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:

Jay said it would…

Jay said it would...

This goes out to all my Pittsburgh peeps, especially to Brett Howard and Jessica Gowen. For the record, I consider Jessica to be an honorary Pittsburgher by marriage. I can always spot a fellow Pittsburgher by their warmth and sometimes by their unique regional accent. Coming from the theatre I reformed my own Pittsburgh dialect in 1990. I remember Jessica being puzzled by my lack of Pittsburghese.  I had her stumped for quite some time until I slipped up one day and omitted an infinitive. A dead giveaway…

“The towels need washed.” a-HA! Guilty as charged…

In 1969 Pittsburgh's WTAE Channel 4 acquired rival Channel 2's uber-reliable weatherman, Joe DeNardo. DeNardo would later become famous for his 1994 campaign slogan “Joe said it would.” Growing up in Pittsburgh one pays significant attention to the weather report with great anticipation of a favorite by-product of the cold winter weather: school closings 🙂

I met Jay Grimes in 2005. Recently I read over some notes from lessons with him circa 2005-2009. Often Jay would say something I could not really understand so I would just write it down. It might be a long time before I would suddenly happen upon one of his notes from long ago in the midst of my workout. I would smile and think “Jay said it would [happen].” Which reminded me of “Joe said it would” regarding a weather pattern DeNardo had accurately predicted.

A couple of my Jay said it would… moments:

Regarding the Short Box:

Jay would always focus on what my back was doing (or mostly not doing) and he did not say much about “keep your shoulders down” which I generally heard all the time from anyone else including myself. Jay explained that when the back/stomach/lift gets stronger then all that shoulder stuff will fix itself. I simply could not imagine how this could happen.

Until one day it did. Jay said it would.

Regarding “Move, move move!”

I always understood intellectually that it is the movement that changes the body. However as a new teacher I had a good portion of clients age 65-80. These particular clients had a natural rhythm that was quite slow and they often moved with a tentative, cautious energy. As I continued to work with them over the years I started to notice that when I could get them to move more vigorously a lot of things fell into place: they used their stomach more, they sat up straighter, they breathed more naturally without concern of when or how to breathe, the body simply rose to the occasion. It even felt good to move with vigor – who would not want to feel vigorous at 75? Watching this happen I remembered Jay saying “Trust the work.” and  “Just do Pilates. It's all in there.” And here was the evidence happening right in front of my eyes!

Yup. Jay said it would.

I bet Jay has some “Joe said it would” moments of his own that have naught to do with DeNardo. He does often speak of “Clara said it would” moments…

 

 

 

Another One Bites the Dust

“Pilates is an endless journey. It can be a wonderful journey but it never ends.”     Jay Grimes

“What you don’t like, you do twice!”    Romana Kryzanowska quoting Joe Pilates

There are not many Pilates exercises that I dislike. Often more information about a particular exercise can point up how badly one executes said exercise. And by ‘badly' I only mean ‘incorrectly'. No judginess, but there is always ‘better' and, well… we've all got our issues…Such is my relationship with the Leg Springs on the Cadillac. The more you know…

My Pilates workout can be quantified by each exercise I add to my “No Longer Despised and Now Beloved” list. Now thirteen years in, I am able to welcome The Leg Springs on the Cadillac into the fold. I do not do this lightly, I assure you. I did not see this one coming. It will be a fine day indeed when Pulling Straps gets added to the list…or perhaps a cold day in hell?

Here is the list so far: 

Another One Bites the Dust

The Roll Up

…many… years… pass…

The Neck Pull

The Short Box 

The Breast Stroke (no one was more surprised than I…)

and now…

The Leg Springs

…yeah, that’s about it right now. We few, we happy few… There is a longer list of exercises that have the potential to make this list but they have not arrived just yet. These include some extension exercises and all the twisting exercises including the Snake/Twist.

The Snake/Twist is like a bad boyfriend. It never shows up when you need it, and maybe after a long absence it returns and tries to make nice for a while. It is the perfect storm for the particular imbalance in my back which means it will soon prove indispensable 🙂

Oh happy day when I induct the Snake/Twist into my Personal Pilates Hall of Fame.