Body equilibrium – how Pilate’s develops strength from the inside out.

Pilates training develops the necessary strength and mind-body connection to hold our spine, joints and bones in the most anatomically correct positions, enabling us to move more effectively.  It develops the deep muscles which support our skeleton, allowing a more balanced body and connected core.  It helps eliminate creaky hips and shoulders, and trains you to develop better spinal mobility, and placement during exercise.  With this we can train harder, work harder – in general – move more efficiently and with less likelihood of injury no matter what we do from construction to desk work.

Yes, it focuses on the core, yet core does not just mean abs and back.  We in Pilates refer to the core as the deepest layer of muscle which is closest to our skeleton.  These are the local stabilizers which control neutral joint position and segmental motion.  They provide proprioceptive input about joint position, range, and rate of movement. They are also active continuously during movement, thus are endurance type muscles. When there is muscle pain, injury or movement impairment the stabilizers become inhibited and since they control joint placement our body no longer can stabilize itself or we cannot hold our spine or joints properly.  When this happens, our larger more superficial muscles called global stabilizers, have to work harder, become overactive and react to this pathology with spasm.

Stability retraining can only be accomplished with low load core conditioning focusing on the mind-body connection, to retrain motor control and endurance.  Pilates works our body starting with the deepest muscle layer outwards.

The video below is a great example of these principles – this isn’t a normal squat:

Pilates training is essential to any fitness program.  With its emphasis on alignment, breath, total body conditioning, it educates the participant on proper form and function.  The following video demonstrates how paying attention to alignment can greatly increase the challenge of an exercise;

It makes one mindful of how to stand, squat, flex, extend, bend and move in a stronger more stable way.  If you do not develop and  connect with your core muscles no amount of weight lifting, squatting or cross training will change your physique.   In fact you may well continue to develop muscle bulk as the global or superficial muscles continue to over work while the deeper intrinsic muscle layer fights for stability.  Stop the battle!  Let Pilate’s balance your strength and flexibility  – develop body equilibrium.

 

By Samantha T. Reed

Reference: Injuries and Special Populations Manual, Stott Pilates, 2010.

 

 

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Pilate Revelution – Revelstoke’s new studio

Revelution_Logo

 

I just wanted to let you know about the new Pilates studio – Revelution.

Grand opening this Saturday.  Final finishing construction details are in the works.  Saturday at 1 pm is a free 1/2 hour Pilates demonstration with yours truly.  I hear it is already full with newbies.  You are welcome to drop by anytime and see the new place.

The stationary bicycles, TRX suspension systems, mats, foam rollers, thera-bands and all the other equipment are in place for a class of 15.  I trust the Pilates classes won’t have that many but there is enough equipment for that many bodies.
Go to: http://revelution.ca/classes/prices/ 
to see pricing details, classes offered, to schedule yourself into a class and even pay on line.

This is going to be the best location in Revelstoke for Pilates mat training.  See you there.

Best regards;

Samantha 

5 Reasons Why Real Men Do Pilates

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

Pilates is Just for Dancers: Fact or Fiction?

pilates for menIt 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

References:

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

Pilates levels 1,2,3 how do we define them?

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 samanthatreed@hotmail.com

“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

Integrated Medicine ?

herbal-remedies-for-colds-flu I was bicycling home, I noticed a gentleman coming out of an office building, the sign above the door. It read “Integrated Medicine”. As I understand some physicians tend to be more progressive with the prescription of herbal remedies, than other doctors. Oil of oregano may be prescribed for a cold or mild respiratory infection. Having a natural health persuasion myself I think it great for a medical doctor to use natural remedies.  Thus the name “integrated medicine” mixing pharmaceutical and herbal medicines.  But the practice name “Integrated Medicine” made me ponder, as I cycled by, the broader sense of the phrase integrated medicine and how the word integrated is used and applied quite frequently with the Pilates method.

The way I think of integrated is when explaining how the body is pretty well held together with fascia, an envelope or sheath that wraps every organ and muscle in the body. This sheath is continuous, wrapping it’s way around every item in us – the matrix of the body. When an adhesion occurs in the fascia it causes a strain or stress on the envelop pulling it – like having a knot tied in your shirt – it doesn’t wear properly. This knot or stress/strain in the fascia can be caused from trauma, poor posture, vertebral subluxations, repetitive activities, even psychosocial factors. Resulting in reduced range of motion, stiffness, it may even make us feel nauseous or sick as the facial strain can affect the organs.

Often everything you do to help relieve this problem is ineffective. For example you think your hamstring or shoulder muscles are just tight and you do all the proper hamstring or rotator cuff stretches yet with little change or relief. The integrated medical practice mentioned above most likely will not be able to specifically treat such issues either, yet a referral to a Pilates instructor using an integrated approach will.  Pilates will stretch and relax held tensions and strengthen weak or lax muscles and train our muscles and other structures to work in a more balanced, integrated way.

Osteopathy, craniosacral therapy and some chiropractic practitioners have an integrated holistic approach to treating such issues.  Osteopathy and craniosacral therapy works mainly on the fascia of the body. Gentle minimal forces mobilizations of the spine and joints of the arms and legs encourages release of the fascia improving energy flow. Often the area of complaint is not what is treated as the body is looked at as a whole. You may complain of neck pain yet addressing an area somewhere else in the body like the knee may treat the neck.Chiropractic treatments adjusts the spinal column and limbs to help correct alignment of the joints, improves fascia and muscle balance or function.

Pilates has an accumulative preventative affect on the body.  It too takes an holistic approach working the body in an integrated way. Pilates does not look at the body in sections. Pilates doesn’t exercise the body in separate muscle groups, like in a weight room where we do bicep curls then leg extensions for the quadriceps, etc. Instead it makes the body work as an integrated whole – Pilates is a whole body exercise. Pilates training done with an instructor who has a good eye can help you develop better alignment, body awareness and fine tune the body bringing more strength or flexibility to where it is required.

Pilates instructors look at the body not as a bunch of individual muscles and angles of pull, but rather in facial or muscles lines. Julian Littleford Master Pilates instructor and part of the Passing the Torch Mentor program with Balanced Body University, describes it as starting with the inside arch of the foot, the line of action wraps around the calf to behind the knee to the lower glutes where the top of the hamstrings insert,  then connects to the mid-back and abdominals. After which it zig-zags through the body. When awareness is brought to this idea of the muscles wrapping through the body, muscles become integrated and act together pulling the body into better alignment moving from a central powerhouse.

Muscle actions are described in a cross from right to left, for example drawing the right shoulder blade to the left hip and vise-versa forming a cross connection from side to side. Similarly on the front the ribcage, diaphragm and psoas, muscle help connect the segments so that we move from a stable, connected foundation enabling force to be efficiently transferred from the upper body to the lower body and from one side of the body to the other.

Pilates training uses relatively light weights (springs) plus the individuals body weight with specific exercise sequences or repertoire which gets the muscles in the body to fire appropriately, resulting in efficiency of movement. The idea is to have correct muscle firing patterns – the right muscles working for the task at hand.

Other examples of whole body activities which integrate the muscles of the body are crawling, walking, running (when done properly), swimming, climbing, bicycling, surfing and skiing/snowboarding. Where the right and left sides of the body are reciprocal as one side of the body moves the other side is stabilizing and balancing the action of the other. “This is called reciprocal locomotion or coactivation of contralateral upper and lower quarter system throughout the body. For example the swing phase of gait or walking the lower body extremity and the right upper extremity are in tonic (flexion, internal rotation, adduction and pronation) pattern. During stance phase the leg is in extension with the opposite arm and they are coactivating in the phasic system (extension, external rotation, abduction and supination.)” S. Sahrmann, Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes 2002. 

When the body is in harmony; muscles are balanced. Muscle balance keeps the interaction of the tonic and phasic patterns optimal for posture and movement. This interaction provides centration of the joints during movement, creating a balance of muscular forces to maintain joint congruency through movement. When the fascia is not caught up there is flow of energy from side to side and throughout the body. When the body’s matrix or fascia is flowing smoothly and body awareness has been trained, integration is easy as can be readily seen. For example when you observe a ballet dancer’s graceful routine they are moving from a strong connected foundation the lines of muscle force are balanced and strength flows. The muscles are firing properly not one more than the other and there is freedom of movement throughout there are no spots of tension or adhesion.

Often running, swimming, bicycling and other such repetitive activities can result in repetitive strain injuries. Runners with knee are foot injuries, swimmers with shoulder injuries and the list can go on. Muscular imbalances can cause facial problems and vise versa . Also there is a neurological link between the upper and lower body systems. Imbalances in one system can lead to postural compensation and adaptive changes in the opposing system leading to problems with co-activation and muscle imbalances.

What I believe is so powerful about Pilates training and it’s advantage over other fitness modalities is that you are under the keen eye of an instructor. Even small adjustments can make huge affects on overall strength and power. Instructor feedback helps you achieve better mechanics and body awareness which not only helps you avoid injury but helps you prevent and heal injuries. A good instructor can suggest the appropriate exercises to help clients change their body’s overall posture, muscle patterning, strength and flexibility. Along with your Pilates practice metabolism changes occur facilitating changes in body content; increasing muscle and lowering fat percentages.

Pilates training often involves some muscle re-patterning as some muscles are over used while others are under used and do not fire or work when they are suppose to. With injury this becomes even more evident as the local stabilizers, the intrinsic muscle tend to become inhibited, while the global stabilizers, muscles which generate forces to control the segmental tend to become overactive at a low threshold or go into spasm Dawson, A., Injury and Special Populations Manual, Merrithew Corp., 2010.

The Pilates method is a healing process taking people deeper into their body awareness and most of this is done through connecting movement with breath. Breath integrated with movement facilitates better strength connection. On the simplest level exhalation with exertion helps increase intra-abdominal pressure, lowers the rib-cage and scapula towards the pelvis activating the abdominal, intercostal and shoulder blade muscles. Often people in pain, aerobic athletes and stressed individuals have high chest breath with their shoulders and ribcage are stuck in and elevated position. The mechanical effects of achieving a full exhalation allows the ribcage to lower, the thoracic spine to relax and lengthen, the scapula to achieve full range of motion which all facilitates the maintenance of neutral spine. When a neutral position of he spine is achieved the spine becomes decompressed, the vertebrae are in the best mechanically efficient position to transfer forces through them. In this position with the breath alone you can invite more space between the vertebrae and lengthen the crown of the head away from the tailbone. Once all of the above is established by being able to perform the essential or level 1 Pilates repertoire then the breath focus can become the inhale.

Inhalation brings awareness to the deeper layers of abdomen activates the diaphragm. The diaphragm is responsible for inhalation as its fibers contract and pull downwards, causing more room in the lungs for air to be drawn in. The insertion of the diaphragm is right next to the iliopsoas. The iliopsoas is the strongest hip flexor and acts alike a mediator between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor. It and the illiacus muscles are muscles responsible for the posture of lumbar spine and pelvis as the iliopsoas inserts directly on to the lumbar vertebrae and the illacus on the ilium or the “bowl” of the pelvis. The psoas is an essential muscle to establish true balance of the body. Balance from front to back and side to side, like a guy wire aligning legs, hips and spine and the only muscle that attaches the spine to the leg as it crosses the hip attaching the head of the femur. It ties the legs to the lumbar spine and the diaphragm. I have heard runners express how the legs are truly your lungs. The iliopsoas and illacus are located in the root charkra, represented by the lotus flower and that is what these muscles are shaped like. The root charkra is for grounding and security, exactly what these muscle do for the body, Staugaard-Jones, J., The Vital Psoas Muscle, Connecting Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Well-being, , Lotus Publishing, 2012.

The diaphragm is active on the inhalation. But the activation of the diaphragm is complex, causing more intrinsic things to happen than the exhalation which causes more changes nearer the outside of the body in the rectus abdominus, external obliques, thoracic spine, and rib cage. The diaphragm is a mushroom shaped muscle that distends towards the pelvis responsible for increasing the lung volume creating a vacuum into which more air is drawn the lungs. The diaphragm insertion is close to the psoas and T12 thoracic lumbar junction. This point in anatomy is relevant as many muscles insert here the quadratus lumborum, the obliques, and the transverse abdominus. In the spine it is here the curvature changes from convex to concave or from thoracic to lumbar vertebrae important part in the spine for energy transfer. In movement analysis this point is significant as the facial lines intersect here crossing the body from left to right and top to bottom. A significant power point of the body Nichols, V., Body Matrix Pilates teacher training course, 1999.

During inhalation the diaphragm pulls downward pushing the organs into the stomach muscle hammock and also into the pelvic floor which accommodates by widening. The stomach muscles and the pelvic floor work together to support and balance activity of the diaphragm. When we inhale the lungs and ribs widen, the stomach and pelvic floor muscles stretch. During exhalation stomach muscles and pelvic floor contract to push the organs upwards again.

This system functions so well that is has permitted mammals to get into a position of domination on this planet. Mammals can even breathe with a minimal thorax movement, with just the diaphragm and the stomach and pelvic floor muscle (E. Franklin, 2003, p 61 Pelvic Power, Princeton book company Publishers).

” The diaphragm is also important for helping stimulate the organs, as it is connected to the organs via a facial sheath called the falciform ligament and the median umbilical ligament which passes into the round ligament of the liver. The round ligament of the liver changes at the lower edge of the liver into the falciform ligament of the liver. This runs between the two lobes of the liver to the diaphragm The diaphragm is hung from the heart, and the heart itself is hung from the cervical spine via ligaments. Following the line along the umbilical ligament is the bladder, so really the whole length of this ligament the bladder hangs from the neck.” Franklin, E.2003 p 90 Pelvic Power, Princeton book company Publishers, 2003

” When inhaling the kidneys lower with the diaphragm, when exhaling they move up. Often the kidneys lower too much which heightens the pressure on the urethra and the bladder, producing incontinence. The kidneys are not held in place by ligaments but are supported by the sucking effects of the diaphragm and held by neighboring organs. The kidneys and the bladder are central importance to the strength of the pelvic floor, as well as problems of the knees, the sacrum and the hips. The state of these organs also strongly influences the balance and posture of the pelvis as well as sexual energy. The kidneys are partially covered by the two lowest ribs and lie behind the transverse abdominal muscle, the psoas and the quadratus lumborum. Every 45 minutes they filter all our blood, distribute hormones and modulate the chemical composition of blood. The adrenal glands are small endocrine glands that lie atop of the kidneys. They consist of cortex and medulla. The medulla produces the well-known hormone adrenaline, which can put our body into a state of great readiness, efficiency and fitness. Movement of the diaphragm or breath work can stimulate the kidneys, bladder and the adrenal glands” (Franklin, E, 2003 p 84 Pelvic Power, Princeton book company Publishers).

“The back extensors multifididus is the antagonists of the pelvic floor muscles. Multifididus meaning split many times muscle. Without a strong active pelvic floor the back extensors do not benefit from the pelvic floor movement. When we activate the pelvic floor tighten the pelvic floor and pull together the tuberosities through a moving forward of the coccyx the lower spine flexes which stretches its muscles. If the floor weak then the back doesn’t enjoy this active stretching or flowing and gliding apart. The consequences is lack of blood supply and therefore tension in the back muscles. Inhalation pushes the organs down into the pelvic floor while exhalation lifts the organs and contracts the pelvic floor.” (Franklin, E., 2003 p 66 Pelvic Power, Princeton book company Publishers, 200).

Blocking breath raises the stress levels which in turn has a negative effect on muscles, organs and continence. ” Stress lowers the tension in the muscles of the organs through the effect it has on the autonomous nervous system thus this is one reason why people have a paunch tummy in spite of rigorous muscle training” (Franklin, E., 2003, Pelvic Power, Princeton book company Publishers). Stress takes its toll on our body. We must breath fully inhaling and exhaling to release stress and have properly working organs. We must integrate our movement with breath to release fascia, stimulate organs, improve posture, reconnect with our muscles and deepen strength all of which will help us move from our core.

Note: If you see any typos or corrections please email your findings or comments to samanthatreed@hotmail.com

The philosophy of Pilates being used by fitness trainers of professional athletes.

Main article by:  Alex Gheciu “Fit Tips” Chill Magazine, Dec 2012

I picked up the “Chill” magazine this weekend and low and behold the Fit Tips section discusses functional fitness that works on developing movement over strength – something I have been focused on for over a decade.  The emphasis of this type of training works the body from the inside out versus working the exterior muscles with a lot of weight.  Here is a brief synopsis of the article.

A triad a ‘elite’ fitness gurus; Sylvestor Walters of Evolution Extreme Fitness, former Toronto Raptors Doug Christie and Washington State track champ and professional trainer Tim Manson, claim to have developed a movement based training method which has upped the games of top-shelf athletes from the NBA to A-level soccer players.  While many guys are obsessed with pumping iron, looking like Arnold won’t won’t help you with athleticism.

“Bodybuilders are the worst athletes in the world.” says Tim Manson.  They train from the outside out for aesthetics.  You need to train naturally from the inside out and learn how to move.   Movement training made popular by this trio has boosted the the performances of pro athletes by training them to move efficiently while avoiding injury.  Based on the belief that size isn’t strength, the philosophy is a call to drop the weights and use your brain.   Add the weight after you learn to move!

They do not use bench press machines at their facilities, as you need to control your body first – moving in a way that controls the forces your body generates.  This is done by having proper co-ordination between the muscles.  You must find a way to get the most out of every movement without expending too much energy.  Once you do, you’ll have boundless flexibility, mobility and balance, as well as, the ability to leverage your strength during different movement patterns.

“You don’t just jump with your ankles; you jump with your whole body.” Christie explains.  The whole body is trained to take advantage of the greater strength in your quads, calves, hips, lower back and propel yourself with your arms.  Your body doesn’t identify individual muscles but the entire kinetic chain.

This group of fitness trainers believe athletic excellence can be achieved by synchronizing “mind, body and sport.”  They add that many athletes are not harnessing their full potential because they don’t truly understand the fundamentals of movement.  Mastering those fundamentals, according to Walters et al., is a seven- stage journey consisting of stabilization, mobility, strength, power, energy system development, rest restoration and recovery and mental training.

I truly appreciate this trio’s emphasis and the way they are presenting fitness training being more than a bunch of exercises, but a step-by-step process that works on developing the functional fitness of the entire body.  Great work which is ideally what the Pilates method is all about.  I thank you for communicating the message and bringing it to the realm of male professional sport.  I look forward to following your posts.

A tribute to Martha Graham

A spectacular ‘Google doodle’  commemorating Martha Graham’s life contribution to Dance.  “Martha Graham (1894–1991) is known as one of the great creative minds of the 20th Century” – a true movement therapist and flow at it’s finest.  PilateOn!

Marth_Graham_Tribute

Click the link below for Google’s first animated doodle May 11 2011:

http://www.google.com/doodles/martha-grahams-117th-birthday