Posts Tagged ‘core’:

Holiday season is quickly approaching. That means it’s time to pull out those cocktail dresses and festive tops. This 10-minute workout will help you get those cocktail party arms that you’ve always wanted, while also working your abs, butt, and legs. You only need a mat or towel and 3-5 pound hand weights. If you don’t have hand weights, grab some canned vegetables or bottled water. Go through the series two times, aiming for 3 non-consecutive days, a week.


1. Forearm Plank

To do:

a. Start by getting onto your forearms and knees

b. Make a fist with one hand, and clasp the other hand around it

c. Extend your legs back to get yourself into a plank, keep legs together, shoulders over elbows, and heels over toes (as shown in photo)

Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute


Press into your forearms to prevent yourself from sinking towards the floor, and simultaneously pull your heart towards the wall in front of you

Work your pubic bone towards your forehead to engage your abs and protect your lower back

Press backs of thighs together, and make sure they don’t sink to the floor

Think of your body being pulled in two directions with your head going one way and your heels the other


Do with your knees down


Hover one leg off mat for 15 seconds, then switch to other leg for 15 seconds


2. Bridge with tricep extension

To do:

a. Lie on mat, knees bent, legs shoulder-width apart and feet flat

b. With a weight in each hand and palms facing one another, extend your arms to the ceiling

c. Lift hips to create a straight line from knees to chest (as shown in photo)

d. Bend and straighten elbows

Repeat 8-10 times


Keep chest open

Imagine holding a little beach ball between the inner thighs to keep energy there

Make sure elbows are reaching up to the ceiling when the arms are bent

Reach the tailbone towards the heels and pubic bone towards the head to keep the core active


Keep butt down


After last rep bend elbows to 90 degrees (forearms parallel to ceiling), with butt still lifted, hold for 30 seconds


3. Bicep curl

To do:

a. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, while holding a weight in each hand, arms long by your side, shoulders down and back, and palms facing out (as shown in photo)

b. Bend elbows to bring the weights to your shoulders, then slowly lower to start position

Repeat 8-10 times


Keep elbows glued into ribs

Keep shoulders on your back to isolate the biceps

Imagine a corset around your waist to engage the abs

Gaze forward and stand tall


After you complete your reps, hold the forearms parallel to the floor for 10 seconds


4. Tricep and shoulder swing

To do:

a. Stand with legs together, a weight in each hand, raise arms to shoulder height, palms face one another

b. Bend knees in to a squat, hinge forward, and press arms back so that palms face the ceiling, pulse arms up 3 times (as shown in photo)

c. Return to standing bringing arms to start position

Repeat 8-10 times


Keep shoulders down and back

Keep spine long when you hinge forward

Picture a corset around your waist to keep your abs engaged

Make sure palms face up to ceiling when pulsing


As you return to standing bringing your arms to start position, as draw one knee into your chest


5. Lunge with twist and bicep curl

To do:

a. Stand tall with a weight in each hand, raise arms to shoulder height, palms face one another

b. Lunge forward with right leg, twist torso to the right, bend elbows (as shown in photo without the bent elbows)

c. Extend arms, untwist torso, step back to meet left leg while keeping arms raised

Repeat 8-10 times, switch sides and repeat


Keep shoulders down and back

Press through the heel of the forward lunging leg to step back

Twist from ribcage, making sure to keep arms in line with shoulders


Lower arms a little if shoulders are tight

Take out the twist

flye-26. Bent Over Flye

To do:

a. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart and a weight in each hand

b. Bend knees and hinge torso forward from the hips, keeping weight in heels

c. With a slight bend in your arms, lift them up to shoulder height, lower with control (as shown in photo)

Repeat 8-10 times


Focus on the back-side of arms and mid-upper back when doing the work

Keep shoulders on back

Picture a corset around your waist to remind you to keep

abs engaged

Make sure you can see your toes and watch that the knees track over second toe


Add an extra set of 10 pulses at the top of the last repetition before you lower arms back down


Sitting cross legged

Last winter I took a workshop on pregnancy and Pilates and it couldn’t have come at a better time. When springtime rolled around I found out that 5 of my clients were pregnant. The workshop just confirmed what I already knew, which is Pilates is great for pregnant women. The benefits are almost endless. However, I don’t recommend starting anything new once you become pregnant. So if you are thinking you want to do Pilates during pregnancy, make sure you start a few months before you become pregnant. The reason for this is pretty straightforward. As your pregnancy progresses exercises will begin to be modified and/or taken away. If you are starting with nothing, there isn’t much to take away from. If you are pregnant and have experience with Pilates, by all means continue. I had so much fun thinking of ways to move my clients’ bodies once working out the core took a backseat.

As your baby grows, lots of changes are going on in your body. A couple things you might notice are low back pain and loss of balance, which are caused by your growing belly. By having strong transverse abdominis (the deepest of the stomach muscles) you will find it easier to stand up taller, which gives the baby more room, and can help alleviate any back pain you might have. You also simply create more support for the baby and yourself. Once your bump starts to show though, you’ll want to back off of the core work. While you might recruit your deep core muscles for some everyday movements like walking, you don’t want to actively work the rectus (the six-pack muscles). The stomach needs to be able to stretch, and if the rectus muscles are too tight, they could rip apart. Your goal is to find some reprieve, not cause more discomfort.

As I have mentioned in other postings, Pilates isn’t just a core-based exercise. The strength comes from your core but you work your whole body. The amazing thing about Pilates is there are many variations and modifications, so as your body changes you make adjustments. There are plenty side lying, seated, and standing exercises that work your butt, arms and legs. Below are a few exercises that you can do at home. Remember to check with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise program.

ARMS (2-3 lb weights optional)

Arm Circles: Stand up against a wall with your feet one foots distance away from the wall, legs hips width apart, and your knees slightly bent. With or without the weights do a big circle in one direction 5 times and then reverse the circle. Next, bring your arms inline with your shoulders (make a T) and do small circles, 10 in each direction.

Breath: Inhale to start the circle, exhale to finish

Bicep Curls: Bring your arms down by your side, palms facing forward, bend the elbows and straighten them. (3 sets of 10)

Breath: Inhale to bend the elbows, exhale to straighten

Hug a Tree: Bring your arms in line with your shoulders. You’re your elbows slightly bent begin to bring your fingertips towards one another, pretend you are hugging a big tree, then open up again. (3 sets of 10)

Breath: Inhale to hug the tree, exhale to open the arms


Side lying kicks: SET-UP-Line the right side of your body up with the back edge of your mat, and bring your legs forward to the front edge of the mat. Make sure your top hip is over your bottom hip. Prop your head up on your right hand, or lay your head down on your arm. Do whatever is more comfortable. Take your left hand and place it on the mat in front of your chest. PLEASE NOTE: As your pregnancy increases you may have to put a rolled up hand towel under the side of your stomach that is on the mat.

Forward/back: Lift your left leg as high as your hip, swing it forward for two counts and then back past your bottom leg for one long count. Make sure that you keep your torso still. (10 times)

Breath: Inhale the leg forward, exhale the leg back

Up/down: Lift your leg up towards the sky and lower it down. Focus more on length and resistance, and not so much on height. (10 times)

Breath: Inhale to lift the leg, exhale to lower

Circles: Draw small circles with your top leg in one direction then reverse. (10 in each direction) Focus again on the length reaching your top leg longer than your bottom leg.

Breath: Inhale to begin the circle, exhale to complete it

Clam: Bend your knees to create a 90-degree angle (knees inline with your hips and shins inline with the mat.) Keep your feet glued together while you lift and lower your knee (think of a clam). Work the length in your waist, and don’t worry about how high you get. You want to keep the pelvis still. (10 times)

Breath: Inhale to lift the knee, exhale to lower the knee


Mermaid: Sit with your legs crossed. Bring your arms inline with your shoulders, creating a T. Take your right arm up towards your ear and reach your left hand towards the mat. While keeping your right arm blued to your ear, begin to walk your left hand away from your hip. Go to a place you feel a stretch and take 3 deep breaths. Then walk the left hand back towards your body and repeat on the other side.

CAT/COW: Bring yourself to your hands and knees, aligning your shoulders over your wrists and hips over knees. CAT: Let your belly go towards the floor as you lift your chest to the wall in front of you. COW: Now look towards the floor as you round your back. Do not put too much effort in this movement as the core begins to engage. Do this back and forth as many times as you please and enjoy!

Breath: Inhale on the Cat movement, exhale on the cow movement

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.



Do you know the difference between Yoga and Pilates?  If your answer is no, you aren’t alone.  Over the years as a Pilates Instructor I’ve been asked by friends “how’s yoga going.”   Today that question makes sense as I’m in the middle of a yoga certification.  However, for the past 7 years while I’ve only been teaching Pilates, the question would make me laugh.  Then I sometimes get “what’s the difference between the two”?  My go to answer for years was “think of yoga as mind/body and Pilates as body/mind.”  It seems a little simplistic to me today, but until recently I didn’t really know how to give a more in depth answer.  Now many years into teaching Pilates, practicing yoga, and being immersed in a yoga certification, I feel I can answer with more substance.   Happily I’ve also come to realize that the two compliment one another quite nicely.

While there might be a few similarities between Pilates and yoga, like the obvious increased strength and flexibility, at the core they are quite different.  Pilates has only been around for about 100 years, while yoga with much more spiritual and meditative aspects dates back at least 5,000 years.  Pilates uses apparatus with springs to give bodies the resistance they are unable to find on their own when doing the mat work.  Yoga is all done on a mat, with props and walls used when needed.  I’m so grateful to those walls as they’ve saved me with my inversions on a number of occasions.  Peter Fiasca wrote in his book, Discovering Pure Classical Pilates, “Although some of the postures of yoga may resemble those found in Pure Classical Pilates, it is in the emphasis and execution that one discovers their distinct differences.”  The classical approach to Pilates keeps bodies moving from one exercise to the next with breath being important and core always a constant focus.   Where as yoga poses might be held for many minutes at a time while perfecting the alignment and focusing on breath.  The breath is also linked to movement.  Many  yoga teachers like to have students set an intention in a yoga class and carry that through until the end of class.  Pilates is an all over workout, but the strength starts at the core.  While yoga touches on the core in some of its poses, it definitely isn’t the main focus.

When I started doing Pilates it was because I thought it was similar to yoga but better.  I tried yoga when I was in college and I have the distinct memory of laughing my way through the class with my friends.  It’s funny to think about that now as yoga has become just as important to me as Pilates is.  Honestly I can’t imagine not having either modality in my life.  Pilates might have helped me get to yoga, but I wouldn’t be able to practice yoga the way I do without my Pilates background.  Anyone with experience in Pilates knows the core is the primary focus, but this is not the case with yoga.  Although, recently I have had some yoga teachers do ab work in their classes.  It seems they are beginning to realize the importance of core strength.  I’m convinced that my inversions, which at times are still tricky, haven’t been as hard for me in my yoga training as they have been for my fellow trainees, because of my core strength and understanding.  This goes both ways though.  My mid-back and shoulders tend to get tight and standing over people all day teaching doesn’t help.  I look forward to that first moment in yoga when I get to extend and twist my spine.  I can’t say I love the deep shoulder stretches we do, but I can completely appreciate what they’re doing for me.  There is plenty of extension work in Pilates, but yoga just goes that much deeper.

So for all you yogi’s out there wanting to move your practice forward, why not try Pilates.  And for all you hard core Pilates fanatics, take a stab at yoga and see if you can increase your extension or twists.  If you haven’t tried either, I hope you now have a better understanding of the differences between the two and will pick at least one to add into your workout routine.   I’m a firm believer of cross-training as muscles can be like people and get bored.  Mix it up and have fun!  Take note that there are many styles of yoga and Pilates out there  (another topic for another time) and finding the right style for you is important.

Kristen is currently going through Yogaposer’s 200-hour yoga certification.  You can follow Kristen on twitter or become a fan on facebook.