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. ūüôā

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:

Video Blog: The Swan – it’s not a pushup!

Video Blog: The Swan - it's not a pushup!This week's video blog will focus on the very first Swan you'll do on the Mat.

No fancy diving for now.

Today we will look for the connection reaching from the sides of the low back all the way to where you'll place your hands. We will focus on strengthening the back and resist (!) the urge to push up with the arms. The Swan is not a pushup.

Oh yes, and length!

Length!

(Lest we forget dear our old friend…)

Thank you to the lovely JoJo, my partner in crime, who is steadily becoming a Pilates Nerd. Yay!

Please note, Joe has been working on the Swan exercise for some time. As you will see in the video, he can now lift all the way up until his arms are fully extended.

If you are just beginning to work on this exercise, or it presents particular challenge to your body, you might only lengthen and lift up partway.

Perfectly. Okay.

You'll keep the connection to the back, you'll avoid pushing with the arms and shoulders and you'll continue to build lift and strength in your back. Over time you'll be able to lift all the way up¬†just like JoJo ūüôā

I appreciate all of you. You are awesome!

Thanks for watching.

 Related posts:

5 Transformative Power Poses in your Pilates Workout

It's no secret that Pilates makes us feel good. But it might be doing more than you think. Amy Cuddy offers us “A free no-tech life hack: change your posture for 2 minutes.”

Yes, our mothers were correct.

Standing up straight is good for you. Cuddy proposes that your posture, indeed great for your body, “could significantly change the way your life unfolds.”

The Pilates Workout: your very own ‘no-tech life hack'

By all reports Joe Pilates was an arrogant man. Consequently, the 2-minute power poses advocated by Cuddy proliferate in your Pilates workout. In each and every workout we have a chance to embrace our inner arrogance and strike a pose, a POWER pose that is. And our power poses MOVE! Change your posture, your mind, your LIFE in 1 hour 3x/week.

Back in the day I was a client of Excel Pilates in Washington, DC. They have a fabulous, powerful tagline:

Empower Your Body. Empower Your Mind.

1. The Teaser

Don't act like you're surprised by this one. Why does it feel so great to do the Teaser? Such a mixture of accomplishment and nausea? It's an infusion of power built right into your workout. Exhilarating and little scary all at the same time. SHOW OFF a little as you circle your arms when you do the Teaser on the Long Box.

Look what I can do!

It's even helpful. And it is certainly okay to have a good time while you workout…:)

2. Stomach Massage with Hands Back

How about the lift of the Stomach Massage Series with the hands back? Those hands back there are what Jay Grimes calls ‘attitude' and it's just the sheer will and lift of your chest and your back that holds you up. And your arrogance…don't forget that.

5 Transformative Power Poses in your Pilates Workout3. Swan on the Barrel

Sail right up into

the universal posture of victory

a lifted chest and both arms thrust triumphantly upward.

4. The Side Bend

In the animal kingdom, Cuddy explains, body language is all about power and dominance:¬†“about expanding, stretching out, taking up space, opening up…humans do the same thing.”¬†Joe watched the animals as well and saw the powerful, expanding, take-up-space positions. Just doing the work becomes an exercise in empowerment if you let it.

Kara Wily (of 5 Top Blogs Answer 1 Burning Question fame) always has top-notch material at the ready. I remember a cue in one of her online classes that kept resonating in my mind, my body and my teaching days later.

“Be¬†GREEDY¬†with space.”

5 Transformative Power Poses in your Pilates Workout

When I was training in dance, I loved to travel.  If I could take off in grande jete in the middle of the floor and land in the corner of the room, that was a good jump.  When dancing in a group piece, however, you also have to be aware and sensitive to the other dancers to keep the group in a bird-formation traveling together.  So I developed the idea that I could be greedy with my space as long as I kept it in my space. I think it has everything to do with what we teach in Pilates.  

Most people do not know the extent to which their bodies can fill in the space around them until they are encouraged to go further.

I like to build stability to build more potential for movement. The more aware I am of my center, the more willing I am to reach out from that center and ‘be greedy with space'.” ¬†-Kara Wily

With this one you can almost see the cats stretching while Joe watched. It helps to feel like you are just waking up from your nap as you stretch your side all the way up to the sky. Take up some space and give yourself a nice treat. Much thanks to Robert Wernick for inspiring all of us to embrace our inner-animal.

5. The Star

Need I say more?

Perhaps we've all seen this footage (0:42 seconds in) of Romana Kryzanowska performing the Star. I love to channel my inner-Romana when working on the Star in my own workout. Her virtuosity is at once effortless and delicious. Will we see a better Star?

I don't think so.

“On my first lesson he gave me the exercise called the Star….and you know, many people never learn the Star at all. So I guess I was pretty much a star then! (laughs)

What Pilates exercise makes you feel powerful? Invigorated? Alive! Leave a comment below so we can all try it ūüôā