping karts, drag along their walkers and slowly shrink over the years.  Sadly this happens mostly because of poor posture.

Kyphosis (extreme curve of the thoracic spine) posture may include a jutting chin, tight chest muscles, weak spinal extensors, strain on the neck, and tucked pelvis when standing.  A person with this posture looks like they are slouching.  It is important to learn to take your neck out of the equation.  Placing a tennis ball under the chin as a place holder when preforming ab work will allow you or your client to think more leading with the crown of the head then with the chin.

When designing a workout plan for someone with Kyphosis focus on avoiding excessive flexion of the spine.  This will only further promote their posture habits.  Exercises such as Saw, Push Through, Rowing or Stomach Massage can be avoided or kept to minimal repetitions.  Focus more on stretching the pectoral muscles and hamstrings.  Work to strengthen the spinal extensors and core muscles.

Exercises for Kyphosis:
  • Back Extension (click for video): Swan, Elbow Lifts, Double Leg Stretch
  • Hamstring Stretches: Leg Circles, Barrel Ballet Stretches, Elephant, Tree, Feet in Straps 
  • Foam Roll (click for video) Puppet Arms/Circles/Scissors
  • Core Strength: Series of 5 or 100s
  • Standing/Kneeling Chest Expansion
  • Back Strength: Dogbird, Superman/Swimming, Planks Front/Side, Pulling Straps
Stand taller throughout your day, breathe deep and scoop in those abs to have a healthier back in the future.  Age gracefully with the help of Pilates!  

Friday, April 1, 2011

Break It Down: Side Sit Up

Get rid of those love handles Pilates style with the Side Sit Up.  Nothing screams obliques and stability more than this exercise.  It can be preformed on the Ladder Barrel, Spine Corrector or Reformer.  It may look like a simple movement, but correct alignment is the key.  Do this one as part of your weekly routine and notice how those inches melt off! 

Purpose- strengthen obliques, promote stability in pelvis, lateral flexion of spine

Preps- Banana, Pregnant Cat, Reach, Side Lift, Planks

*May not be appropriate for those with issues such as disc injury.

Form- move within the same plane as if there was a window you could break in front/back of your body, elongate through the entire spine leading with the crown of the head, stabilize pelvis, ground with heel

Modifications- use bottom hand to guide you over, hands on forehead, shorten range of motion, have instructor keep your hips stacked

How to Advance- keep arms straight and tight by ears, hold ball/magic circle in palms, increase range of motion

Challenges- add in a twist down/up at the halfway down point, move slow without momentum