Thursday, November 25, 2010

Preparing for Advanced Pilates Exercises

When planning to teach an advanced lesson to my Pilates clients, I incorporate applicable preparatory exercises into the session. My lesson plan begins something like this: Today I want to teach Breaststroke, Teaser, and Horseback on the Universal Reformer. So, how do I safely and effectively prepare the clients body for these exercises? I begin by looking at the end product and working backward to the fundamentals. I assess whether the client has the strength and flexibility to achieve success with the exercises. I review spotting and safety for the client. I make sure I am able to execute the exercises to provide a visual demonstration of the exercises.

I know the client must warm up the back extensors, the arms and shoulders, and the hamstrings for Breaststroke. The abdominals and hip flexors must be ready for the Teaser. The inner thighs, core, and shoulders must be active for Horseback. Breaststroke includes the element of coordination. Teaser includes the element of control. Horseback includes the element of balance. So, I must make sure all of these components are included in my warm-up.

I choose preparatory exercises that will meet my goals and develop my lesson plan from this perspective.

A lesson plan for the above class might look as follows:


1. Coccyx Curl

2. Head Roll Up

3. Puppet Arms

4. Elbow Circles

5. Big X Lifts

6. Feel Good Arm Circles

7. Alternating Side Bends

Mat Exercises

1. Hundred

2. Roll Up

3. Single Leg Circles

4. Rolling

5. Single Leg Stretch

6. Double Leg Stretch

7. Swan

8. Single Leg Kick

9. Double Leg Kick

10. Teaser

11. Side Kick

12. Battement (Leg Pull Down)

13. Banana

14. Push Up

Reformer Exercises

1. Footwork

2. Coordination

3. Serve the Brownies

4. Rowing 1

5. Rowing 4

6. Swan Facing Front

7. Serape

8. Backstroke

Now, I am ready to teach the advanced exercises in this session. The body and mind have been warmed up and established for success. Underlying principles, intention, and form have been introduced. All that is left is time for fun mastering these 3 exercises.

The teacher demonstrates the chosen exercises giving a complete description of the movement and the desired goals. All three exercises should be spotted to provide client safety and peace of mind. Allow the client to see the exercise first, perform the exercise with a spot, and finally do the exercise without spotting (if comfortable).

At the end of the class I include a cool down period that will allow for rest and relaxation of the body mind. Stretching exercises, relaxing over a small ball, and breathing round out this class for a perfect work-out.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Understanding basic anatomy and physiology are
essential to teaching Pilates properly. Two of my favorite
books for learning anatomy are written by Blandine
Calais-Germaine. Anatomy of Movement, and
Anatomy of Movement Exercises are the two sources
directly quoted in this tutorial. Full credit is given to the
author for her exceptional work. This tutorial is strictly
for educational purposes and I would like to thank the
author for her incredible insights, clarity of presentation,
and beautiful drawings. I strongly recommend everyone
purchase her books.


Virginia Nicholas, M.A., R.N.
Moving Breath Pilates
Pilates Core Integration
Planes of Movement
Movement in the sagittal plane are called flexion and extension. Examples of this are the Roll Up and the Swan.

Movements in the frontal plane (coronal) are called lateral flexion or side bending. Examples of this are Mermaid, Seated Side Stretch, and Side Lift.

Movements in the transverse plane are called rotation.
Examples of this include Spine Twist, Saw, and Short
Box Series Twist and Tilt (obliques).

Source: Planes of movement information: Anatomy
of Movement, and Anatomy of Movement Exercises
by Blandine Calais-Germaine.
Mobility of the Spine
During stretching exercises, the most mobile regions may be overly solicited. Areas of hypermobility are found in hinge-like transitional situations where we pass from one type vertebrae to another.

C1-occiput (skull-atlas) hypermobile in flexion and extension. An example of this is the Hundred.

C1-C2 (atlas-axis) hypermobile in rotation. An example
of this would be Feel Good Arm Circles.

C7-T1 hypermobile in flexion. This is a transition from a
region of limited flexion (thoracic spine) to a region of
great flexion (cervical spine). An example of this would
be Roll Over.

T12-L1 hypermobile in flexion, lateral flexion, and
rotation. Movements involving force or rapid rotation
pose a risk of injuring the T11-T12 disc. Examples
of this include Jackknife, Side Lift, and Eve's Twist.

L5-S1 hypermobile in extension. This is a joint subject to
strain when arching the back. An example of this is

The thoracic spine has a posterior convexity (kyphosis)
and flexion of the upper thoracic spine is limited by
the ribs and sternum. An example of this is Push-Up
flexing the trunk while reaching the hands to the floor.

The lumbar region has a tendency toward extension.
An example of this would be Swan, Swan Dive, Double
Leg Kick.

Movements that occur in areas of extreme mobility
should be performed with deliberately limited range of
movement: for example, with an exercise that rotates the
spine, limit rotation slightly in the lower thoracic region
by contracting the opposite rotator muscles. Examples of
this include Spine Twist, Saw, and Short Box Series
Twist and Tilt (obliques).

With exercises that greatly flex the neck on the trunk
C7-T1 will be stressed. Use localized contraction of the
extensor to limit flexion at this hinge, and distribute it
more evenly on other levels. Examples of this include
the Roll Over, Jackknife, and Control Balance.

Source: All anatomy information in this section is from
Anatomy of Movement and Anatomy of Movement Exercises
by Blandine Calais-German.
Ballet Stretches

Learning anatomy in small bits can be helpful in gaining a
better understanding of how the body functions and moves.
I hope this tutorial has assisted you in your journey.

Virginia Nicholas, M.A., R.N.
Moving Breath Pilates
Pilates Core Integration