The Pilates Spine Corrector also known as the Step Barrel is designed to focus on the core abdominal, back, and shoulder muscles. By stretching and working these muscles out with the specific Pilates exercises for the barrel, ‘humpback’ is shown to disappear and spine correction occurs. Additionally, the chest muscles are also worked out, which improves breathing for a better night of sleep and throughout the day.
The Pilates Spine Corrector/ Step Barrel can treat many other problems as well; scoliosis, osteoporosis, arthritis and many others. With strong core muscles, the body can be stable and move properly again, so why wait any longer to improve your back posture?
As we age, our backs lose the natural curvature of their spine. Whether it’s from a lack of physical activity, disease, or another disorder, there are a large amount of problems that a misshapen spine can lead to; bad back posture, breathing, and health can suffer from a misshapen spine. The good news is that posture correction can be attained through appropriate measures using the Pilates Spine Corrector.
You’ve been in back-to-back meetings for what seems like two weeks, the unread messages in your inbox have hit triple digits, and you can’t recall the last time you got more than five hours of sleep. Between work, workouts, your extracurricular activities, and attempting to maintain your relationships-you’re running on empty. And if one more item gets added to your to-do list, your head might explode.
In our day-to-day lives, stress is inevitable. But when it’s left unmanaged, it can wreak havoc on our mental and physical health. So, when things get extra-crazy, that’s exactly when you need to stop, slow down, and de-stress. We know, we know-you don’t have time. But even though spending a day at the spa or jetting off to a luxurious beach vacation aren’t options (at least for us non-celebrities), there are plenty of other ways to take a breather. Whether you have five minutes between meetings or can spare a few hours, here are some quick and simple methods to bring some calm into your day.
If You Have 5 Minutes A lot of us tend to switch to staring at our phones when we have a momentary lull, but consciously doing nothing is a better way to unwind. Even if you only have a few minutes to decompress, you still can relax your mind and body with some simple techniques. If you’re at work, take a quick break from staring at your computer monitor to stand up, stretch, and take a few deep breaths. Or, if you’re somewhere else, say, waiting for a train or at the doctor’s office, close your eyes, pop in your headphones, and just take a minute to slow down. Have a hard time sitting still? Do something totally mindless, like cleaning the receipts out of your purse. These quick fixes can also help ease your mind while traveling, before a big presentation, or in any other scenario that makes you feel nervous or overwhelmed.
If You Have 15 Minutes When you have few more minutes-a break between meetings or time for quick lunch-taking a short walk is a good way to clear your head, even if it’s just around your office building. Getting away from your current environment gives your mind something new to focus on, plus even a little bit of exercise provides endorphins that elevate your mood. You can also take 15 minutes to call to a friend or family member, read a magazine, or scribble some thoughts down in a journal. Or, try something that requires even less energy, like browsing gorgeous vacation destinations on Pinterest. The key is to separate yourself from everything that’s wearing you down and find a moment of levity. Even a short escape from the grind can make you refreshed (and more productive) when you return.
If You Have an Hour When I have a good chunk of time to myself, I sometimes feel obligated to use it to get other things done, like errands or phone calls-but I’ve learned that the only way to use that time to truly reduce my stress level is to do something totally for me. A yoga class or quick burst of exercise is a good method to calm your spinning head, or enjoy some light-hearted TV or an ice cream or coffee date with a friend. You could also spend an hour playing with the puppies at the pet store, indulging in the total silence of a library, or browsing for random treasures at a thrift store. And sometimes, what you need most to decompress might just be sitting by yourself and people-watching while you let your brain slow down.
If You Have a Half-Day The next time you have even a half of a weekend day to yourself, try using it to get outside your traditional routine and duties. Take time to indulge in a nice experience that lets you relax and regroup. Take a day trip, attend a concert, go shopping, or treat yourself to a pedicure. In nicer weather, being outdoors-gardening, jogging, or walking your dog-can be a great way to spend time with zero stress (or cost). If you can do so without severe withdrawals, leave your iPhone at home (or at least silenced) to get the most out of your “me time.”
It’s safe to assume that stress is a normal part of life for all of us, but the key is making sure it doesn’t run our lives or grow out of control. Even when free time is a luxury, carving out a few minutes or hours to calm down is an important part of self-care. So there you have it-an excuse to take a coffee break or cancel your plans tonight, and finally make some time for you.
More balanced shots in basketball. Better jumping. Increased power. Decreased running times. These are just some of the benefits Pilates has brought college athletes. Once a niche exercise, Pilates has gone mainstream and is available at almost every gym. Athletes in numerous sports have discovered its training and rehabilitative powers. Among the younger, college-aged set, this total-body exercise can help increase strength and flexibility.
In a survey of 1,477 American College of Sports Medicine members, Pilates was ranked ninth on a list of the top 20 fitness trends for 2010.1 Several studies have examined the effects of Pilates on fitness.
Pilates and Cardiovascular Fitness At the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, Stefanie Spilde and John Porcari, PhD, studied 15 healthy women between the ages of 18 and 26 who self-identified as having intermediate Pilates experience. The women performed two 50-minute Pilates mat routines-one basic and one advanced-following Joseph Pilates’ original sequencing method. During the exercises, testers measured their heart rates and oxygen consumption and subjects ranked their perceived efforts using the Borg scale.
The intensity level of the beginning routine showed an average maximum heart rate of 54 percent, below the ACSM minimum recommendation of 64 percent for cardiovascular fitness. Subjects’ VO2 max rates were calculated at 28 percent, again lower than the recommended guidelines of 50 to 85 percent. The aerobic benefits of these routines are similar to the effects of walking two miles per hour. Interestingly, though, the subjects believed their efforts to be higher than they really were. They ranked their rate of perceived exertion at 14 on the Borg scale.2 The amount of muscle work needed to successfully execute Pilates exercises fooled the participants into believing they worked harder than their oxygen consumption dictated.
The advanced routine modified the pacing and positioning of the sequence. This time, subjects showed a 62 percent heart rate and 43 percent maximum VO2 rate, equal to the energy it takes to walk approximately four miles per hour. The average self-measurement of their exertion was 16.5 on the Borg scale.2
Spilde and Porcari concluded that Pilates is an ideal exercise for people looking to improve flexibility and strengthen their core. On the court or field, think of all the advantages increased flexibility and more powerful core muscles can bring a collegiate athlete.
Proof of Impact Pilates has long been believed to develop the core-the transverse abdominis and internal obliques. But where is the scientific proof? Michele Olson, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Auburn University Montgomery, recruited subjects at her university’s Human Performance Lab to test the theory. Olson tested 12 participants, ranging in age from 26 to 60. Unlike the Spilde and Pocari study, her subjects included some Pilates novices. During a series of visits, the subjects each performed a random series of exercises that included the Ab Prep, the Hundred, the Roll-up, the Double Leg Stretch and the Side Bend.
Olson had physical therapists help her locate the precise spot on subjects’ abdomens to attach electrodes. Low in the pelvis there is a spot, free of outer-layer muscles, where correctly placed electrodes on the skin can measure transverse abdominis and internal oblique activity. Her findings justified what Pilates enthusiasts ;have known for years and what physical therapists that incorporate Pilates have begun to realize. The Roll-up showed a high level of RA activity. Any exercise that requires the upper body to completely flex away from the floor can be expected to work those muscles. The other exercises, particularly the Ab Prep and Side Bend, were shown to have a greater impact on the internal obliques. Either way, these deep abdominal muscles showed measurable activity during Pilates routines.
Conditioning Tool Pilates is a lab-tested, legitimate method of fitness. But what happens when physical therapists and Pilates instructors take it out of the lab and into the training room? Can Pilates-based physical therapy serve as an effective conditioning tool for university athletes? The answer, according to several therapists and teachers, is yes.
Amy Broekemeier, DPT, CMPT, principal Polestar educator, PMA certified instructor, owner Pinnacle Performance, Salt Lake City, described Polestar as evolved Pilates. The Polestar method looks at Pilates from a rehab perspective. The exercises apply current medical research about the transverse abdominals, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and the biomechanics of joints to the exercises. In classic Pilates most exercises are performed supine. “Clients don’t get it unless I bring it back to a function, like throwing or kicking,” said Dr. Broekemeier. Her exercises mimic the specific sport of her client, but she always focuses on bringing what they learn back to a standing position.
About six years ago, she was asked to create a Pilates training program for the University of Utah’s women’s basketball team. The athletes attended mat class twice a week in addition to regular practices, incorporating Pilates core strength and flexibility training with traditional weight training and shuffle drills. The players focused on alignment of their hips, knees, and ankles, which led to improved jumping. Alignment of head, neck and shoulders helped them to be more balanced in their shots. During games, coaches noted an improvement in the athletes’ agility and speed. However, when funds to women’s basketball were cut, the university dropped the Pilates program.
Dr. Broekemeier continues to treat athletes of all sports and levels at her practice. She launched a 12-week training program for skiers that focuses on Pilates principles. Participants will use the reformer and the tower and engage in the cardio and finesse training needed for skiing. “They’re skiing at levels they’ve never skied before,” she said.
Pilates is not only about conditioning. It can be an effective rehabilitation method for injured athletes. There is often a disconnect between the ribs and the pelvis because most people are not trained to think of them moving in unison. Pilates can help athletes think about how their pelvis sits in space. With an injured client, Dr. Broekemeier breaks everything down into its components and then puts it together into a traditional routine. All training, she said, “comes back to the powerhouse; that is, the core.” Femur arcs, arm arcs, ab series, plank pose, spinal twists and squats are just some examples of rehabilitative exercises.
Just for Dance? The University of Utah is not the only school to offer Pilates training. Goucher College in Baltimore offers an academic course in Pilates. The class consists of small-group work in the apparatus room plus mandatory mat classes at the college’s Pilates Center.
Julia Clime, CPI, Pilates Center and instructor in the dance department at Goucher College, noted that students often repeat the course because they like the benefits of Pilates. Two of those return visitors were a cross-country runner and a tennis player. For the runner, work on the reformer was very helpful. Pilates exercises focused on the alignment of her feet, ankles and knees. Post-training, her personal best time dropped significantly.
The tennis player came to the class as a way to rehab from an abdominal strain. “When we have someone with an injury, the philosophy is to work the body as a whole,” Clime said. Initially, instructors avoid the injured area and work the rest of the body to get circulation pumping. When it’s safe to work the injured body part, instructors focus on building strength and flexibility, as a means of preventing future injuries and rehabbing the current injury.
Despite these results, Goucher athletic coaches haven’t been very receptive to Pilates, Clime said. She suspects this is because Pilates is housed in the dance department. While Pilates has long been known to help dancers, some athletes and coaches are unaware of its cross-over potential. The instructors at Goucher invite coaches to classes to try and change their perspective.
Meghan B. Tierney, PT, MPT, OCS, owner of One Physical Therapy and Wellness in Bryn Mawr, PA, already has a clear perspective about the benefits of Pilates for athletes. Tierney likes Pilates because it focuses on multiple muscle groups. She said, “Traditional sports training leaves out smaller core and local muscles. If you get these to work as well, you’ll be better on the field.” In her previous job in southern California, Tierney treated Pepperdine University basketball, volleyball and water polo players who initially sought her out at the recommendations of doctors following injuries. Later, some returned of their own accord for conditioning treatments.
Preventing Injury Pilates is effective at preventing injuries through getting muscles involved in the hips, back and core, noted Tierney. It incorporates aspects missing from general weight training. “Pilates focuses on everything,” she said.
Tierney appreciates the efficiency of Pilates, noting that clients don’t have to do many repetitions to feel the effects of the exercises. The routines she teaches or equipment she uses differs based on the specific athlete. For example, golfers or tennis players use the reformer because it mimics their swings. Across the board, Tierney noticed improved posture and muscle control with her athletes. Pilates helped them to focus on getting the brain to operate the correct muscles for a particular activity. During games or matches, the effects of the training can lead to increased power and endurance.
Sydney James, PT, MS, CPI, Presidio Sports and Medicine, San Francisco, echoes Dr. Broekemeier’s thoughts about the value of the core. “If you have a strong core, everything works that much more efficiently,” she said. At her practice, James has treated athletes from Stanford University and Colorado College and has noticed that among the college athlete population, flexibility and core training are not given the proper attention.
With her clients, James uses the reformer and the chair, noting that “students like gear and gadgets.” Pilates is a way for trainers to assess movement patterns and figure out where there is an imbalance, using the reformer as a stable base. Again, the focus and equipment vary based on different sports. Swimmers, for example, exercise on their stomachs on the reformer. Soccer players focus on improving their lower extremities.
No matter the sport, choosing an effective Pilates instructor is crucial. “Find someone with a background in physical therapy or at least certified in Pilates Method Alliance,” advises James. Whether it’s basketball, cross-country or tennis, Pilates has been shown to help college athletes improve their on-court and on-field performance. It can be a complement to traditional training regimens or a method of rehabbing from injuries.
References 1. Thompson, W. (2009). Worldwide survey reveals fitness trends for 2010. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 13(6), 1-7. 2. Can Pilates do it all? (2005). ACE FitnessMatters, Nov.-Dec.; 10-11. 3. Greene, T. (2008).The doctor is in. Pilates Style, July-August; 52-54.
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1. Sit on your mat, legs stretched out straight before you, with your feet flexed and about 12 inches apart from one another.
2. Raise your arms straight out in front of you, so that your fingertips are facing away from your body. Sit up straight, with your back, neck and head aligned. Keep your shoulders down.
3. Exhale as you reach forward to stretch your spine. Do not bend at the waist or hips to move forward. The only things that should move are your head, neck, arms and shoulders, with their stretch forming the shape of a C.
4. Inhale as you roll back up. Sit up straight, again with your back, neck and head aligned.