March MATness – Saw

It’s hard to believe we are almost half way through March MATness! By now you have hopefully developed and devoted yourself to a daily practice of moving well. Today we are doing Spine Twist, which is similar to the rotational twist in Saw, except that your legs stay glued together. A great tool to keep you honest in your rotation is to put your feet up against a wall. As you are twisting, keep your feet pressing into the wall.

Spine Twist

  1. Sit tall with your legs long, thighs squeezing together and your feet flexed
  2. Arms are reaching to the sides creating as much length as you can from fingertip to fingertip with the shoulders anchored down your back
  3. Inhale, squeeze your glutes as you lift and lengthen your spine
  4. Maintain your height as you rotate to the right – the arms are moving only because of the rotation in the spine
  5. As you rotate, keep working the opposition of the arms, head to tailbone and the hips to heels
  6. Exhale twist back to center, inhale twist left. Repeat 3x each side

IMG_1630

IMG_1628 IMG_1629

 

 

March MATness – Swan

Strengthening the posterior side of the body is an important component to your  “full” body health. When working in extension it is important to keep the spine supported by pulling the abs in and up. Also, focus on creating length between the vertebrae. For the swan, create a 4 way stretch within your own body. Imagine someone is pulling you from the top of your head, from your toes and from both sides of your arms. The full swan can take some practice, be patient and diligent with your practice!

Swan – Prep

  1. Lie on your stomach, forehead resting on the mat, arms outstretched to the side, legs actively lengthening together behind you
  2. Inhale and actively lift the arms off the mat – reaching to opposite sides of the room
  3. Continue stretching the arms as you lift the head and legs creating as much opposition in the body as possible
  4. Exhale as you rest down to the mat. Repeat 3-5x

Swan

  1. Lie on your stomach, forehead resting on the mat, arms outstretched to the side, legs actively lengthening together behind you
  2. Inhale and actively lift the arms off the mat – reaching to opposite sides of the room
  3. Continue stretching the arms as you lift the head and legs creating as much opposition in the body as possible
  4. Bend the arms and press your palms into the mat under your shoulders
  5. As you actively press your palms into the mat lift the chest and press the legs into the mat behind you creating a stretch from the pubic bone up to the chest
  6. Exhale with control as you quickly release the palms and reach the arms back to the sides rocking forward as the legs lift. Repeat 3-6x

IMG_1585 IMG_1588

 

March MATness – Spine Stretch Forward

Spine stretch forward is an amazing exercise when executed correctly. A great tool for the spine stretch forward is to sit up against a wall. The wall will give your tactile feedback for where you are moving. Also, if you are really tight and feel all the work in your hip flexors you can sit on a block or roll up your mat and sit on the mat. Remember think FULL BODY!

Spine Stretch Forward 

  1. Sit on your mat with a tall stack spine, legs extended hip width, feet flexed at the ankle joint and arms extended at chest height
  2. Inhale as you squeeze your glutes and pull your abdominals in
  3. Imagine you are lifting your torso away from your hips
  4. Maintaining your core connection and as much height as you can, exhale and begin to round forward creating a “c” curve with your spine
  5. Create as much oppositional movement within your own body as possible (abs and lower back pulling one way, as the arms, crown of the head and legs reach the other way)
  6. Inhale and stack the spine back to your starting position. Repeat 3-5x

IMG_1569IMG_1568

March MATness

Happy Friday! Today we will add the last 3 of the “series of 5.” The single straight leg stretch, the double straight leg stretch and the criss cross. These 3 exercises are not part of Joseph Pilates original mat repertoire but are great core strengtheners. Your ultimate goal is to perform the “series of 5” without rest in between.

Single Straight Leg Stretch

1. Lie on your back with your knees into your chest and your head and shoulder blades curled off the mat
2. Extend both your legs up to the ceiling and walk both your hands up your right leg towards your ankle
3. Left leg lowers down a few inches away from the mat
4. While keeping a strong stabile center scissor kick and switch legs
5. As the legs are moving focus on keeping the tailbone and shoulder blades anchored into the mat. Repeat 6-10x

IMG_1559

 

 

 

 

 

 

Double Straight Leg Stretch

1. After you have completed the single straight leg stretch, interlace your hands and place them behind the base of your skull, legs lengthen long and squeeze together as straight as you can up to the ceiling
2. Inhale, stretch your legs away from your body as you actively pull your rib cage and abs into the mat
3. Exhale, deepen the abs and pull your legs back up to your starting position. Repeat 6-10x

IMG_1562

 

 

 

 

 

 

Criss Cross

1. After completing the double straight leg stretch, keep your hands interlaced behind your head, bend your right knee into your chest and lengthen your left leg a few inches away from the mat
2. Inhale, twist your torso to the right, bringing your left armpit towards the right knee
3. Exhale as you maintain control and twist to the left bringing the left knee into your chest
4. As you alternate side to side try to curl up deeper into the work each time
5. Focus on the rotation of the spine as you are twisting. Repeat 6x each side

IMG_1566 IMG_1563

March MATness – Single Leg Stretch and Double Leg Stretch

Today we are going to add the single leg stretch and double leg stretch to the mat repertoire that you have hopefully been practicing at home! These are the first two in what we call the “series of 5”

Single Leg Stretch

1. Lie on your back with your legs full extended and engaged. Arms actively pressing into the mat by your side.
2. Squeezing the legs together tightly, pull your ribcage and abs into the mat and lift both the legs a few inches away from the mat
3. Bring the weight of the head forward by curling the upper body and gaze past your toes
4. Bring your right knee into your chest, grab onto your shins and pull the knee into the chest
5. As you are pulling the right knee into the chest, the left leg is actively reaching away from the body
6. Maintaining a strong center switch legs
7. Repeat on each side 5-10x

Double Leg Stretch

1. Lie on your back with your legs full extended and engaged. Arms actively pressing into the mat by your side.
2. Squeezing the legs together tightly, pull your ribcage and abs into the mat and lift both the legs a few inches away from the mat
3. Inhale as you bring the weight of the head forward by curling the upper body and gaze past your toes
4. Arms stretched long, Squeeze the palms in tightly on the side of the thighs and hold for 3 counts
5. Deeply bend the knees into your chest and give them a big hug as you exhale
6. Inhale extend the legs back out and squeeze the arms in tight to the side of the thighs. Repeat 5-10x

The double leg stretch can also be done with the arms extended behind you as the legs are stretching away from your center. Think of the body as being stretched into two directions with a strong center. Visit marchmatness.com for video clips of all the exercises!

IMG_1556

 

March MATness – Rolling Like A Ball

Rolling Like A Ball 

  1. Have a seat on your mat with your knees bent into your chest
  2. Tightly grab on as close to your ankles as you can with the elbows broad
  3. Your goal is to get your thighs perpendicular to the mat
  4. Bring the weight of your head toward the knees and pull your abs away from your thighs……..your body is in the shape of a ball!
  5. Maintain this position, inhale and roll onto your upper back without letting the weight of the body go onto your head and neck
  6. Pulling your abs in even deeper, exhale and roll back up to your starting position. Repeat 6-10x

The most challenging part of this exercise is maintaining the “ball” like shape as you move and initiating the movement by curling the tailbone under. With daily practice and thoughtful movement you will be “rolling like a ball” in no time!

IMG_1549 IMG_1551

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March MATness – Single Leg Circles

Single Leg Circles

Single leg circles are a great example of the idea of “full body” movement. By the end of this exercise you should feel like every muscle in your body was worked! For those of you who have a lot of range of motion in your hips you might need to focus more on stabilization and anchoring your hips into the mat. On the other hand, those of us with tight hips should allow your body the freedom of movement and allowing your hips to move as long as you are maintaining your core connection!

1. Lie on you back with your legs full extended and engaged. Arms actively pressing into the mat by your side.
2. Bring your right leg up to the ceiling as straight as you can while pulling your abs and ribcage into the mat
3. Take your leg across the body toward your left leg, down toward the left ankle, around and back to your starting position (drawing a circle in the air)
4. Maintain control from your core, arms and leg that is anchored into the mat as you circle. Repeat 5x on each side

You can also visit http://marchmatness.com/category/video/ to view a video clip of the single leg circles.
IMG_1546

March MATness – The Roll Over

Here we are on day 3 of March MATness and that brings us to the rollover. The roll over is a “rolling” exercise and requires a lot of control. A very important component of this movement is to remember the “full body” connection. Before you practice the roll over, make sure that you feel strong and in control when performing the prep below.

Roll Over Prep

1.  Lie on your back with your legs fully extended and engaged, arms long by your side actively pressing into the mat

2.  Inhale and begin to lift the legs away from the mat using the deep squeeze of the thighs, glutes and abs

3.  Lift the legs up to a 90 degree angle

4.  Continue the active engagement of the legs and press the upper body into the mat as you peel the tailbone away from the mat

5.  Keeping a strong center lower the legs back down to the mat. Repeat 3-6x

IMG_1545

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roll Over

1.  Lie on your back with your legs fully extended and engaged, arms long by your side actively pressing into the mat

2.  Inhale and begin to lift the legs away from the mat using the deep squeeze of the thighs, glutes and abs

3.  Continue the active engagement of the legs and press the upper body into the mat as you begin to peel your spine away from the mat and bring the legs overhead (Use the support of the strong arms and core to support the weight making sure it is not in the head and neck)

4.  With the legs overhead, exhale and open the legs hip width and flex the feet

5. Inhale, begin to roll the spine back into the mat as you lengthen the legs away in opposition

6. Exhale as the legs lower down and together to the mat as far as you can control. Repeat 3x

7. Reverse the pattern of the legs and repeat 3x

IMG_1541

 

 

Happy Feet

images

“Left foot, left foot, left foot, right. Feet in the morning, feet at night.” Recognize this famous children’s book? I was reading Dr. Seuss’s Foot Book to my son the other night before bed. It reminded me of how important our feet are to movement and how often we neglect them and their supportive musculature. Our foot is designed to be and is the foundation to all human movement.

Our feet are also extremely important for balance. Your foot is the first part of your body that contacts the ground in walking, running, skipping, jumping etc. and absorbs all the shock from the impact of the body. Shouldn’t this part of your body and supporting musculature be in top shape? Also, in functional training, a strong stable foot is again the foundation for all movement. Think about a squat, lunge, balance lunge and dead lift to name a few. If your base of support, your foot, is unstable due to tightness or weakness, that affects the entire body and throws off your alignment. Looking at our footwork in Pilates, whether it is performed on the reformer, chair or standing, if your feet are weak and lack the proper support, then your lower extremities are likely to be out of alignment. So what can we do for our feet? Other than the periodic pedicure, our feet need and deserve some TLC.

For starters, go barefoot as often as you can. Your feet have many nerve endings and trigger points that give you feedback about your environment. When your feet are supported by a shoe they rely more on that support as opposed to the foots own structural support. When you do wear shoes try to find a supportive shoe that’s comfortable and try to limit the amount of time your feet spend in high heels and flip flops. Another key ingredient to happy feet is stretching and rolling the supporting musculature. I know I’m guilty of spending a lot of time stretching and rolling my hamstrings, quads and glutes and only save the last few minutes for a quick calve stretch. Thinking about what I just mentioned shouldn’t your lower extremities be where you should spend a little more time? Take the time to properly roll out and stretch the muscles on both the anterior and posterior sides of your lower leg. Even roll the bottom of your foot. Trust me your feet will thank you!

REAL men DO Pilates!

Joseph Pilates, a man,  started this amazing system of training for soldiers during World War I. Pilates has been and continues to be an avenue of training for many professional athletes, dancers and recreational athletes.  To name a few…….World Series Champion pitcher Curt Schilling, golf star Tiger Woods, The New Jersey Nets basketball team, actor John Stamos and even Sting have improved their performance  and body mechanics with Pilates (www.usatoday.com).
Pilates increases strength and flexibility  for men in a way that makes them feel like they are being challenged and working towards a tangible goal.   Most men exercise for goal oriented reasons. Maybe you want to hit the golf ball further, improve your tennis game, become a faster runner or improve your vertical leap on the basketball court.  Whatever your motivation, Pilates is guaranteed to make you stronger, faster, longer, leaner, more flexible and most importantly you will feel better after your workout!
Check out how Core Sport’s Chris Freeman rock’s his teaser!
photo