The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body: Strength for Life!

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body: Strength for Life!

I require my clients to sit on the Reformer with control (without the use of their hands).

There shouldn't be a noise or a plop when they sit.

They are also required to descend to the Mat from a standing position.

Again, no hands, please.

The goal is to lower oneself to the floor with control. No noise.

As you might imagine, I often hear groans of exasperation from some.

And yes, it may be considerably hard to do at first.

But it's also essential for longevity and quality of life.

Boom.

Uhm, and it's actually a thing, peeps:

Look familiar?

Maybe I should start deducting 1 point per plop…

The Lion's Share

No matter who you are, your lower body is a considerable amount of your total body weight.

In the Pilates Method, when I refer to the ‘lower body' I am talking about everything from the upper stomach (mid back) all the way down to the toes.

The lower body is the lion's share of the body.

Often Pilates practitioners and teachers, myself included, can overwork the upper body in exercises that are in fact lower body exercises.

Years of study of the method have helped me to learn how to better use my lower body instead of muscling through and overusing my upper body.

The lion's share of the Pilates exercises are – in fact – lower body exercises!

Which makes sense – that's the largest part of the body – so it's bound to be helpful to use it effectively.

All this is ultimately in service of Pilates as a full body workout.

No lower body? No full body workout.

Oh it weighs heavily on my Pilates mind…

With a tight low back and tight hips/thighs, I spend considerable time thinking about the lower body and especially how to find length in the back. Sorting it all out into a long lower body requires consistent practice and repetition.

Whoever you are, it would serve you well to find length in the low back and low body.

Got a swayback?

Like me, you'll need to seek out more scoop and seat to gain length for your back.

What about a flexible, long and sinky back?

You too will need to find lift and length to elongate the back and cultivate the low body.

The majority of the back is also part of the lower body.

In our industry, many names and concepts surround the creation of a long, strong and supple back.

What exactly should be going on here? Labels include the word ‘imprint' and keeping the back and/or the pelvis in ‘neutral' (read more on this here).

I believe we are all after the same thing, whatever we choose to call it: decompression and health of the back.

Length in the Low Body

So how best to approach our search for the low body?

Mercifully, in the Pilates Method we have a brilliant arsenal of apparatus to be our helpers. And hey, when we are standing up, the floor willingly becomes another apparatus to support us.

Shazam!

In keeping with my modus operandi we'll look at the order of the exercises to offer lower body support we can rely on. A couple simple standing exercises will also challenge our strength to stand.

Wait a minute.

Regardless of our position in the exercises: lying down, sitting up, kneeling, lying on the stomach, up on one leg/arm, in a twist – the lower body must strive to be elongated??

Yup. That's why we need to practice so much.

It's a tall order (you were hoping for a pun, yes?).

The Order of the Universe

Using the order of the exercises is one way to find out where you can get help from the lower body before the exercises in which you still need it, but there's no help in sight.

In search of the lower body…one example:

In the Order of the Reformer exercises, the Swan exercise immediately precedes Pulling Straps and T Straps in the Long Box series.

Whether you like Swan on the Ladder Barrel or on the Long Box – you've got your feet firmly planted and poised to find help from the apparatus.

  • Press into the heels and see what jumps to life in your bottom and center.

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body : Strength for Life

  • Moments later when you lie onto the Long Box for Pulling Straps, remember what the support from the apparatus from the Swan created in your body.

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body : Strength for Life

  • Repeat at least 3x per week. 🙂

My Dreaded Long Stretch Series

Yes, eventually I have to adjust my attitude for this series.

Oh but it's become just so bloody hard…and vital…and essential for all the fun, crazy, tricky exercises I love to do.

The Long Stretch Series is where you begin to find your lower body and see what it can do for you.

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body : Strength for Life

To find the lower body and successfully execute this series: Long Stretch, Down Stretch, Up Stretch, Elephant and Long Back Stretch has become a pet project of mine.

Everyone has to have a hobby…

Stand on your feet, yo:

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body : Strength for Life

The Short Box and the Straps

It's true.

The Short Box is all about the back and posture.

However, let's look closer:

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body : Strength for Life

What is attached to the apparatus?

Remember the Lion's Share of the Body?

Well, now it's sitting on the box and attached to two straps.

The skill here is how to make the best use of the straps to hook into the lower body. Use the lower body well and create even more resistance from which to lift and soar ever higher in your posture.

Dig down deep to lift up, my friends!

The Strength of Standing

My father turned 90 this year. Mom's not far behind at 88.

After the Thanksgiving holiday we started decorating their house for Christmas. Mom planned to add ornaments to the tree a little at a time, but wanted help with the lights and the angel on top.

Standing up (without holding on to anything) and working with both arms on a task proved to be the most tiring activities. And not just for the nonagenarian set.

As we age, we desperately need the strength to stand and work at something with the upper body without tiring: cooking a holiday dinner, decorating a Christmas tree, unpacking groceries, you name it.

There's even an exercise (or 500) for that.

Can you say Bean Bag?

I forget how awesome this device can be.

Oh it will kick your ass, even if you use it without any weight in the bag at all.

Now let's see you stand up tall. For. Ever.

Bean bag down:

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body: Strength for Life!

And back up!

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body: Strength for Life!

Musculoskeletal fitness, it turns out, is very important. Prevention Magazine

Contest Deadline Extended!

It's not too late to dazzle me with your transitions on the Reformer.

Enter by January 15 to win a FREE Skype lesson. Check out the deets below:

Fix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2×4 Exercises

Fix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2x4 ExercisesFix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2x4 Exercises

I dearly love my weekly lessons with Karen Frischmann.

I learn so much about the method, I find balance in my own body and I understand more deeply how Pilates as a system all hangs together.

About once a year I have a little check-up lesson with Jay Grimes.

I have questions for him of course. And I will have had plenty of time until my next lesson with him to work on corrections or comments he made.

While doing the Footwork in my most recent lesson with Jay he asked me a question.

“Have you been doing the 2×4 exercises?”

For a nanosecond I thought he was giving me a compliment. I soon came to my senses and thought he was telling me that my feet needed work.

Well… no.

Too fixated on the Reformer to venture elsewhere in the studio, I vowed I would work on the 2×4 exercises after every workout.

It would take more than half a year to follow up on his advice.

#procrastinationheals

About 7 months later I dusted off my 2×4 and got to work.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Jay suggested it would be helpful to work on the 2×4 exercises in front of a mirror.

Great, I'll be my own Pilates teacher.

Fix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2x4 Exercises

I focused initially on 2 of the standard exercises:

  • Tendon Stretch – the vertical version of the 4th Footwork exercise
  • A classic 2×4 exercise I learned under the name ‘Standing Foot Exercises‘ – a combination of Tendon Stretch-esque movements: bend the knees, lift the heels, straighten the legs, lower the heels, and its reverse.

Looking in the mirror proved to be invaluable.

I have a disobedient foot/leg/side. Perhaps you do as well?

Now I could see my naughty foot and fix it.

That's when the fireworks went off in my center. One small adjustment in my foot/leg turned on all kinds of connections on that side of my powerhouse.

Aha!

Could this be Jay's intention all along?

Who doesn't want to fix their powerhouse?

With any Pilates exercise or variation that I deem ‘good for what ails me', I like to get feedback from Karen in my Monday lessons.

Karen is great at taking what I bring into my lessons and shooting it into the stratosphere of connection. We mined a ton out of the 2×4 exercises and they began to seep into all of my workout.

What's to be done when you cannot connect your lower body into your center because you are upside-down in the Jackknife?

Add a little 2×4 to the mix!

The repetition of the 2×4 exercises in my body can be called upon in exercises where my feet are not in contact with any apparatus.

Perfect for all those upside-down Mat exercises!

Put the ‘Full' in ‘Full Body Workout.'

What's good upside-down HAS to be good for standing up. Good standing posture is no easy feat (oh where would I be without the foot puns).

It's a challenge to fully utilize the lower body in standing exercises and ignite the powerhouse.

#2x4totherescue

I love to use the 2×4 as a teaching tool for the Standing Arm Springs series on the Cadillac.

Remember the Standing Arm Springs are not just arm exercises!

You must rely on all the muscles that make a strong standing position to find success in the Standing Arm Springs.

Let's take a few examples:

Fix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2x4 ExercisesFix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2x4 ExercisesFix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2x4 Exercises

It's easy to get caught up in the upper body action of these exercises. But what's the standing body doing?

Just the simple act of balancing on the 2×4 for the Tendon Stretch exercise will connect the lower extremities into the center.

The 2×4 exercises communicate so much more than I ever could with my words.

A Scrubbing Bubbles moment

Who doesn't want an exercise that does all your work for you?

The 2×4 is a game changer.

It's a great tool to enliven the lower body and prepare you for the Standing Arm Springs.

OMG where can I get one???

The 2×4 – sometimes called the ‘upholstered foot exerciser' is available from most Pilates equipment manufacturers.

Here's a link to one made by Gratz Pilates:

http://www.pilates-gratz.com/collections/accessories/products/upholstered-foot-exerciser-bar

Alternatively, check out this post on pilatesology.com and make your own 2×4 in minutes!

https://pilatesology.com/2015/04/diy-how-to-make-your-own-pilates-2×4/

Enjoy!

How do you make the lower body come alive?

Share your Pilates Secrets in a comment below.