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Latest "Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips" Posts

Get The Best Pilates Exercises Into Your Workouts To Maximize the Whole-Body Health Benefits of the Pilates System

Are you interested in getting the best Pilates exercises in your weekly workout routine to maximize the whole-body health benefits from your efforts?  Check out my myth-busting training tips to be sure you’re working everything from your head to your toes to harness the true power of the Pilates System.

On a pretty regular basis I have clients ask me what the best Pilates exercises are they can use to fix a problem area, spot-tone, or solve a nagging ache or pain.  And occasionally there can be one specific exercise that works to help head them in the right direction to get results. But more often there’s not one exercise that will ever be the BE ALL, END ALL, only thing you need to do to improve your health.  That’s like wanting to take that “magic pill” to lose weight, or expecting surgery to take you from incapacitated to better than new.  It just doesn’t work that way!

Recently, I had an old friend call me who’s got a back pain problem.  He’d tried physical therapy (before he knew exactly what was wrong…) then pain meds, and then finally went to the doctor.  Definitely a backwards order to address the issue, but at least he finally knows what’s wrong, and can start working on a real solution.  His doctor recommended Pilates, and told him he needed “rock hard Abs” and Pilates would help with that.  His PT gave him an exercise sheet with a couple of Pilates Mat exercises.  Then he remembered that he had a friend that teaches Pilates, so he called to get some insights on how to proceed.  Not sure he loved my answer…  Since I couldn’t recommend that he just pull a couple exercises out of the Matwork series to solve his back pain problems, but that I needed to see and work with him to help get the best Pilates exercises into his program, and that Matwork probably wouldn’t be what I would start with for his particular back issues. (And in my opinion, “rock hard Abs” aren’t the full solution either!)

Then, while I was at the doctor’s office chatting with a gal in the lab, she found out I taught Pilates and her comment was, “Pilates is really hard, I’ve done a class or two at the gym, I’m not very good at it.”  So I asked, “Have you ever had a lesson with the Pilates equipment?”  And her response; “There’s Pilates equipment?

Why yes, Pilates is a SYSTEM, which includes a series of Matwork or floorwork exercises and specialized spring-tensioned equipment.  To get the best benefits from Pilates, it’s ideal that you work the system, incorporating both the Matwork and Pilates exercises on the Reformer, Cadillac, Chairs, and Barrels into your workouts.

This reminds me that even though Pilates has been around since the 1920’s, and has gained huge popularity in the past 20 years, there are still lots of people who really know nothing about the health benefits of the Pilates system.  As Pilates professionals, we’ve still got a little bit of myth-busting to do to help people get the best Pilates exercises in to their weekly workout routine.  Ready?  Here we go…

My Myth-Busting Training Tips To Help You Get the Best Pilates Exercises into Your Workouts

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

10 Pilates Moves to Alleviate Back Pain: Don’t Do These…

Why these 10 Pilates Moves to Alleviate Back Pain, just might make your back feel worse instead of better…

10 Pilates Moves to Alleviate Back PainI recently read an article from ACE: 10 Pilates Moves to Alleviate Back Pain and I so vehemently disagree with the exercises and information in this article that I have to share my thoughts.

Here’s the short version of what I’m thinking about this article:  10 Pilates Moves to Alleviate Back Pain if executed well because you really understand Pilates and don’t have any back problems to start with!

Now if you want a few more details about this, keep reading.  I’m on a rant and this is a longer than usual post, but if you have chronic back pain and want to use Pilates as a method to help, the info below will be worth your time to read more.

I love that Pilates is a hot topic to help people alleviate back pain, but it really bothers me to read articles like the recent post from ACE Fitness, which starts by saying that, “Many people with chronic back pain have felt their aches diminish with regular Pilates sessions.”  Yes, I agree.  Then the article goes on to say, “While equipment-based Reformer sessions can be costly and group mat classes may not target your specific needs, many Pilates exercises can help realign your movement patterns to prevent and lessen common back pain.” And then there’s more… “Here are 10 moves that, when practiced regularly, can help improve posture and strengthen the support structures that take pressure off the lower back.”

Sigh… as a fitness professional who has been in the health and wellness industry for forty years, and more specifically focused on Pilates and functional movement training for the past twenty years. It frightens me to see this article and think that people with chronic back pain are reading this and thinking, “Great, I don’t need to invest in Pilates equipment training, OR find a well-qualified Pilates teacher to help me, and why bother with group mat classes, I can just do these 10 exercises on my own and my back pain will go away!” AUUGHGHHHH!

Here’s why if you chose to follow the advice from the ACE article, 10 Pilates Moves to Alleviate Back Pain, your risk of further injury is imminent:

Posted by Aliesa George in Alleviating Pain & Chronic Health Problems, Back Pain, Pilates, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips.

Pilates Training Questions: How Advanced Should I Be?

Advanced Pilates Exercise - Control BalanceEvery student wants an answer to their Pilates training questions, and this curious question  was asked by a client of mine recently.

“How advanced should I be after one year of Pilates training?”

I love Pilates training questions!  The answer to this one hinges on many factors:

1. What your health status was when you started?  Are you 100% healthy with no injuries, chronic aches and pains, or medical limitations?

2. How many days a week are you doing Pilates either privately, or in a group, and working with a well-qualified Pilates teacher?

3. How much you are working on your own in addition to participating in lessons and classes?  Are you able to take what you’re learning about your body and how to improve posture, breathing, and functional movement, and take it out the door with you to practice and apply throughout the day, at work, at home, while you walk, play sports, etc…  Is putting your Pilates principles to work making your life easier and you’re discovering ways to apply what you know with everything you do?

Posted by Aliesa George in Pilates, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips.

Pilates Exercise Progressions: Use Handstands To Develop Strong Arms & Shoulders

handstandThe upper body strength benefits of incorporating handstands into your weekly workouts are huge.  In daily life we don’t typically spend much time upside down on our hands.  But, being upside-down is great for developing balance, body awareness and control, and improving arm and shoulder strength.  Plus being in a handstand position has some great benefits for a healthy spine.  In a handstand, you’re countering the effects of gravity to lengthening the spine in a completely different way!

Posted by Aliesa George in Exercise and Fitness, Pilates, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips, Strength Training.

Low Back Pain: The Sexy Cat Exercise for Healthy Hips and a Happy Back

catHave you ever experienced hip pain or low back pain?  Most people at some point in their lives have dealt with one or both of these debilitating problems.  Our sedentary lifestyle and poor movement habits have led to grippy overworked hip flexors, weak abs, and generally speaking imbalances with the strength and flexibility of the lumbo-pelvic complex (our hips, legs, pelvis, and low back.)

Posted by Aliesa George in Back Pain, Exercise and Fitness, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips.

Pilates Teaching Tips: How to Handle Obstinate Pilates Clients Who Say “NO” to Exercises that Are Beneficial To Their Progress and Health Improvement

signI was asked the question below from a friend and fellow Pilates Teacher this week and thought it would make an excellent topic for a blog post.  Whether you’re a newer Pilates Teacher or well-seasoned expert, we’ve all been faced with difficult clients.  Learning how to handle and confront the issue in a kind and gentle way can help you turn obstinate Pilates clients into allies who will stick with you for life, and refer all their friends to come work with you too!

“Aliesa, I recently subbed for another teacher and had a client who said “NO” and wouldn’t do many of the exercises I had planned for the workout.  This had never happened to me before!  How do you handle clients like this who are uncooperative during a training session?  Thanks for your insights! “      — Mary

What a great question!  I think at some point every Pilates teacher will face a difficult, uncooperative client or two.  Honestly, in my experience over the past 20 years of teaching,  I only remember having ONE client who really pushed me on this issue and said NO to dang near every exercise that I demonstrated we’d be doing next.

Just thinking about this has gotten me to pondering WHY I’ve had so little push-back from clients and here are a few reasons why I believe this hasn’t been a big problem for me.  Hopefully, these Pilates Teaching Tips will help you handle the next challenging client that comes to you.

Posted by Aliesa George in Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips.

What Are You Looking At? The Importance of Eye Focus and Pilates Exercise

Using Eye Focus and Pilates Exercise to Improve Form & Function for Healthy Movement Habits

bI know I’ve written about this topic in the past, but recently have been cueing my clients and drawing their attention to where they’re looking during different exercises.  It doesn’t matter WHAT the exercise is, where the eyes focus can have an effect on how well you will be able to find and use the right muscles for the movement.

The eyes can help or hinder movement initiation, stabilization, and articulation of the spine.

  • Look up – and the neck extensor muscles kick in.
  • Look down – and the neck flexors start working.
  • Look straight ahead – and the front and back of the neck should be doing just enough work to balance and hold the neck position.

For good posture our head needs to be perched right up on top of the neck.  In Pilates we do exercises standing up, lying down, kneeling, face up, face down, and upside down.  So what happens to the head when we change where the eyes are looking?  Well, quite a lot actually.  Our eyes help us orient the body in space.  Regardless of what position the rest of the body is in, the eyes strive to find the horizon line, since this is the perspective we use to orient the body in space.   Let’s look at a few Pilates exercises to see how they’re affected by where you’re eyes are focused.

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

Foam Roller Fitness: 10 Fun Ways to Use a Foam Roller for Your Roll Up Exercise in Pilates Matwork

foam rollerFight boredom, have a blast challenging your body and improve your Pilates technique with a foam roller.  This workout will boost your fitness and help you make the most of your Pilates workouts.

We are only limited by our imagination when it comes to modifying exercises to challenge the body.  When I teach Pilates I do not add “toys” to distract from the work, but to enhance the understanding of how to tweak the body and improve Pilates technique.

When using a foam roller, magic circle or any other prop the goal is to find, feel and fine-tune muscle activation for better stabilization or movement so that when you get back to doing the “traditional” exercise without the prop you will be able to do it even better with all the right muscles working!

I thought it would be fun to see how many different ways I could find to use the Foam Roller for the Pilates Mat Roll Up exercise.  I have one or two ways I always use it when I teach a Roller-themed Mat class, but was confident that there were probably a lot of other ways it could be used.  So I grabbed my roller and a piece of paper and plopped myself down on the mat to play.  With about 5 minutes of thought, and about thirty repetitions (it was a nice Ab workout!)  I came up with 10 different ways to use the Foam Roller for the Roll Up. 

Posted by Aliesa George in Pilates, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips.

Exercise Speed: Pilates Training – The Value of Pacing Your Pilates Workouts

bearThe 3 Bears Strategy for Pacing Your Pilates Workouts

How are exercise speed and healthy movement related?  This is an interesting topic of discussion for Pilates training.   What’s the best speed for pacing your Pilates workouts?  What speed should we be executing the exercises in our workout?  Is it good or bad to work slowly?  And is it possible that we might be moving too fast to really get the best benefits from what we’re doing?

Based on my training and understanding of healthy movement habits, our ideal goal is that regardless of the pace or speed of our movement, it should be done with the correct amount of control and coordination using the right muscle groups in the correct sequence for biomechanically correct function.

That sounds long and technical, so the short answer is move with the right muscles working and you’ll stay healthy!  Move at a pace (either too fast or too slow for you to control and use the right muscles) and there’s a good chance that you will recruit other muscle groups that ideally should not be involved in the work, thus training your brain and body to recruit the wrong parts to do the action. 

Posted by Aliesa George in Pilates, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips.

Exercise Safety in Pilates Class and Beyond

Hazard SignI find it so interesting how the Universe gifts us with new opportunities to learn and grow…  Since writing the recent series of articles on mobilizing the ribcage, I’ve had the privilege to start working with not one, but TWO new clients who have Harrington Rods.

For those of you reading this article who are unfamiliar with the term, historically this rod has been surgically implanted along the spinal column to treat scoliosis.  Once you’re spine has been “shored up” with a rod, there is no longer movement at those vertebrae.    For these clients everything that is needed to maintain normal “healthy” movement of the spine and ribs becomes moot.   All the great benefits of Pilates posterior lateral breathing for elongation of the spine to maintain healthy posture has to be re-thought and re-taught because try as you might, the ribcage and spine won’t be moving.  That doesn’t mean the muscles along the spine aren’t active – we still need to maintain good strength and support.  But everything becomes quite different from a cuing, exercise selection and exercise safety standpoint.

Posted by Aliesa George in I Want to be a Pilates Teacher, Pilates, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips.