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All about the ribs! (And you don't need barbecue sauce)

Pull your ribs in! Close your ribs! Don't pop your ribs! How many times have you heard one of these cues in a Pilates class? Or a dance class for that matter? When we were little, our ballet teacher actually threatened to put barbecue sauce on our ribs if we didn't pull them in.... but we had NO IDEA what he was talking about!

1) the spine has remained neutral

2) the abdominal muscles are fully engaged

So before we talk about Pilates, let's talk about life. Many people -- with the best intentions of not slouching at their desk -- sit with their ribcage in front of their pelvis, alert and ready and "confident." After all, posture conveys confidence, right? And who can blame anyone for lifting their chest and thrusting their shoulders back when "push your shoulders back" was such a common tip growing up from very well-meaning parents!

But here's the problem: many mistakenly pinch their shoulder blades together, throw their shoulders back and their ribcages forward to achieve this "confident" posture! This extends the spine -- and disengages the upper fibers of the abdominal muscles. Neither of which is good for biomechanics or abdominal strength. Your abdominal muscles run nearly the full length of your torso...they start on the lower half of the ribs and end at the pelvis. So if your ribs are popping out or forward of your pelvis, the abdominal muscles are in a lengthened position -- which means they are not fully engaged! If this doesn't make sense, think of it this way: is it easier to stand up from a very short chair that is very low to the ground or a very tall chair? See, you know this! If you are sitting in a deep chair, your quads and hip extensors are BOTH in their elongated positions, which makes it much harder to stand up than it would if the chair were taller. The same holds true for the abdominal muscles! If you're constantly sitting or standing with your ribs out and/or spine extended, your abdominal muscles are constantly elongated, which will make it harder to strengthen them.

Knowing how to achieve "neutral spine" and activate your abdominal muscles with your spine in neutral is not only important for Pilates technique, but also for stability of the spine as you move through life! So here's a self check: whether you're sitting or standing, take a moment to inhale deeply and look up to the ceiling at the same time. Then return to your normal posture. Most likely, when you inhaled and looked up, your back arched and your ribs opened. And when you returned to your "normal" posture, did your ribs stay forward of your pelvis? If so, then your spine is EXTENDED and is not neutral. Now take a deep exhale and without flexing the spine (curling forward), try to close the ribs while keeping your shoulders back. Now maintain that and take a few breaths. Now put your hands on front of your rib cage, and look up slightly: you may feel a great stretch in the front of your neck that trickles down to the front of the shoulders. If so, this is a good stretch for you!

So just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with extending the spine if extension is your intention! Many exercises and movements in life require extension, but knowing that the abdominal muscles are supporting the extension is key. And now, when an exercise calls for "neutral", you'll know you're in "neutral" and not extended! And if your instructor says "close your ribs" you'll know how to do it!

Sign up for a free trial at www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com/free-trial and view the technique video all about the ribcage! View it here ...http://ultimatepilatesworkouts.com/pilates-training

Neutral RibCage seated or standing (CORRECT)

Ribs Popping Seated or Standing (INCORRECT)

Notice that the difference between the correct ribcage placement and the incorrect placement is NOT huge, but it makes a HUGE difference in abdominal stability!!

Neutral RibCage Supine (CORRECT)

Ribs Popping Supine (INCORRECT)

Proper RibCage placement in Extension

Ribs popping in extension

BUT!!! You can also "over-close" the ribs, causing the spine to flex, which is also not good

Ribcage "over-closed" causing the spine to flex seated or standing

Ribcage "over-closed" causing the spine to flex seated or standing

Tuesday, July 15th 2014

Getting the most out of your Pilates workout: Why Technique is Key

Your Pilates instructor is not just picking on you when he/she micro adjusts your positioning and cues you to focus on “a million” things at the same time…we promise! For starters, here are three reasons proper Pilates technique is so important.

You’ll get more out of what you are putting into it, both in the short run and the long run. First and foremost, proper Pilates technique will keep the right muscles working at the right time. Anyone who has ever done The Hundred only to find that his/her back hurts later has already figured this out. Proper muscle activation ensures that the muscles the should be working are, and those that should NOT be bearing the load are not. This is the immediate benefit, but in the long term as well, doing the exercises properly every time brings MUSCLE MEMORY into play. We all know something about muscle memory…. you don’t have to practice swimming or riding a bike or even playing tennis every day for your muscles to remember how to do those activities. Well, the same holds true for proper joint placement. Once the muscles and joints download the optimal way to not only move but stabilize, they will remember it so that it happens automatically… (just like riding a bicycle!)

You’ll give your body a tune up. Just as we take our cars into the shop periodically to get the tires aligned, so too must we realign our bodies, or, as we like to say “put Humpty Dumpty back together again”. Sports and recreational activities are designed to be fun, not to balance our bodies. On top of that, when we are enjoying these activities, the LAST thing we are thinking of is working all of our muscle groups evenly. Even one Pilates class a week (done with proper technique, of course) can restore alignment to your body. THEN, you too (just like your car) will perform more optimally when enjoying your favorite activities. Yay.

You’ll burn more calories when you strive for optimal technique! Doing Pilates exercises properly engages more muscle groups, and engaging more muscle groups mean more calories burned! With Pilates exercises, the muscular focus is on BOTH the mobilizers and stabilizers, which is a hard concept to grasp initially. But take the exercise One Leg Circle, for example (link to the youtube video please), if one only focused on the moving leg, then the exercise wouldn’t even be an exercise! The key to this exercise is the STABILIZERS, and engaging all the stabilizers with the mobilizers makes the exercise interesting, effective, and calorie-burning.

SO! Next time you do your Pilates workout, focus on proper technique, and you’ll reap the rewards for sure!

One of our favorite restorative workouts is the Pilates & Stretch Level 3 workout. http://ultimatepilatesworkouts.com/shop/product/WORKOUT1176

It’s only 32 minutes and delivers gentle toning and stretching throughout.

And then, of course, we have the aptly named “Humpty Dumpty Workout I”, http://ultimatepilatesworkouts.com/shop/product/WORKOUT1290, which is really great when your body doesn’t feel that great but you know you’ll feel better once you move!

Also, please take a look at our One Leg Circle podcast on YouTube!

 

Sunday, July 13th 2014

New dates for CoreAlign Teacher Training NYC with Jonathan Hoffman

Come and join Jonathan Hoffman for CoreAlign® Teacher Training NYC

 
Please note the new dates! Jonathan Hoffman, the creator of CoreAlign, will be in New York City teaching CoreAlign courses. October 20th through October 25th, Jonathan Hoffman will teach CoreAlign 1, 2 and 3 here at Pilates on Fifth!

Jonathan Hoffman in NYC
doing "Statue of Liberty"
with the real Statue of Liberty
in the background
 
Schedule is as follows
 
CoreAlign® 1:  October 20th and 21st, 9-6
CoreAlign® 2:  October 22nd and 23rd, 9-6
CoreAlign® 3:  October 24th and 25th, 9-6
 
Do not miss this opportunity to learn CoreAlign® from the very best -- the creator himself!
 
Space is limited. Register today!
 

 

Tuesday, June 24th 2014

LEARN FROM THE CREATOR! CORE ALIGN TEACHER TRAINING WITH JONATHAN HOFFMAN at Pilates on Fifth!

We are thrilled to announce that Jonathan Hoffman, the creator of CoreAlign, will be in New York City teaching CoreAlign courses. September 9th through September 14th, Jonathan Hoffman will teach CoreAlign 1, 2 and 3 here at Pilates on Fifth!

Jonathan Hoffman in NYC
doing "Statue of Liberty"
with the real Statue of Liberty
in the background
 
Schedule is as follows
 
CoreAlign 1:  September 9th and 10th, 9-6
CoreAlign 2:  September 11th and 12th, 9-6
CoreAlign 3:  September 13th and 14th, 9-6
 
Do not miss this opportunity to learn CoreAlign from the very best -- the creator himself!
 
Space is limited. Register today!
 

 

Tuesday, May 20th 2014

10 Essential Pilates Exercises: The Hundred

The Hundred
...our two cents worth!
 
We know that it sounds completely cliche to pick the Hundred first, but we love it for a few reasons:
 
1)  Abdominal endurance, which "the Hundred" targets, will serve you REGARDLESS of what you are doing
2)  Done properly, "The Hundred" will flatten your abs AND give you a six pack
3)  The Hundred can be regressed, intensified and progressed to accommodate various conditions, strength levels and muscular focus.
 
1)  Abdominal endurance creates a consistently strong core, and a consistently strong core creates more power in what you do.  On top of that, abdominal endurance means that your abs are continuously working to protect your spine and lower back.  Yay.
 
2)  All four layers of the abdominal muscles are targeted with "The Hundred". 
 
The deepest layer, the transversus abdominus, will deliver FLAT ABS (IFF (if and only if) you consciously pull your abs IN while you are performing the exercise.... IF you get to a point where you cannot pull your abs IN, then bend your knees to a degree that you can keep your abs pulled in.  THIS IS VITAL.
 
Next we have the internal and external obliques, in that order, and they both flex the trunk (decrease the angle between the upper body and lower body) as well as side bend and rotate the torso.  In the case of The Hundred, they are clearly performing their first role, but they are still key muscles of the core and thus contribute to core strength, stability, as well as sculpted abs.
 
Finally, we come to the most superficial layer, the Rectus Abdominus, the most powerful trunk flexor AND the abdominal muscle that will deliver the SIX PACK.  The more you are able to lift your head and shoulders off the mat, the stronger the rectus abdominis becomes and the closer you are to that six pack!
 
3)  Think The Hundred might be too challenging?  Then bend your knees or even put them on the floor and focus on the upper fibers of your abdominal muscles.
 
 
Don't feel your inner thighs connecting enough?  Then place a small ball or a Pilates ring (Magic Circle) in between your knees or ankles and SQUEEZE like your life depends on it!
 
Don't think The Hundred is "hard enough"?  Then try lowering your legs for the first set of five, and then lifting them incrementally on the second set..... add a Pilates ring or small ball and it's a double whammy!
 
On top of those options, The Hundred can be with every small prop we use, from the stretch band to stability ball, mini body bar to BoSu.  Each prop brings something unique to the exercise!  Some make it a little easier, some make it a little harder, so choose wisely!
 
All in all, The Hundred is a keeper because ANYONE can ALWAYS modify IT to fit THEM.... and that is what Pilates is all about.... serving your unique needs!

 

Learn more about The Hundred in our Pilates on Fifth video podcast, always free on UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com

Friday, May 16th 2014

Pilates On Fifth Kicks Off Bryant Park Fit Club With A Free Pilates Class

Katherine and Kimberly Corp of Pilates on Fifth taught the first FREE Pilates class of the summer as part of Bryant Park's Fit Club!
 
The morning was GORGEOUS:  the sky was blue, the birds were chirping, the fountain was bubbling and the participants were enthusiastic.... what could be better? 
 
The class was an exquisite potpourri:  We had runners, we had former gymnasts, we had true beginners, tourists... the whole gamut of what you would expect in NYC.  It was GRAND.
 
Katherine and Kimberly and their amazing team of instructors for Pilates on Fifth at Bryant Fit Club.
 
We kept the class "high intensity, low difficulty", so that the mixed levels could feel their muscles working without attempting anything too taxing!  The mats we purchased from Fitness First (www.fitness1st.com) were AMAZING.... ALL OF US were able to do Rolling Like a Ball on CONCRETE!!!! YAY!!!!!!
 
Because our goal is to get people to progress safely and effectively, in the first couple of weeks we're working to establish EXCELLENT technique and foundations.  Our VERY ambitious goal is that those who join early and stick with us will be able to complete and perform the classical Advanced Pilates workout by September 22nd!  THAT'S 17 WEEKS!!!!!!!!! (and don't forget that participants can supplement their Pilates on Fifth in Bryant Park Pilates with online Pilates workouts at www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com!)
 
It might sound corny, but we really do care about each and every person getting the MOST out of his/her Pilates experience. Our lovely assistants and instructors from Pilates on Fifth's Pilates Academy International were able to give personalized attention to each and every participant, so that EVERY one got individualized instruction to enhance his/her Pilates experience.
 
We look forward to seeing you in Bryant Park next week!!!
 
Katherine (speaking) and Kimberly (demonstrating) leading the class through Side Plank, an important precursor for the classical Pilates exercise, Side Bends
Monday, May 12th 2014

SilkSuspension Debuts On UPW!

We fell in love with Suspension exercise in 2009, and wrote a few blogs about our appreciation of double suspension exercise.  This love inspired us to try Aerial Silks, which we LOVED, but we found that FEAR prevented us from embracing it as much as we would have liked to embrace it!  We immediately thought that there HAD to be a way to enjoy elements of Aerial silks without being terrified, while experiencing the myriad of benefits of dual suspension exercise. Thus, SilkSuspension was created!  

Our first workout on the site, Total Body Flow features a warm up and then a suspension series of ab work in the sling as well as standing SilkSuspension exercises.  The ab work in the sling both intensifies the connection as well as provides for increased range of motion... and the SilkSuspension standing exercises allow you to feel your inner thighs in a whole new way…and then some.
 
 
Doing the Pilates exercise Single Leg Stretch in the sling intensifies the exercise and helps you connect to your core.
 

 
Teaser in the sling starts in thoracic and hip extension, increasing the range of motion.
 
Then, you bring the body into Teaser position...a total body teaser.
 
 
Merely doing simple squats standing in the SilkSuspension units is a HUGE wake up call to the inner thighs....
 
 
But the push ups are super fun.
 
 
 
Splits done 15-20ft in the air are daunting, but in SilkSuspension you are never far from terra firma!  You can build upper body strength while having fun.
 
And then there are the inversions…..so very good for your spine and for circulation.  Hanging upside down does take a bit of getting used to for some….it most certainly did for us….but now it just feels wonderful!  

And last but not least…. SAFETY!  We’ve also uploaded a Set-Up and Safety Video for the SilkSuspension, and we strongly urge everyone using the SilkSuspension to watch the ten minute video first.  We have also included the bullet points of the video on our website here.
Thursday, April 3rd 2014

Seven Pilates Tips for Beginners

Pilates can sometimes be a bit overwhelming to the person just starting. Please adhere to the following seven helpful tips for beginners.
 
 
1) Be Patient! Rome was not built in a day - but we're sure the Romans laid some solid foundation on day one!
 
Whether you are an accomplished athlete or a former couch potato, start with the basics.  Pilates is a SYSTEM, and taking time with the basics ensures that a solid, technical foundation will be laid. The technique alone takes more than a few lessons to understand, but if you are patient with the basics, we assure you, you will progress much faster than if you jump into an advanced class!  Think of it this way:  even if someone excels at Pilates and demonstrates strong flexibility, he/she would never dream of walking into a karate class and starting with the black belts!
 
2)  Don't seek what Pilates doesn't deliver!
 
Do you go to the bakery to buy a steak?  Or to a juice bar for a beer?  NO!  So don't seek the same body sensations with Pilates exercises that you would with a boot camp program or marathon running.   "Feeling the burn" is not something that will happen with Pilates, nor is that feeling of intense heart-pumping that comes with cardio.  But do not fret!  Your body will learn the joys of new sensations such as feeling "open" and "elongated" and "balanced!"  When you start Pilates, initial exercises focus more on smaller muscles which don't "feel" like the larger muscles feel when you work them.  So unlike your quadriceps and glutes, for instance, which are easy to feel when they are working because they're big, powerful muscles, many of the smaller stabilizing muscles upon which Pilates focuses are a fraction of the size.  But, these smaller muscles are the support system for the larger muscles.  You will be amazed at how much stronger you become when these muscles are recruited to help the bigger guys do their jobs!
 
3)  Focus on quality!
 
Yes, we're talking about technique AGAIN!  Doing Pilates incorrectly will not just deliver ZERO results, it could lead to injury.  A common mistake that Pilates beginners make is performing exercises too quickly and/or making the movements too big.  Pilates is about subtlety -- small controlled, well placed movements -- so that you can target the deepest core muscles and progress to the outer layers of muscles.  Listen to your instructor and follow along at the appropriate pace.
 
4)  Do you still think "no pain, no gain?"  Think again!  With Pilates it's "if PAIN then NO GAIN!"
 
As stated, "feeling the burn" is NOT part of the Pilates principles, so we already know the "pain" of muscles "burning" will not be present initially.  SO!  If you are feeling pain or discomfort in your neck or your lower back, STOP!!!  It means something is awry and does NOT mean you should push through the exercise.  The good news is that the pain could be caused by a muscular weakness and thus will go away once the target muscles get stronger.  But, it could be something else and there is no way anyone can know but a medical professional.  (In other words, if your Pilates instructor provides a technical hint that eliminates the pain, you can keep going with your newly learned proper form.  But if -- despite your instructor's cues -- pain persists, you must stop.)  Stick to a strict rule for yourself of ONLY doing the exercises you can do without pain.  Performing exercises with pain or discomfort will not only aggravate the condition, but also cause the wrong muscles to work.
 
5)  Listen to Your Body
 
Not every workout has to be the "gold medal" workout!  On a day that you're not feeling 100%, pick an easier workout!  There is nothing wrong with a "be kind to your body" workout. 
 
6)  Respect Your Body
 
Dogs are smarter than people on this point!  Let's face it, do you think a bulldog eyes a greyhound with envy and wishes she had the greyhound's body?  NO!  That little bulldog thinks it is absolutely fabulous with it's unique physique.  SO BE THE BULLDOG!  Or the poodle, or the Great Dane or the Chihuahua...whatever!  Each dog thinks it is grand and SO SHOULD YOU!  Feel free to aim to improve upon your existing body type, but coveting long legs when yours are short, or a more muscular build if you're more willowy will only lead to frustration.  Furthermore, body type affects what Pilates exercises are easy, hard, etc. for each person.  Those of you who have seen our videos know this!  With our tight lower backs, we STILL don't do a perfect Roll Up..... but we still try, and that's getting the target muscles to work.  
 
7)  Create and stick to a REASONABLE schedule
 
If you're a Pilates beginner and UBER gung-ho... YAY!!!!!  But don't fly out of the gate too quickly, or you risk burn out.  Start with something DIGESTIBLE.  Our dad has always said, "You know how you eat an elephant?"  The two of us, "How?"  Dad:  "One bite at a time".  Seriously, don't try to conquer the world of Pilates immediately.  Let it be a journey that you enjoy!  20-30 minutes a few days a week is much more manageable and effective than 60 minutes one day a week....and you'll actually see more results this way too.
Monday, March 17th 2014

3D Pilates Workout Online at UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com

WHAT?

Even if you're a vegetarian, you've likely seen a little chicken cooking on a rotisserie.  It continually, albeit methodically, goes round and round on the rotisserie until it's browned evenly on all sides. Oftentimes with a Pilates workout, it is easy to focus on a certain group of exercises that target just a few muscle groups, leaving parts of you completely fatigued and other parts completely untouched. 

And our bodies move in three dimensions, not just two, so why focus on just flexion/extension, abduction/adduction, and rotation, when our bodies, throughout the day, continually move in combinations of these components?

 

With the 3D Pilates workout, we've aimed to "brown ourselves evenly on all sides", just like a little rotisserie chicken (or mushroom or zucchini for that matter!).  The exercises flow from supine to side lying to prone, and then around again, so that all muscles groups are targeted without being over taxed.  We've also attempted to capitalize on the fact that our bodies move in three dimensions!

But beware!

This is not a traditional Pilates workout!  While we've included classical Pilates exercises, we've clearly changed around the sequencing, and, on top of that, we've thrown in some of our "Corps Physique" exercises.  These exercises are Pilates INSPIRED.... but not traditional exercises, which is why we call them "Corps Physique".

In the 3D Pilates workout, we both introduce and break down the "Teaser Roll", which is the culmination of the workout....  (and the reason that it is Level 4!)....  Throughout the workout we teach the components of the Teaser Roll, and then put it all together at the end.  It's hard not to do with a smile on your face, even though it's difficult!

But no worries!  Even if you don't consider yourself an advanced practitioner, you can still enjoy the 3D Pilates workout.... just take it easy on the "hard stuff" at the end!

There are two ways to try the 3D Pilates workout!

 

1)  Shop a la carte at www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com/shop  If you want to straight to download the 3D Pilates Workout, click here!


2)  Sign up for a FREE TRIAL OF ULTIMATE PILATES WORKOUTS ONLINE!  You'll get two weeks of hundreds of online Pilates workouts that stream straight to your computer or mobile device.  At the end of the two weeks, you simply decide what subscription level you would like to keep. For all the information on subscription levels and ALL the goodies the site has to offer, check out our GET STARTED page and that should answer most questions.

Wednesday, January 15th 2014

Ultimate Pilates Workouts awarded Top Yoga & Pilates Websites for 2013

 

We are very pleased and proud that we've been selected as one of the best sites online for Pilates!!  

75-yoga-pilates-websites-2013

Check out the article here:  (http://psychologyofeating.com/75-yoga-pilates-websites-2013/)

 

And sign up TODAY for a FREE TRIAL of all subscriptions!

Monday, January 6th 2014