Exercise of the Month
Each month we will feature the breakdown of a Matwork or an Equipment exercise.
This is possibly one of the most technically challenging exercises of the Mat Repertoire. It requires good rotational control which is often lacking as clients will laterally flex instead of rotating to find the movement. Keep the wrists flat to ensure good shoulder stability and keep the range small and controlled.
The Double Leg Stretch
The Double Leg Stretch is a wonderful exercise to focus on breath and co-ordination of the limbs against a stable C curve. As the exercise develops, try to hold the breath longer, creating more space in a long spine. This powerful exercise develops and extends the freedom of movement at the hip joint and shoulder girdle.
Following on from this month's Virtual Night Out, here are some exercises to help clients to move their shoulders more effectively.
The Roll Over
This is one of my favourite exercises as it is a wonderful stretch for the back of the body, with weight of the legs helping to create deep spinal flexion. Although it is the third exercise in the Repertoire, you might not introduce it to your clients until they are have achieved a certain level of understanding and movement control.
The client needs to be able to lift the lower body off the mat, articulating through the spine, whilst maintaining a strong point of stability through the upper body. They need to maintain the space through the spine, so keeping the space between the pelvis and ribcage, not folding over and collapsing. They need to maintain control rather than use momentum to swing the legs over.
There are many ways we can help clients achieve the Roll Over. Here are a few pointers and let me know your thoughts!
This move is often used as the pre-requisite for Hip Twist but is also a fantastic move to teach rotational control of the lower body with stability through the upper body.
The Spine Stretch
A sometimes misunderstood and under-used exercise, the Spine Stretch is a wonderfully layered move. It can be taught as a breathing exercise, a spinal articulation move and a two-way stretch that really creates space within the body. It is a deep stretch into the spine not just out of it!
The Rolling Back
The Rolling Back is a challenging exercise designed to massage the spine. As we roll back we inhale to expand the back and the space in between the vertebrae and enjoy a healthy exhalation to return. A smooth roll requires an even curve through the spine and remember to hold the shape at the top of the roll-don’t lengthen out!
The Double Leg Kick
Linking with this month’s class plan, we look at the 3 elements essential in performing the Double Leg Kick. It is the epitome of a Pilates exercise in its complexity. It is an incredible front body stretch needing excellent spinal and hip extension then a further challenge is added as we bend the knee.
Enjoy connecting to the back line of the body with these variations of Frog on the Reformer-remember to keep the thigh bones still in space as you flex the knee!
The Side Bend
The Side Bend is an incredibly difficult exercise and is often the most hated in classes, accompanied by groans, frowns and generally distaste! It is towards the end of the Mat repertoire for a reason, as we will have built the foundations needed through our earlier exercises and so are prepared for the challenges it brings. It’s difficulty lies in its reliance on the stability, strength and mobility of the shoulder joint, an area which is so often incorrectly aligned, under-used and unstable. This video will hopefully help to achieve that perfect side bend with serenity and ease! ( Remember to keep actively pressing into the supporting hand to lift and stabilise the ribs and protect the shoulder)
The Roll Up
The Roll Up is the first articulation exercise in the Mat Repertoire. Joe Pilates devised the Roll Up to promote deep, full breathing well as to strengthen the powerhouse and stretch the spine. It is all about stimulating your circulation and the portion of the nervous system which is housed in the spine to enhance the essential mind/body connection.
The Lumbo-Pelvic Release
Following on from the Virtual Night Out discussion on lumbar discectomy, this subtle exercise is fantastic for mobilising and creating movement in the hip, pelvic and lumbar spine area.
The Swan Dive Part 2
Following on from The Swan Dive Part 1, this video discusses and explores the elements of hip extension combined with spinal extension to really help your Swan Dive to fly!
Footwork Series on the Reformer
Legend has it that Joe Pilates would never correct when you were going through your Footwork Series but would rather observe your movement. The Footwork Series shows us an incredible amount of information about the client’s movement pattern and imbalances. Often it is seen as simply a warm-up to the session and the powerful benefits of really understanding and implementing the specific ankle and foot, knee and hip movements and alignment are lost. This video shows how the Footwork should be performed encouraging precise and control through the body! Enjoy and please ask any questions.
Side Lying Developé
This one is by request! This exercise really helps to teach clients the correct amount of external rotation at the hip for their range of mobility.
The Swan Dive Part 1
Joe Pilates bemoaned the "thousands of people with round, stooped shoulders and protruding abdomens" that he saw everyday all around, so he designed The Swan Dive as the perfect exercise to help combat this. The Swan Dive is the first extension exercise we come across in the Repertoire and it balances the previous hip and spinal flexion exercises. It extends the spine, decompressing and articulating the vertebrae to help counter our forwarding-bending lifestyle. It stretches and expands the thoracic cavity, enhancing our breathing capability. It strengthens the Powerhouse, back, neck and shoulder muscles. It encourages better scapular alignment and stability. It stretches through the front of the hip and strengthens the inner thighs and hip extensors. Lastly it provides a unique massage of the spinal cord-what a move! Here is the first part of the Swan, focusing on the upper body movement. Enjoy!
The One Leg Stretch
This exercise is the first in the Stomach Series and definitely works on the strength and endurance of your centre. This short video shows you how to really nail this exercise.
The One Leg Kick
This exercise is so often misunderstood. It is definitely one of my favourites as it targets areas which are restricted and requires an understanding of correct, equal work distribution through the spine. It's a fantatsic move which involves spinal and hip extension with knee flexor control coupled with upper and mid back extensor strength- what more can an instructor ask for?!
The Side Kick
What a fabulous exercise! In this position you are lying on such a small base of support which in fact enhances your body's ability to functionally perform as those lateral stabilisers are recruited to work.This exercise is an amazing test of how the body adapts to changes in gravity as the leg swings forwards and back. There are many adaptations of this move but to fully benefit from the fantastic hip flexion and extension focus, remember to allow the pelvis slightly tilt anteriorly and posteriorly with the movement, reflecting our natural movement patterns.
The Shoulder Bridge
The Shoulder Bridge is the most commonly featured exercise in Pilates classes, yet it's original intention is often lost as the modifications dominate it's practice. This move is all about hip and spinal extension but it's adaptability means that it can be taught as a spinal flexion move or a lower body strengthening move. Here we look at how to bring back the original intention to your Bridge!
The Jackknife is an an amazing exercise requiring abdominal, hip & back extensor and arm strength. It is an extension of the Roll Over with added control and strength. Breathing patterns may vary but this is the sequence I prefer to use.
- Lying supine with legs extended at 60 degrees with arms by sides. Inhale to roll over through the spine until legs are parallel to the floor, emphasising lumbar flexion.
- Exhale to press arms into the floor and lift pelvis high reaching legs upwards
- Inhale to begin to lower keeping feet in line with your nose
- Exhale as you continue lowering keeping feet and hips lifted as long as possible, resisting gravity.
Watch out for placing too much pressure on the neck, keep pressing into the arms to help alleviate this. Do not allow hips to collapse and legs to fall over your face. Enjoy!
The Boomerang is my absolute favourite exercise out of the Matwork repertoire. It is the supreme Pilates exercise, requiring high levels of control, strength, mobility and balance. It flows perfectly and is an a joy to perform! As an instructor it can be difficult to breakdown as it's essence is in it's fluidity. Here we have slowed down the movement so you can see each element but when teaching allow your clients to just do it! Cue as they move and let them enjoy the jouney!
The One Leg Circle
This exercise is an amazing example of dynamic mobilisation. Dependent on the level taught, the pelvis remains stable while the hip joint fluidly rotates and leg circles around or the pelvis and lower spine are taken on the journey increasing the areas mobilised and released. All performed with perfect control of course!!!
This exercise has to be the signature Pilates move. It's name is derived form the breathing pattern-each breath cycle should be 10 counts (inhale for 5, exhale for 5) and you repeat this 10 times equalling 100! There are many elements to the move, a strong centre, correct spinal flexion, equality of strength and flexibilty around the hips and controlled arm movement. Remember this is an active, dynamic move so be aware of the whole body not matter which level is being performed.