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Push-Up Pull-Up: Tips to Improve Upper Body Strength for Push-Ups

Did you know that by practicing the Push-Up Pull-Up phase of your push-up exercises you can improve upper body strength and successfully do a great, get all the way down and back up again push-up?  

(This post with tips to improve your push-up pull-up technique is Part 3 of a four-part article series to help you improve your Push-Up Exercises)

Improve Upper Body Strength for Push-Up ExercisesIf you haven’t read my previous articles in this series, you might want to check those out first; Push-Up Prep and Practice Better Push-Ups.

I was helping a client improve their Push-Ups recently and had a cool A-Ha moment. We were working on improving her upper body strength to maintain a better Push-Up position, working in a full range of motion to lower the body down in one long, strong piece.  We spend almost ALL day using our arms in front of the body. Push-Ups, Bench Press in the weight room, or Chaturanga in Yoga class are all different forms of a Push Up.  I see so many people struggle with good form to get down (and back up) for a good Push-Up.  Who has ever cued you to pay attention to the work that’s happening behind your back — with your arms, shoulders, and upper back to control lower the body down for your Push-Up Exercises?  Let’s talk about the Push-Up Pull-Up phase of this exercise…

It’s funny, I like to do hanging Pull-Ups in a Plank Position for my circuit workouts at the park on the playground equipment.  And when my husband joins me for a workout, he hates this exercise.  It’s difficult to do a hanging Pull-Up because it’s basically a rowing exercise against your body weight (a reverse Push-Up because the back is doing all the work).  On the Pilates Cadillac, we have a version of this exercise too; usually reserved for more experienced “advanced” clients and a slightly easier version standing on the Cadillac (the Spread Eagle).  After 40 plus years of coaching experience and 22 years of teaching Pilates, I have a newfound appreciation of hanging Pull-Ups and the huge benefit they can offer to help you improve your Push-Ups.  Are you ready to take your understanding of Push-Up exercises to the next level?

Not everybody needs to dash out to the park to play on the playground (although if you feel inspired after reading this, go for it!). However, I do want to share with you some things to think about from a technique standpoint for why paying attention to the Pulling/Lowering Phase of your Push-Up exercise is important.

Posted by administrator in Functional Movement, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation May Help Reduce Inflammation, Depression, and More…

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Might Be A Missing Link for Better Health

How in touch are you with your Vagus Nerve? Do you struggle with inflammation, depression, or other chronic health challenges?  Has anybody ever suggested that you do anything specific to support your Vagus Nerve or suggested Vagus Nerve Stimulation?  Do you even have a clue as to what it is, where it is, or what it does?  I know…me neither.  The Vagus Nerve links communication between the head, heart, and digestive tract.  And of course before you go running off willy-nilly seeking the Holy Grail of answers for your health problems on the internet, check with your doctor and get proper medical advice before doing anything!

I saved the link to an article on the Vagus Nerve Inflammation Connection months ago because it interested me. Unfortunately, I am just now getting around to looking at it and realized that the website it’s posted on is no longer being updated, but I’ll go ahead and post the article link (below) that prompted this post.

I’m not much of a research junkie because I get lost in the technical mumbo-jumbo.  However, in my personal struggle to maintain good health, I appreciate insights from every angle.  Western medicine has failed me more times than I can count, and for many of my issues it’s been a struggle of mind over matter since finding a solution has been a nebulous quest.  While it would be great if there were a magic pill, potion, or food that would “fix” it all, our bodies are complex organisms and there are a lot of factors involved in getting everything to function optimally.

Inflammation has been a HUGE struggle for me throughout my life, that along with depression, anxiety, digestive disorders, Optic Neuritis, joint pain, and muscle aches.  I’m hyper-sensitive to foods, chemicals, and smells.  Sometimes I can get away with more, other times I’m over the edge and in-trouble faster than I can blink.  For some reason this past fall and winter were particularly challenging.  My lows have been lower and I fall faster to the pit of despair than I ever have in my life.

It’s scary, but I’m also talking about it because I know I’m not alone. I am also sick of people saying; “It’s just a choice!” “Choose to feel better.”  “Choose to think positively.” “Choose to be happy.”

You, my friend (or psychologist), obviously have never spent a day in my body where the norm is to wake up every morning trying to fight off the feelings of wanting to be 6 feet under.  TRUST ME, nobody would willingly want to spend their life feeling like crap – physically, mentally, or emotionally.  These are reasons why I’ve always exercised.  Physical activity is my “drug of choice”  because I really can’t take medications.  Most of the time I feel better when I am physically active.  But sometimes even that doesn’t help.

Posted by administrator in Alleviating Pain & Chronic Health Problems, Mind-Body Health.

Practice Better Push-Ups

5 Movement Training Tips to Maximize Healthy Movement Habits

(This post is Part 2 of a four-part article series to help you improve your Push-Ups)

Do you struggle to find and use the right muscles to do the work on Push-Ups? 

Push-Ups aren’t easy, especially for us gals due to the weight distribution in our bodies.  But that doesn’t mean doing them is an impossible dream!  Men naturally have more upper body strength and typically not a lot of “junk in the trunk.” This makes Push-Ups easier for them because there is not as much mass in the hips to have to move up and down.  Men tend to have wider shoulders and narrower hips. Men also tend to be stronger from where the movement is initiated (Chest, Upper Back, and Shoulders). However, that strength is both a blessing and a curse because stronger, tighter shoulders can easily get pulled out of position while moving up and down on your arms.  Women tend to have less upper body strength, narrower shoulders, and wider hips.  We have more weight to hold up that is farther away from the pivot point of a Push-Up.  Regardless of whether you’re male or female, we ALL need good arm and shoulder mechanics for both our fitness and daily life activities because without the right muscles working, one bad rep during your push-ups can quickly lead to a shoulder injury, rotator cuff problems, or chronic neck and back pain.

Every body CAN do Push-Ups.  Paying close attention to what muscles you’re using and how you’re moving matters if you want all the benefits possible from your hard efforts practicing Push-Ups.

If you haven’t read my article with tips on Push-Up Prep, you might want check this out first to help you practice getting into a good starting position.  Finding and maintaining a good position is the first step in being able to practice a better Push-Up.

Here are 5 Movement Training Tips to Help You Practice Better Push-Up Exercises

  1. Strive to “Un-grip” your Pecs and keep the Ribcage lifted with the Serratus Muscles along the sides of the body.
    • If you are sagging and pinching your shoulder blades together to start your Push-Up, your body is out of alignment right from the start. Not everybody talks about the Serratus muscle – it’s a much-needed muscle to strengthen and use for a great Push-Up.
    • If you “grip” your Pecs, it’s impossible to lower your whole body down. Instead, the head and hips will drop first and your shoulders will be the last thing to hit the ground.
  1. Find and Use your Multifidi Muscles! They are the magic bullet for helping to stabilize the spine position while moving your Push-Up down and up.
  1. Keep Your Weight in LOW Center throughout the exercise (avoid shifting your body weight forward onto your hands and arms; keep your weight back over your heels and hips) 
  1. “Tighter is Lighter” If you relax any of the pieces of the body that you organized in your setup, it will be more difficult to execute good Push-Ups. People tend to relax the Glutes, Inner Thighs, and Low Abs when they pull the shoulder blades down to lengthen the upper back. Or, when they release the arms to lower the body, they relax the whole body! The strong support below is what the top of the body is lengthening away from to move on your Push-Ups. 
  1. BREATHE
    • Inhaling lengthens the spine and helps maintain your plank line while you lower the body to the mat.
    • Exhaling helps gather more low core support while you lift UP away from the floor.

These five healthy movement habit training tips might sound simple (or overwhelming) depending on how many of these muscles you are familiar with using during your workouts.  Ultimately, it’s about connecting mind, body, and movement.  Being able to find and use not just the big muscles in the body, but some of the smaller muscle groups that help support and stabilize a good position, will help you improve your range of motion and body mechanics to maximize the benefits of practicing your Push-Ups.

*****

Don’t miss the next post in my How To Improve Your Push-Up Exercises, article series.  Subscribe now to the Centerworks Wellness Success eNews to get article updates, and more…

Posted by administrator in Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips.

Push-Up Exercise Prep: Improve Your Push-Up Exercises with a Great Starting Position

6 Simple Training Tips To Get Into a Good Starting Position

(This post is Part 1 of a four-part article series to help you improve your Push-Up Exercises)

push-up prep

How easy are Push-Up exercises for you?  A piece of cake; easy to pump out 5, 10, 25+ reps without breaking form, no problem. Or, do you struggle thru, finding yourself dreading the exercise and wondering what you can do (besides more frequent practice) in hopes that at some point you’ll hit the tipping point and magically your push-up exercises will get easier?

Push-Ups done well are NOT just a Pec Exercise.  In my opinion, the chest muscles are the least important muscle group for the execution of successful push-up exercises.  I’ve been polling my studio clients lately to see what goals and exercises they’d like to focus on improving in the coming months. Improving upper body strength has come up numerous times for both my male and female clients.  And, while I’ve spent a good amount of time helping them perfect their push-ups, there always seems to be another little piece of the puzzle; a piece that’s important for improving movement technique and maximizing the health benefits of this fabulous upper body strengthening exercise.

In this 4-part series, I will provide some training tips for you to consider in order to improve how you move for your Push-Up exercises.  I think you’ll see noticeable improvements quickly, once you start paying attention to the little details; which will ultimately help you to improve your Push-Up Exercises.

My favorite Push-Up, the one I ultimately challenge you to practice, is the Pilates version.  There are a million variations of Push-Up exercises you can play with – from hand placement, to leg placement, to angles of work, to where the arms are tracking while they bend and straighten.  For a Pilates Push-Up exercise, the upper arms stay close to the body as you move up and down.  If you’re in a Yoga class doing your Sun Salutations, this movement is similar to lowering the body for Chaturanga Dandasana.

Done well, Push-Up Exercises are an awesome upper body (and whole-body) strengthening exercise!  Done poorly, Push-Up exercises can potentially be a quick way to strain your low back and injure a shoulder.  A Push-Up is the body weight version of both a Bench Press and Rowing exercise in the weight room. If your body mechanics aren’t working efficiently for one version, there is a good chance that you’re continuing to reinforce your bad habits anywhere else you’re practicing a similar movement.  Are you ready to fine-tune your focus and pay attention to how you’re executing your Push-Up exercises?

Posted by administrator in Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips.

A Healthy Life Gives You the Freedom to Celebrate Your Independence

Healthy LifeAre you living a healthy life?

I love having clients that depend on me to help them improve how they move.  Linking together the pieces in the puzzle, we all must sort out to get our brains and bodies functioning as well as possible.

But ultimately, it’s not about being co-dependent and always relying on someone else to ensure you enjoy a healthy life.  Let’s face it, the 2-3 hours a week you’re in the studio with me is nothing compared to the other 165 hours in your week that you’re out there on your own.  What are you doing with your time?  How wisely are you making decisions and choices that enhance your healthy life? What else are you doing to stay active, healthy, and develop strength, flexibility, balance, and body control?  What other aspects of health need to be focused on to maintain your healthy life?  How are your hormones, digestive system, heart & circulation, eyes and ears, respiratory system, skin, and mental health? So many things matter to give you the freedom to be independent and enjoy a healthy life.

I’ve had a few super-fit athletes for clients, but more the norm are everyday folks; with everyday aches and pains, or chronically health-challenged people (that I can totally relate to from my own personal health challenges – mentally and physically!).  And if you’ve got “issues in your tissues” I think you have a better appreciation for being healthy and independent.  There’s a little more urgency in the need to keep working to find a solution.  Motivation can bounce up and down – eager to do something positive one minute, and frustrated that changes aren’t happening quick enough the next. 

Posted by administrator in Health.

Core Support for Better Posture

Low Center vs. High Center: Get Your Core Support Where It Can Serve You Best

By finding and focusing on the right segment of your midsection to improve core support you can improve posture, help eliminate aches and pains, and reduce stress for better health.

One of the things I spend lots of time on with my clients is identifying the difference between Low Center and High Center support.  Lack of body awareness, not understanding the difference between low center and high center, not knowing what your normal “go-to” recruiting pattern for core support really is, are just a few of the reasons why I believe so many people have issues with low back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain.

You might “kind of” know that your posture isn’t great.  But you might not completely realize that YOU are 100% in charge of HOW you are holding your posture, and 100% in change of WHERE you are holding your posture. You also might not realize how much your “not-so-great” posture habits have been affecting every little ache and pain your body experiences throughout the day.

The cumulative effect of poor posture habits over time, is that some of those little aches and pains turn into chronic problems and for many people this leads to shots, surgeries, and mis-use injuries.  But at the root of it all is POSTURE. 

Posted by administrator in Alleviating Pain & Chronic Health Problems, Back Pain.

Pilates Walk – Tips, Techniques, and Exercises for a Healthy Stride

Quickly and Easily Maximize the Health Benefits of Your Walking Workouts

I’m super-excited to announce that after YEARS in process, my book Pilates Walk™ Tips and Techniques for a Healthy Stride is finally available.  Learn the system I use with my in-studio clients and have been teaching for years at Pilates-Walk workshops to improve gait and get everything from your head to your toes integrated, coordinated, and working well, to maximize the health benefits of every step you take.

Walking provides a great whole-body workout, but only if you’re using everything well.  Most of us have muscle habits that are inhibiting our stride.  Whether it’s from siting at a desk all day, muscle imbalances from sport training, being a mom and carrying your kids on one hip all the time, past injuries, or just lack of awareness for what muscles you’re using to move… Becoming more aware of your current habits, and discovering new ways to move with the Pilates Walk system, can help you fine-tune your fitness for an even healthier YOU!

It’s nice to think that you’re out for a walk to improve your health, but if you’re not engaged with both your brain and body to pay attention to how you’re moving, you might be missing out on the true health benefits your walking workouts can provide.

The Pilates Walk system covers everything from your head to your toes:

  • Learn Centerworks® M.O.V.E.ment concepts designed to integrate mind and body.
  • Experience simple Pilates Walk prep exercises that will help you retrain each part of your body to improve your healthy stride.
  • Find the support you need to stand taller, engage more muscles, and move with freedom and ease.

Use the Pilates Walk System and Training Techniques to:

  • Improve Posture and Breathing
  • Increase Stability and Support
  • Develop Healthy Hips, Legs and Feet
  • Activate the Core
  • Enhance Torso Control & Mobility
  • Use Your Arm Swing Effectively

Discover how much more of a whole-body workout you’ll get while walking by incorporating the Pilates-Walk training principles, concepts, and exercises into your weekly workouts.

Whether you walk as a dedicated fitness activity, or just walk as a part of your daily life routine.  Improve how you move with Pilates Walk Tips, Techniques, and Exercises for a Healthy Stride.

A few people already have their copies of this book, and I’m already starting to get some great feedback about this walking resource:

“Got the Pilates-Walk book.  Really enjoying it. Thanks!”
–Sheryl C.

“My client, who had a stroke 8 years ago, bought your Pilates Walk book.  He loves it.  He asked if you wrote any other books and I loaned him my copy of Fantastic Feet.  We’ve worked on his feet a lot.  He said he has never been aware of all the information that I’ve told him (which I learned from you) and what’s in your book(s).  He never thought he’d be able to balance on one foot again.  He can now put his pants on without holding onto something.  He is very proud of that.  Thx!!!”
–Jamie S.  Pilates Teacher, Inhale/Exhale Studio

No Pilates experience necessary to benefit from the tips and techniques you’ll find in this book.  Use this resource on your own at home and start putting these easy-to-learn Pilates Walk techniques into practice during your walking workouts.  Order your copy of the Pilates Walk™ book today!

Posted by administrator in Pilates, Walking.

Core Conditioning – Are You Listening to Your Body to Improve Core Strength and Whole-Body Health

Core ConditioningCore conditioning is a multi-faceted jewel that is key to enjoying a healthy life.  On so many different levels we need to be more focused on improving core conditioning.  I’m going out on a limb here and saying that I believe that at least 95% of “issues” related to poor health are a result of a core challenge.

For years I dealt with an abdominal muscle tear that made doing sit-up exercises impossible!  I felt like a hypocrite, spending all day teaching my Pilates clients how to find and use their mid-sections, and mine was so broken I couldn’t even roll over in bed!  But what I learned through the process of recovering from this injury, was how many other muscle groups, besides just the fab 4 abdominal (Transverse, Internal & External Obliques, and Rectus) muscles are necessary for healthy movement.  And I was forced to listen to my body and act accordingly.  You see I had about 10-12 years where flexing my rectus, or doing 1-sided exercises caused me immediate abdominal pain, and prohibited my injury from fully healing.  I had to get creative in finding other muscles to help support movement so I could continue to be active.  I had to make smart exercise choices that allowed me to enjoy full body workouts without causing strain and pain on my abdominal tear.  I had to let go of my ego and be happy that I was able to do something, and not whine about what I wasn’t able to do.  Then I had to do what I could do regularly, listen to my body, and just work at my own pace.  And patience…. lots of patience.

Now I can pretty much do what I want with my abs without fear, pain, or negative repercussions.  But it was a looong time getting back to this point.  Even when I work with clients who have never had an abdominal injury – it can be quite the journey trying to find, feel, and activate the right muscles to maximize healthy movement.

Posted by administrator in Functional Movement.

Bye-Bye Back Pain By Practicing this Simple Back-Opening Breathing Exercise

Reducing Back Pain with Breathing Are You Ready to Take Action and Do Something About Your Back Pain?

Back pain can be anywhere along the spine from the tip of your tailbone, all the way up to the base of your skull.  Regardless of where it hurts, or what you’ve done to aggravate it – the truth is, that all anybody ever really wants is a quick fix to make the pain go away.

I know personally how life-altering it is to live with chronic back pain.  I was born with defects at L5-S1 and that instability has made maintaining my core strength a necessity to keep me healthy.  And if you’re low back is out of alignment, nothing stacked on top of that is quite right either so back pain can result anywhere from the bottom to the top.

If it’s not your low back that’s bothering you, it might be your mid-back, or upper back / neck and shoulders.  It’s nice if a chiropractic adjustment can get you back in alignment, but then the question remains – how long will your adjustment hold before it hurts again?  Pills and shots tend to mask the pain so you feel amazing while you’re medicated, and worse off when it wears off!

There are 2 critical things to pay attention to that can quickly begin alleviating your back pain problems. 

  1. Better Posture
  2. Breathing

Ideally our spine is designed to move freely in all directions.  When the bones are “out of balance” it restricts movement.   Muscles get into tight over-holding patterns, and the daily activities we do over and over sometimes only make it worse.  Muscles move bones, so getting the right muscle balance to maintain healthy body alignment for better posture really does matter if you’re serious about fixing your back pain problems.  We need stability AND mobility.

It’s nice to think, “ If I could just “relax” my back would feel better.”  But the truth is, it’s a combination of both work and release that will make the biggest difference to improve your health.  Right now that work/release balance for good posture is out of whack, and the only way your body can tell you there’s a problem is with a pain signal.

Improving posture is going to be a long-term project…  There is lots to become aware of, bad habits to replace with better habits, and never-ending opportunities to incorporate posture-improving exercises into your weekly workout program. If you’re interested in getting started paying attention to your current posture habits click here to take this Posture Quiz.

Now let’s talk about breathing: Keep reading and take in a few deep breaths.  Notice where the air is going inside your body.

  • Does your low belly stick out when you inhale?
  • Does most of your air rise up into the front of your chest? 

(Both of these not-so-hot breathing habits are contributing factors to low back pain.)

  • Are you able to take a full, deep breath, or are you a shallow breather?

If your back really hurts you might be compensating by not breathing deeply enough to avoid more pain (when in fact this choice is only making the lock down effect worse, and creating more tension.) 

  • Do you breathe evenly into BOTH lungs?  Or tend to fill one side more than the other? 

(Not breathing evenly, back muscles are not working/stretching evenly.)

  • When you inhale do you lift your shoulders up around your ears, or is the ribcage lifting and the shoulders are just riding along on the lift of the cage?

(If you’re actively hiking your shoulders up, you’re jamming your head/neck into your body compressing the cervical spine.)

Since so many people these days have forward head posture your poor neck and shoulder muscles are already on over-drive to keep your head from falling off your body, which is a part of why your shoulders want to hike up to begin with and why you may be dealing with neck pain, mid-back pain or both.

Poor neck! Poor shoulders! Poor back!  Have I gotten your attention yet?

Posted by administrator in Back Pain, Breathing.

Alleviate Shoulder Tension with These 10 Healthy Movement Habits to Help You Feel Great

Alleviate Shoulder TensionAre you sick and tired of aggravating neck and shoulder pain, and ready to change your habits to help alleviate shoulder tension?

I’ve had the opportunity to help so many clients over the past 20+ years teaching Pilates who have walked thru my door complaining of neck and shoulder tension, stress, chronic pain, or rotator cuff injuries.  It’s amazing how quickly things can improve with a better understanding of posture, breathing, body alignment.  Then getting the right exercises into your weekly workout program to reinforce healthy new movement habits and alleviate shoulder tension is the ultimate way to keep the pain away.

It’s a 3-Step Process to get your brain and body in sync for better health.  We don’t know what we don’t know. It’s impossible to make corrections or improvements with our movement habits to alleviate shoulder tension if we don’t realize we need to change, or have never been shown a better way to stand, sit, breathe, or move.

Step 1: Your brain has to be able to send the right message to your muscles. Cognitively understanding what needs to happen is the first step. If you don’t even realize that there is something you’re doing with a daily habit, task, or exercise that is creating the pain, OR that there is actually something that you can do about it, how on earth can you ever fix it? Your brain is the master controller for the rest of your body.  Your body sends a message to the brain that there is pain…  The brain is then supposed to help the body fix it!  How often do you ignore the pain and just keep doing what you’re doing? (or try medicating & masking the pain with a pill – so you can ignore the problem and hope it will just go away?)

Step 2: Improve Your Body Awareness. Being able to find and feel things working differently in your own body is step 2.  It’s important to be able to notice when you’re doing things right or wrong so you have an opportunity to make adjustments for better health.  There is a level of trust that needs to be restored between your brain and body, to improve confidence that if there is a problem, you acknowledge it, and will take action to improve the situation.

Step 3: Practice Good Posture and Healthy Movement Habits.  By applying better body mechanics to every physical activity you do, you get to put your new-and-improved posture habits into practice to help re-train the right muscles to support healthy pain-free movement; reducing your risk of injury and ensuring that whatever activity you do it’s safe and effective to help you stay healthy.  This not only helps alleviate shoulder tension, but helps develop a well-balanced body to keep your whole-body healthy!

Even when we’re sitting still, doing nothing, it can be challenging to alleviate shoulder tension!  Just thinking about things that increase our stress level can effect the amount of neck and shoulder tension we’re holding onto.  Being cold and shivering will wrap your shoulders up around your ears quickly also, and you might not even realize why it’s happening.  Too much time in front of your computer, sitting in a recliner watching TV, or bending your head forward to text message on your phone all are daily life activities that may be contributing to neck and shoulder tension problems.

If you’re tired of complaining about neck and shoulder tension and ready to start paying attention to what you’re doing along with learning how to take better care of your body, there is something you can do about it.  Yes, getting a massage might help you enjoy some temporary relief, but for lasting results it’s time to take control of your body and be pro-active to improve how you stand, sit, and MOVE.

Here are 10 healthy movement habits you can start incorporating into your daily routine to help alleviate shoulder tension.

Posted by administrator in Functional Movement, Shoulder Pain.

 

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