Pilates and fitness for skiing and snowboarding
I am a snowboarder. Anyone who either snowboards or skis will know that the two sports, whilst closely related, are very different in technique and especially mentality. One thing they do have in common (apart from snow) is the training that you need to be able to enjoy the coming season on the slopes.
Specific training for skiing and snowboarding
Skiing and snowboarding bring their own special demands on the body. If these demands are not adequately considered, then the skier or boarder, whatever their level, will reduce their performance potential, and thus reduce their enjoyment. By carrying out a specific training program, benefits can be gained such as:
• Improve endurance, so ski and board for longer
• Improve strength in the appropriate muscles
• Improve flexibility and agility
• Improve balance and control
• Reduce the risk of injury by strengthening areas such as the lower back and knee joints and muscles.
The fundamental skills needed to ski or board successfully are balance, rotary movements, edging movements, and pressure control. Most muscles of the lower body are used, as are the abdominal muscles and some upper body muscles. A planned training program carried out during the off-season can make dramatic improvements when the season arrives. It is also improtant to learn warm-up and warm-down routines which you should use before and after you ski.
In order to complete a turn, there must be adequate strength in the core, buttocks, lower back and legs. Flexibility is needed, especially in the hips. We use specific Pilates exercises to target all these areas.
Pilates is a revolutionary full body conditioning program, which focuses on training the mind and body to work together more effectively and efficiently. Pilates dramatically transforms the way the body looks, feels, and performs. It incorporates modern exercise science and rehabilitation principles, eliminating contraindicated movements while emphasizing neutral alignment, core stability and peripheral mobility. It builds strength without excess bulk, creating a sleek, toned body and a flat abdomen. It teaches body awareness and good posture. Pilates improves flexibility, agility and economy of motion, and is a safe form of movement making it optimal for clients that need to rehabilitate injuries.
Pilates exercises train several muscle groups at once in smooth, continuous movements. By developing proper technique, you can actually re-train your body to move in safer, more efficient patterns of motion – invaluable for injury recovery, good posture and optimal health. No other exercise system is so gentle to the body while giving it a challenging workout.
Skiing and boarding place great demands on the lower body, which can lead to overuse injuries. The most obvious place for such injuries is the legs, and especially the thighs. It is not so obvious that the core has a vital role to play in keeping the body upright and balanced, and enabling the hips to turn.
The shoulders and back can also become fatigued, and are prone to falling injuries. Such injuries can be reduced by strengthening these areas. This also applies to hand and wrist injuries, which can again be reduced by strengthening the forearm and wrist.
The time to start training for the coming season is now. If you are in Barcelona, then give me a call because Barcelona Bienestar offer specific training on a group and individual training basis. Sessions take place on the beach, in our studio or at client’s homes. (If you’re in Revelstoke give Samantha an email – group and private Pilates training sessions available).
There are other functional exercises that great as well, and they can be done on the slopes as a warm up. Check out my video below. I shot a sequence of Pilates/functional movements in La Molina last year.
I love the sun and the sea, but I love the snow just as much. This is one of the many reasons why I love living in Barcelona. Where ever you live or plan to ski or snowboard, you really must start to plan your fitness routine now, before it’s too late.
Origianl article written by: Chris Hunt, an international Pilates presenter and educator based in Barcelona, Spain. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.
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Andrea Maida owner of Pilates Andrea explains the Pilates method 2 way stretch in the following article. Well done Andrea and thank you!
2-Way Stretch and the Anatomy of Pilates
I’ve got a secret.
As a child I underwent a series of surgeries resulting in nerve reconstruction on one side of my body. A facial nerve was cut and reattached using an additional nerve taken from my left leg.
It has been my nearly 15 years of study and continual practice of the Pilates Method that has enabled me to “uncover” a series of weaknesses along my entire left side.
Just when you thought Pilates was about sculpted abs and a tight butt…
After many years of Pilates I began to notice a heightened body awareness that developed as I continued to train in this amazing method. Yes, ‘body awareness’ is a chief benefit of the Pilates method.
But this is in fact, an understatement.
The degree of awareness one can achieve through diligent practice of the method is staggering. It manifests in the sensation of many muscle groups working in unison – a seamless reach from the sides of your back up to the tips of your fingers, or down the entire length of the back of the body.
Left Side Story
But some muscles on the weaker left side simply did not respond in the same manner as their right-side counterparts.
Hmmm… How long has that been going on?
The Pilates exercises had revealed along the left side: a weak arch, knee, buttock, lower stomach, back muscle and neck. I remember vividly the workout that allowed me to realize each of these “separate weaknesses” was really one long chain of imbalance.
Can it be coincidence that all these parts are connected?
I decided to investigate.
Joseph Pilates himself believed (and stated vehemently I gather) that his method was 50 years ahead of its time. I completely agree. The connected muscle systems one finds in the 2-way stretch, for example, are articulated and well known today in the study of connective tissues or myofascial meridians in the body.
“Myofascial meridians (also known as anatomy trains, connective tissue planes, fascial planes, or myofascial trains) are lines of bones and connective tissue that run throughout the body, organize the structural forces required for motion, and link all parts of the body.
The idea of myofascial meridians was first introduced by Thomas Myers in his 1997 article ‘The anatomy trains’. In his 2001 textbook Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists, 3e, the term ‘myofascial meridians’ was first used synonymously with the term ‘Anatomy Trains’.
Myers claims myofascial meridians were described by German anatomist Hermann Hoepke in the early 1930s.”
From Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers:
Anatomy Trains is a unique map of the ‘anatomy of connection’…the interplay of movement and stability.
Ooooh…the anatomy of connection. Yum yum.
My copy of Anatomy Trains confirmed my Pilates discovery. My long chain of imbalances that the Pilates exercises had revealed is officially known as the Deep Front Line. Anatomy nerds will want to check out this amazingly über-detailed and specific discussion of the Deep Front Line which I quote:
“The Deep Front Line is a key component of all things core.”
The Deep Front Line (DFL) is essentially the lift up the entire front of the body: in Pilates the lift up out of the arch of the foot reaching all the way up the inner leg to the abdomen continuing up to lengthen the neck and to the crown of the head.
So the left side of my core/powerhouse/center was not doing its fair share of the work. Well this solved a bunch of ‘Pilates mysteries’ of the “Why can’t I…?” variety, but sadly it does not make me like the Snake on the Reformer even a weensy bit more.
Please realize that an involved discussion of fascia is not really my gig. I note my experience here as just one example of the depth of information, discovery and jewels that abound within Joe Pilates’ original method.
2-way stretch, yo
The anatomy of movement differs from a study of medical static anatomy. I do not promote an ignorance of the formal study of anatomy, but it does not apply in the same ways to a body in motion as it does to address specific joints, muscles or tissues in a medical setting.
The 2-way stretch is the hallmark of a body engaged in movement. In actuality there are numerous oppositional forces in play during your Pilates workout.
I am a big fan of the 2-way stretch intrinsic to the Pilates Method. So useful, yummy, simple and satisfying, it gives you a particular way of looking at your body in motion.
Teaching the 2-way Stretch
A client of mine, Janet, a former registered nurse, is trained in human anatomy. She marvels that the oppositional forces of the body in motion are quite tangible and yet unexpected given her education in the musculoskeletal systems.
Janet remarks that her knowledge of the traditional anatomy with regard to the individual muscle groups, their function and insertion points is a completely different animal to the anatomy of movement she is finding within the Pilates exercises.
It feels totally different. It feels like the insertion points for the tendons and ligaments aren’t there, the energy [of the lower body] just flows all the way down to my feet, without the different muscles being involved. This is a whole body thing as opposed to picking out an individual muscle group.
I feel like I am using my whole body together and as a result everything works much better. It just flows.
No wonder Jay Grimes has been telling me for years:
“Whatever you’re looking for, it’s in there.“
By Andrea Maida
Put me Back Together is a collection of Pilates and Physical Therapy articles. Here is a good article by Kristen Reynolds describing the origin of Pilates and how it benefits the fitness and well being of men such as David Beckham and Tiger Woods.
5 Reasons Why Real Men Do Pilates
It is true that Joseph Pilates’ exercises were first embraced by the NYC dance community after he defected to the United States. His method reintroduced movement early in the rehabilitation process by encouraging active-assisted range of motion and low load muscular forces, which was unique to dancers and choreographers who were accustomed to long prognoses. However, most individuals are unaware that Pilates Method was intended for men.
As a young child in Germany, Joseph Pilates suffered from numerous illnesses leading to significant weakness. Accordingly, he dedicated his life to becoming physically stronger and studied several methods of movement, including yoga, martial arts, calisthenics, boxing, and gymnastics. From these experiences, Pilates devised a unique method of physical and mental conditioning named Contrology with the philosophy that “a few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.” This system of original 34 Pilates exercises is known today as Matwork.
In a WWI internment camp, he was a caretaker for many soldiers bedridden by injuries and the influenza epidemic. He progressed Contrology by attaching bed springs to headboards and foot boards to facilitate resistance and body support for patients. The dual feature of the apparatus is essential to the body as it learns to move more efficiently and truly complements Matwork.
Pilates has gained momentum and attention in the past decade as a modality for improving flexibility, strength and mind–body awareness. Over the past several years, the method has become a staple in the conditioning of professional athletes including NBA players Jason Kidd, Greg Oden, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James, MLB players Manny Ramirez and Curt Schilling, soccer star David Beckham, and golfer Tiger Woods.
Here are some of the top reasons these men do Pilates:
- Power. Pilates maximizes performance and builds power by developing a strong foundation of core stability that allows the primary movers and levers to work on explosive movements more efficiently. The Jump board, an attachment to the spring-resistant Reformer, is an excellent tool that allows for supine and side lying plyometric training. By eliminating gravity, Jumpboard teaches correct biomechanics during take off and landing and is particularly effective in rehabilitation, as it provides athletes with a partial weight-bearing workout that activates fast-twitch muscle fibers.
- Mind-Body Control. Pilates teaches participants to be mindful in their movements by integrating the pelvis, trunk and shoulder girdle in a safe, challenging and progressive system. The method facilitates neuromuscular re-education to occur in functional positions and multiple planes with focus on spinal stabilization. Dynamic activity in supine, prone, sitting, kneeling, quadruped, and standing postures requires balance and coordinated motor control. Concentration and the mind-body connection are essential components of this method and is typically what makes stellar athletes stand out from good ones. A recent study revealed that the Pilates method of exercise may contribute to improved performance in double leg lowering, star excursion balance tests, and throwing speed in college baseball pitchers.
- Stamina. Research has revealed that active middle aged men who participated in two 60-minutes Pilates mat sessions per week for 12 weeks demonstrated statistically significant increases in abdominal and upper-body muscular endurance. Exercising on the apparatus also promotes endurance, as requires consistent co-contraction to concentrically resist and eccentrically control the spring tension.
- Circulation. The emphasis on coordinating breathing with Pilates repertoire enhances blood flow to the soft tissue and reduces stress, reducing hypertension and Valsalva. The Jump board can also be used as a method of cardiovascular training.
- Mobility. The greatest fear of men when doing Pilates is flexibility. The benefit of this method is that it promotes functional mobility with a stable center. Experienced teachers will also know several ways to modify for impaired segmental mobility or muscle length in the hip girdle and gradually progress the man safely.
By: Kristen Reynolds
English T, Howe K. The Effect of Pilates Exercise on Trunk and Postural Stability and Throwing Velocity in College Baseball Players: Single Subject Design. N Am J Sports Phys Ther. 2007 February; 2(1): 8–21
Kloubec, JA. Pilates for improvement of muscle endurance, flexibility, balance, and posture. J Strength Cond Res 24(3): 661-667, 2010
Biomechanics is the scientific study of the forces acting upon and within a biological structure and the effects produced by these forces. Biomechanics addresses several different areas of human, animal and even plant movement. For example biomechanical studies have looked at how a plant turns itself towards the sun. Biomechanics includes studies on the mechanical functioning of muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone by looking at their tensile strength, line of action and moment arms. The load and overload and the factors influencing performance of these structures are also researched.
Biomechanics of the golf swing applies the principles of mechanics to the structure and function of the golfer in an effort to improve golf technique and performance. The mechanical principles required for the golf swing include:
- Newtons laws of motion (inertia, acceleration, action reaction)
- Lever projectiles
- kinetic link principles
- stretch-shorten cycle of muscle, tendon and ligament.
Biomechanics provides analysis of the golf swing by measuring body angles, joint forces, ground forces and muscle activity patterns. This information helps golf professionals and coaches better understand the forces and muscles required to maximize the distance and accuracy of the golf swing. It also assists practitioners help reduce the risk of golf injuries.
To begin the biomechanical description of the golf swing is to maintain a single fixed center or the core which rotation occurs about, with two one-hinge levers as the moment arm or arms, to impart force on the ball. Measurement of the spinal angles are also collected to determine angular momentum using the kinetic link principle to generate high-club velocity – newtons law of acceleration linear and angular.
Biomechanical studies also measure ground reaction forces with a force plate. Research has shown that large ground reaction forces (GRF) are required to maximize the distance of drives. GRF are the forces that you push down into the ground with the feet – newtons law of action reaction. Studies have shown that during the back swing a greater proportion of the GRF will be observed on the back foot, and transfer to the front foot during the downswing/acceleration phase. At impact 70-75% of the body weight transfers from the non-target foot to the target side foot.
This weight transfer, swing of the two levers (arms) and rotation about a stable center (core) causes during the back swing rapid stretching of the hip, trunk and upper limb muscles, maximizing hip acceleration (X-factor) and uncocking of the wrists when the lead arm is at about 30 degrees below the horizontal. This stretch-shortening muscle cycle working along the kinetic chain of the body follows the summation of force principle – with all the links firing in proper order with maximum acceleration – generates large angular velocity of the club head, and ultimately ball displacement.
A biomechanical study was done on a Japanese golfer Hidemichi Tanaka. Researchers wanted to know how he generated so much club head velocity despite his small stature. Measuring ground reaction forces with a force plate and muscle activity with EMG the study showed, for this right handed golfer, that the muscles of his back leg initiated his down swing, before the upper body reached the top of the swing. During he back swing there was little minimal muscle contraction of the upper body until the left arm reached the horizontal level, and the ground reaction forces peaked with ball impact reaching 184 percent of body weight.
After impact forces then travel up the legs, thighs and hips to the lower back and beyond. If you hit a 5 iron about 150 meters, you generate about 160 kph (100 mph) club head speed, and to do that about 4 horsepower is required, to generate 4 hp you need about 16 kilograms of muscle. The best place to recruit 16 kilo of muscle is with the hips/thighs, large truck rotators and the core these are the powerhouse of the swing.
Physical conditioning will help recruit the muscles in the correct sequence and to optimum effect. Training the proper muscle firing to cause weight through the back leg, activation of the glutes and left internal oblique/external oblique for rotation.
Another biomechanical study from Stanford University School of Medicine conducted by J. Rose PhD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery, identified several factors that were consistent among professional golfers, published in the Journal of Applied Biomechanics. For the first time in a study several key rotational biomechanic elements of the entire golf stroke, from back swing to follow-through, were analyzed. A set of biomechanical factors were selected to capture the essential elements of power generation, as well as, to generate benchmark curves. They found the the swing mechanics were highly consistent among a group of professional players and at certain phases of their swings, their movements were almost indistinguishable from one another.
The results of this study can be used to improve golfer’s ability to hit the ball farther and do so without increasing their risks of injury. The authors indicated that previous studies already showed that the improper swing biomechanics is the leading cause of golf-related injuries. Previous studies also showed that 26-52 % of golf-related complaints involve lower-back injuries, 6-10% involve shoulder injuries and 13-36 % involves wrist injuries. “Over-rotation is one of the leading causes of back injury” J. Rose PhD.
The study by J. Rose et. al. was conducted in a gait and motion analysis lab where eight digital camera collected three dimensional motion images of the golf swings of 10 professional and five amateur players. Several biomechanical elements of the golf swings, including the X-factor – the relative rotation of the hips to the shoulders, measured in degrees. This is considered the key to power generation, as shown in previous studies that pro golfers who hit the ball far have larger peak X-factor than their peers. This study went a few steps farther by analyzing the X-factor in relation to other rotational biomechanics of the golf swing over the full duration of the motion from back swing to follow-through.
It found that the peak free moment, X-factor and X-factor stretch “are highly consistent, highly correlated to club head speed at impact, and appear essential to golf swing power generation among professional golfers.” J.Rose et. al. Additionally, they found biomechanical differences between pros and amateurs. For example the peak free moment of novice #1 was reduced and delayed compared with the professional, as “his X-factor was excessive in early back swing, but insufficient in downswing compared with professionals. Novice #2 had a reduced X-factor throughout back swing and downswing. “Both of these players had lower club speeds at impact than the pros did.
In summary the power generation in the golf swing is the result of proper kinematic sequencing to generate a high X-factor: the smooth coordinated rapid acceleration and deceleration at the pelvis, torso, shoulders/arms, and club head. “A precise understanding of the optimal rotational biomechanics during the golf swing may guide swing modifications to help prevent or aid in the treatment of injury, “ J. Rose et. al.
The reason why golfers may still have difficulty performing even after working with a golf pro is likely due to physical limitations, including movement or lack of range of motion and specific strength of muscles important in the golf swing. Physical conditioning will not only help the proper muscle firing patterns it will help restore adequate range of motion to help reduce risk of injury. Many physical limitations that predispose the golfer to injury manifest themselves at the ends of the golfer’s available movement (range of motion), for example at the top of the back swing.
For example as mentioned above the highest incidence of golf injury occurs in the lower back. Many golfers complain of low back pain occurring immediately after impact on the non-target side. Just after impact the body continues to rotate toward the target and at finish the spine should be erect, the pelvis and shoulders level and perpendicular to the target line and most of the weight on the outside of the target-side foot. During this follow through the spine should maintains a neutral position while, for a right handed golfer, the thoracic and lumbar spines must side bend to the right while they also rotate in the opposite direction, to the left.
If however, the spine side-bends and extends excessively in what is called the reverse “C”finish the vertebrae in the low back will be subjected to compression during loaded rotation, especially on the facet joints. This combination of rotation and side-bending forces is known as the “crunch factor” and reaches it’s peak just after impact. The reverse pivot or “C” finish is one of the most stressful to the low back causing, destructive shear (tearing) and rotational loads, the leading cause of low back pain in golfers.
This resulting combination of forces or crunch factor is actually the bodies own compensation for: 1) poor spinal flexibility and 2) the inability to maintain a stable pelvic base due to poor core strength of the lumbo-pelvic girdle. These two things spinal flexibility and core strength of the lumbopelvic girdle are key factors which Pilates training focuses on and improves. Pilates training not only reduces injury it improves golf stroke mechanics or sequencing, improves your X-factor stretch, and ultimately club head speed making your drive go farther.
A simple explanation of where rotation must occur in the body is in order to better understand kinematic sequencing and the x-factor stretch in the golfer. The human spine has vertebrae stacked one on top of the other resulting in inward curves at the lower back (lumbar) and neck (cervical). The mid-back (thoracic spine) curves slightly outward. Spongy liquid filled discs (intervertebral discs) are located between each of the vertebrae which distribute and decrease the forces on the spine. Posture during motion has significant effects on the forces exerted on these discs. The greatest loads on the discs occur when the spine is in a flexed, loaded, and rotated position – like just after impact in the golf swing.
The facet joints are how the spinal processes articulate with each other above and below each spinal segment or vertebrae. The direction of the facet joints must be considered during rotational movements. In the lumbar spine (low back) facet joints allow only forward and backward bending. Most rotation of the spine occurs (and should occur) in the thoracic or mid-back region where the facet joints are more horizontal.
The other place where rotation must occur during the golf swing is through the hip joints. For example the right hip (for right handed golfer) at the top of the back swing moves backwards or externally rotates about 45 degrees, while the left shoulder should be directly under the chin, with about 75% of the body weight should be on the inside of the right foot. This places significant rotational stress on the spine as the cervical and thoracic spine rotate toward the target to keep the head over the ball, while the shoulders, mid-thoracic and lumbar spine rotate away from the target. Restrictions in cervical and thoracic spine or hip flexibility will result in swing faults as the body attempts to compensate for those movement limitations. This also results in decreased pelvic velocity on the kinematic sequence graphs.
So achieving sufficient segmental spine rotation and external hip rotation is important at the top of the back swing to set up this difference in the amount of rotation between the shoulders and the hips. Jim McLean coined this difference as the “x-factor”. The differential gap between the shoulders and hips set up the next phase, the ‘stretch’. The “x-factor stretch’ that occurs early in the downswing is responsible for generating power in the golf swing because in pre-loads the muscles in the torso and pelvis, much like stretching a slingshot before letting it fly.
Often golfers rotate the spine past its natural limits to increase this differential between the shoulders and the hips, however, this can result in injury by overloading the soft tissue. Additionally, it can cause excessive rotation of the lumbar spine, when rotation is suppose to occur mainly in the thoracic spine.
Pilates for Golf
Often the thoracic vertebrae become stiff and lose their ability to rotate, where the lumbar spine often losses it’s ability to extend. Hips often become very stiff with tight hip flexors and hamstrings the hip losses it’s natural range of motion. Pilates helps improve these motions of the spine and hip plus specifically builds the muscles which assist and maintain these motions. The athletic golf swing is all about posture. Being able to maintain proper or good posture means good mechanics in motion – and good posture equals power. Good posture throughout motion means the body segments are in the proper, most biomechanically efficient position, with minimal stress or shear forces on the body parts, so that proper sequencing can occur in order to increase club head speed.
Balance is an important element of a golfer, as a golf swing requires the body to perform simultaneous rotational and linear movements, in the correct sequence and with the correct timing. Balance requires two physical components of your body to work together, your muscles and nerves. These systems working together allow for postural alignments, center of gravities, weight transfer and spine angles to be maintained during all phases of the swing, not just at the address stage. Improving posture and balance is one way to build a repeatable swing and consistent swing path.
Balance is particularly important in the transition, the point where the backswing in completed and the downswing is initiated. This phase of the swing requires high levels of rotational flexibility and it requires acute levels of balance. As the golfer must both maintain balance of the body as a unit and the control the extremities (arms and legs). It is the integration of the body and swing mechanics (club, arms, legs) that allows the golfer to “stay balanced” during all phases of the swing. In order for the transition phase to be performed efficiently and effectively the golfer must be able to maintain balance in the a rotational pattern or coil. The coil is where the lower body initiates forward movement and the upper body continues a rotation backwards. Better control of this coil is achieved with exercises which train both the nervous and muscular systems to become more efficient in rotational movement patterns. Again, the Pilates method focuses on these types of exercises which develop cross connection strength between the right upper body to lower left and visa verso.
The final discussion of balance is during the address, the position the golfer places their feet and the rest of the body. Biomechanic studies have shown that by placing weight in the mid section of the foot – the arch and heel region of the inner foot – you allow maximum rotation through the pelvis, plus the natural inclination to lean forward through the backswing is countered with this stance. This can be readily demonstrated; try placing all of your weight on the outer aspect of your feet and see how difficult it is to rotate. Then try placing your weight on the inner aspect of the foot, it is much easier to rotate. This is because the tibia and fibula rotate medially allowing the femur to rotate laterally placing the hip in a more neutral position. Pilates training on the reformer draws particular attention to how the line of gravity acts through the foot ankle, knee, hips and pelvis, greatly improving your overall balance and ability to “organize” or position the body.
Often when a golfer begins Pilates training their golf scores become worse or their game looks like it is getting worse. However, you must remember Pilates changes your body. It will increase your cervical and thoracic rotation and shoulder girdle flexibility allowing you greater back swing. It will increase lumbar extension motion and strength. It will increase core strength providing stability of the lumbo-pelvic girdle and better over all balance. Pilates will develop greater ease of movement. With greater range of motion, balance and strength, new timing and muscle sequencing patterns will need to be developed. Working with your local golf pro will pull together your new body and swing mechanics.
Synthesis of Swing Mechanics and Body (muscle performance) to create Power:
Two factors contribute to the creation of power in a golf swing. The first is the swing mechanics or how the golfer sequences the body. The second is the body and the ability of the muscles used in the swing to create power. Pilates can help both build and balance your muscles so they work optimally and help your swing mechanics. It is the synthesis of these two components that create club head speed. Some of following has already been discussed, however the following presents how swing mechanics and the body integrate to generate club head speed, as indicated by biomechanical research of an ideal golf swing.
During the back swing is where the body stores energy to be released as clubhead speed. The transition phase is the point at which the energy stored by the body begins to be directed into the golf club in the form of clubhead speed (power) and where power can be measured. During the downswing this creation of power occurs in about 0.4 seconds. Between the top of the backswing and ball impact the body rotates to generate, accelerate and transfer velocity sequentially from the pelvis to the upper torso to the arms and finally the club face.
The hips and pelvis begin the motion as they initiate a change in direction and start to rotate forward, yet the shoulders continue to rotate backward during early downswing, this further increases the differential between the shoulders and the hips. This rapid counter-movement pre-loads the torso musculature, particularly the oblique abdominals to enhance the concentric torso rotation or angular acceleration. This kinetic sequencing starts from the ground up with ground resistance. A golfer shift-rotates his pelvis at the start of the downswing by pressing into the ground to torque his pelvis in a shift-rotational manner.
Shortly after that, the upper torso start rotating around a rightwards tilted spine. Some of the torque forces used to rotate the upper torso are passively transmitted from the lower torso to the upper torso via the spine and external torso muscles, but most of the torque forces are derived from the active muscle contraction of the mid-upper torso muscle. The combined rotation of the lower and upper torso represents the pivot action, and this pivot action essentially drives the swing and is responsible for the resulting power generation from the body and it’s muscles.
During the backswing, the left arm is pulled across the chest, and by the end of the backswing it is loaded against the upper torso. The left arm is inert in the modern, total body golf swing and it responds passively to movements of the upper torso during the downswing.
When the shoulders start rotating in the early downswing, the arms are pulled along at the same speed as the rotating upper torso. In other words, the left arm is powered by the rotating upper torso. At a certain time point in the swing (usually when the upper torso decelerates), the left arm is passively catapulted or blasted away from the chest wall and the left arm then freewheels towards impact. The energy used to propel the left arm towards impact is derived from the rotating upper torso, via the pivot-driven swing action.
An important feature of the golf swing is is that it is a continuum of related movements and not a series of static positions. A good golf swing is a smooth, free flowing motion that carries the body around to a full finish. Many think of just hitting the ball instead of hitting through an impact zone and the swing is has a jerky, abbreviated follow through. Professional golfers keep on rotating smoothly through the impact zone to a full finish.
Research has demonstrated that professional golfers hit through the impact zone (simply strike the ball on the way through) and the momentum generated during the downswing carries the body effortlessly forward to a complete follow through. The end follow through position has the right arm fully extended in the early-intermediate follow thru period, and the club finally goes over the top of the left shoulder to wrap behind the upper back. The right shoulder continues to move through (under the chin) and the shoulders turn fully to an endpoint where the right shoulder is closer to the target than the left. The body weight is transferred from right to the left side, standing upright over a straight left leg. If the golfer can hold the follow through for a few seconds it indicates proper balance.
That is a lot of analysis just for a seemingly simple athletic activity which takes less than a second to complete! The point of this article was to draw attention to the areas of the golf swing where restrictions or limits in range of motion can cause swing compensations and possible injury. I hope this has helped you think about your own swing mechanics and brought awareness to your body. Pilates is an immensely beneficial exercise method that can certainly help anyone’s golf swing and many other aspects of one’s life. Try Pilates you will feel the difference.
Adapted from Pilates for Golf. This article written by Samantha Reed who studied Physical and Health Education and Biomechanics at the University of Toronto. She is a fully certified Pilates instructor, a builder, avid snowboarder and outdoor enthusiast.
Pilates Level 1, 2, 3 Easy as A, B, C
I am writing this blog article with hopes of helping Pilates instructors come to a consensus on how to determine which level a client is at. Usually classes are rated as level 1, 2 or 3, 1 being a beginner level and 3 being advanced. Clients as well are often labeled 1 through 3. Pilates instructors go through 800 plus hours of training, focused mainly on the classical repertoire or the original exercises developed by Joseph Pilates himself. Some studios offer modifications or preparatory exercises along with the classical ones to assist people to develop the adequate strength to achieve the classical routine.
Now a days Pilates has established itself as one the best core strengthening programs. Many people are jumping on the Pilates band wagon; personal trainers, physiotherapists, kinesiologists or movement therapists, yoga instructors, chiropractors and I’m sure the list goes on.
The problem with various professions borrowing from the work is that it often gets watered down and mixed together with other exercises and for good reason. The basic Pilates exercises especially the basic mat exercises are excellent for developing the necessary core strength to stabilize the pelvis, spine, and shoulder blades. Thus, why Pilates is now readily integrated into physical therapy, personal training and fitness class programs.
Not only does Pilates develop core strength it’s many of exercises helps take people through a range of different exercises helping them explore movement patterns which they may have never experienced before. This opens peoples minds to new possibilities giving them a sense of feeling more comfortable and confident in their bodies. In a way it’s like playing music. You must learn the notes and how to play them then you can combine them into a multitude of different songs. You must learn and master the various exercises to be able to move with freedom or limitless motion. It is movement specialists job to help each client safely explore all of the Pilates exercises to understand movement possibilities.
Pilates exercises focus on spinal mobility with the limbs following the shape of the spine. The exercises can be grouped into shapes and what action the spine is doing. For example flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion are the main spinal actions. The body shapes include rolling or ball, pike, plank, standing and roll over or shoulder stand. The positions include quadruped or cat, lying supine with knees bent, lying prone, and side lying.
Pilates instructors have a knowledge base of over 260 different exercises from the classical repertoire. The exercises range from simple one limb movements such as the single leg lift, to complex actions involving a combination of spinal flexion, rotation and extension, such as snake. There is a basic exercise series that is demonstrated in the mat routine which works the entire body going through the various spinal actions, body shapes and positions. The same exercise routine is repeated on the various pieces of equipment; the reformer, the trapeze table or cadillac, the wunda chair, spine corrector and ladder barrel.
The equipment can make the routine more challenging by adding more resistance by working not only with your own body weight but also resistance from springs. The equipment can also make the routine easier by providing spring resistance to assist the client achieve the exercise. For example the push through bar can help the client lift their head and shoulders while performing the abdominal series, taking strain off of the neck flexors. Thus by applying the equipment in the right way the routine can become more challenging for advanced clients or modified for beginners.
The client should be able to experience all of the Pilates repertoire however, when it is safe and appropriate for each client. Thus the need to know how to identify when a client is a level 1 or level 2 or level 3 etc. I believe there is a dearth of knowledge in the Pilates industry to help instructors know how to identify level 1 through 3 clients. As to my knowledge this is not outlined in any Pilates manual but is eventually figured out by experienced instructors.
If the levels are not respected or if the client does not ‘get’ the lesson of each level then they are just going through the motions and potentially wasting their time. They must connect with their bodies and begin to understand how it is suppose to feel. The mind must become integrated with the body’s movement. One must become more consciously aware of how they can personally enhance each exercise by relaxing and realigning, breathing through it, exhaling or inhaling at the right time, consciously relax the hip flexors, engage the abdominals, etc. It takes time to get genuine change in the body however there are basic principles of the method which each session should strive to work towards.
Newbies or people new to Pilates and are easy to identified. They usually display the following;
- unable to identify neutral spine with poor body awareness
- decreased pelvic and lumbar spine stability
- unable to connect breath with movement
- poor positioning of shoulder, elbow and wrists
- poor alignment of the leg with external rotation and misalignment of the ankle/foot
These clients need to develop body awareness and integrate their breath with movement. They need to be aware of how to glide the shoulder blades around the rib cage, open the front of the shoulder and know the correct placement of the feet, knees and hips. They need to understand what neutral spine is, be able to identify it and become aware of how to maintain it during essential and some level 1 Pilates exercises i.e. ab preps and footwork series. Often exhalation with exertion is recommended to relax the ribcage connecting he abdominals with the pelvis to assist the maintenance of neutral spine and pelvic stability. Once clients achieve this then they can safely begin Level 1 programming. Thus why often Pilates studios insist on private sessions prior to joining group classes.
Level 1 clients are working on developing greater core strength to be able to achieve stability of the pelvis, lumbar spine, and shoulder girdle during level one exercises. The level 1 repertoire develops strength of the transverse abdominals, back extensors, and shoulder blade stabilizers. It develops flexibility of the hamstrings and hip flexors. It connects the rib cage to the pelvis. It begins to help clients understand how to move from the core and hamstrings (footwork on reformer and single leg reach) instead of from the hip flexors and biceps. The level 1 client is also working on being able to hold neutral spine not only during a Pilates session but in daily activities such as driving, sitting, standing and walking.
Once the client has mastered level one exercises such as the roll up and keeping pelvic and lumbar spine stability during leg circles and rolling like a ball, and they have demonstrated that they are moving from the core and breath or the deeper intrinsic muscles instead of from external muscles; the hip flexors and biceps. If a client enters a level 2 or 3 class and cannot demonstrate a roll up or stable roll like a ball further work on the level 1 deep core strengthening exercises is recommended before advancing them. Any underlying medical conditions my limit how fast the client advances through the repertoire and my limit how far they progress with the work.Time restrictions may limit how far clients get through the repertoire. It takes time any where from 3-8 months depending on the level of fitness and coordination of your client .
Level 2: Once clients have achieved shoulder blade, pelvis and lumbar spine stabilization during level 1 excises it is time to challenge then with level 2. Often once level 1 is solidly mastered clients can zip through levels 2 and 3 quite efficiently. Level 2 programming now challenges the other abdominal layers the obliques and rectus abdominus (i.e. roll over, double leg stretch, scissors and criss-cross), along with more challenging back extension work (i.e .backstroke) and rotational spinal movements such as mermaid. The hamstring flexibility continues and improving hip mobility begins to be focused on (i.e. side kick series develop and envelope). More hip mobility exercises including yoga is recommended by this author to improve hip flexibility.
At this stage the client should have broken old movement patterns of over recruiting the hip flexors and can now move from the core abdominal muscles maintaining a neutral spine. If not, level 2 and 3 work could compound the hip flexor gripping pattern.
Level 3 : Now body weight begins to be lifted and mobilized increasing the resistance and balance demands and complexity of the work (i.e. double leg lowers, corkscrew, jackknife and bicycle). By this stage shoulder girdle and pelvic and lower back stability should be well established. Now the body weight is being lifted or added to the programming and the complexity of the actions are increased developing balance between front and back and upper and lower bodies. Such as with the teaser or V-sit the even climb a tree, the client must find balance between the upper and lower bodies integrating the two halves. The psoas becomes a focal muscle. The client learns how to safely hold the shoulder girdle in a centrated position with more of the body weight acting through it such as with side lifts, kneeling side kick, leg pull facing down and up, up stretch, semi-circle, and snake. If shoulder blade placement has not been mastered shoulder strain and injury could result. Level 3 also works on more balancing exercises such as with all of the advanced roll over exercises already mentioned along with standing front splits.
If the client cannot demonstrate adequate balance during the Level 3 exercises nor lift their own body weight or have difficulties holding the centration of the shoulder then they should not continue into Level 4 programming until they can.
Another factor which should be considered on behalf of the instructor is that if a client is participating in a level 3 class it would be expected that the client would be fairly familiar with level 1 and level 2 exercises. This may not always be the case, however, if the client has been attending Pilates for over 8 months it could be assumed that they have had the opportunity to do level 1 and 2 exercises several times. Every exercise requires adequate cuing from the instructor in order for the client to perform it properly. Yet often instructors teaching a level 3 class think that the client is familiar with the equipment and the lower level exercises exercises and may change the cuing for a level 1 exercise to focus on increasing the challenge demands of the exercise which may compromise the normal safety cuing. Again all the more reason why if a client is put in a level 3 class they have the background necessary for it.
Level 4 work brings more balance and coordination challenges along with more full body weight lifting demands, such as push ups, control balance. The stages have been building layers of strength from inside out and integrating breath with movement. This stage now requires pulling it all together with more full body exercises (such as star, semi-circle) and introduces more complex triplanar exercises like star with rotation and twist. Eve’s twist, horseback, up/down combo, hawk, tendon stretch, parakeet, magician and chair exercises such as step downs, one arm push from plank all challenge the client to now lift most of their own body weight with some assistance from the equipment. This stage also introduces greater balance demands such as with arabesque, single arm kneeling series, standing side splits, back splits and kneeling kick forward.
Granite it is important to move clients through the repertoire to experience it and to try the different exercises even if they may not demonstrate the adequate strength or control. Often well trained Pilates instructors who have all of the repertoire under their belt want to share and demonstrate the advanced exercises and hurry their clients through the process. Yet, base core strength should not be compromised and it should be established prior to or while advancing people through the repertoire. With a strong core clients then can safely move through the exercises with a solid foundation. Recently I have been seeing clients who have been doing Pilates for quite some time, over 8 months, yet they still are unable to do basic exercises such as roll like a ball, ab prep, the roll up and hold neutral spine during footwork. Which tells me they have not developed adequate transverse abdominal (TA) strength and the client will continue to use the hip flexor recruitment pattern – meaning that the Pilates instructor, has not done their job yet.
To test this, see if they can stay stabilized during roll like a ball, have them do a simple ab prep and see if they can hold neutral, do half roll backs and see if they can stay out of the hip flexors and work just the lower abdominals and see if they can do a roll up without spring assistance.
It is our job to train the client to understand how to avoid over-using to the quadriceps and hip flexors and recruit the abdominal and psoas muscles instead. The person who taught me how to frame homes (god rest his soul he has passed away) always said to me over the simplest of things: “If you can’t do this (referring to a basic skill) then take up knitting!”
To me these are basic principals of the Pilates work. They are like building blocks to a house, without them the house looses it’s stability and eventually breaks down. It is all fine to point the toes, and straighten the wrists, however if the basic core concepts are not developed the pointiest of toes and straightest of wrists will not help engage the core and maintain neutral spine.
At a certain stage of programming perhaps level 2 or 3 the client should start to stand taller with better posture. Instead of hanging out on the skeleton in a slouched posture gripping through the hip flexors the client now stands or sits upright, engaging the deepest, intrinsic muscles to lengthen and hold the spine erect. With the activation of more intrinsic muscles, even while sitting, it takes more energy. The more muscles firing and working and the larger the cross section of the muscle the more energy is used. Thus metabolism increases and more calories are burned. A proper diet in conjunction with Pilates training weight loss can be expected in your client.
While feeling better and stronger, along with feelings of looking better (i.e. postural changes) it is expected that this ‘feeling good state’ motivates the client to respect and care for their body more with improved diet and even more activity – wanting to get out there and enjoy life. May that be a simple walk or bicycle ride to the park or store. The result of feeling stronger and better hopefully results in more overall activity, boosting metabolism even more. Thus weight loss can be an expected with the secondary effects of a well designed Pilates program.
Note: If you see any typos or corrections please email your findings or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
“There’s too much confusion,
I can’t get no relief.
. . .
None will level on the line, nobody offered his word, hey”
. . .
“There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”
From the Musical Legend Jimmy Hendrix, All Along The Watchtower Jan 21, 1968
Original music of Bob Dylan Dec 1967