For our very last day of March MATness, the very bottom of Pilates’ list of original exercises, I give you a cue from the very bottom of our bodies. Think TOES.
When your client has found his or her perfect plank position, remembering the pelvic tilt and glute wrap from our previous post, draw the attention to the toes. Cue the client to use the toes to initiate a slight forward movement so that the body shifts forward an inch or two. Then initiate the pushup with a suggestion that the client try to touch the elbows to the hip bones. The slight forward shift of the body makes this elbow-hip connection plausible in the client’s mind and the attempt to create the connection ensures that the client is using the proper “elbows back” technique for the Pilates Pushup.
Phew! We made it! Are you as exhausted as I am? Turns out, Joe’s original mat work is just as awesome as we’ve always known it to be. Why else would there be so much interest and study around his work? I hope everyone has enjoyed the daily cues this month. I have loved getting back to the root of it all and understanding a bit more about the movements and exercises that have inspired so so many since the mid-20th century. Not surprisingly, I need a little break – as I’m sure you do too! – so hang tight and keep an eye out for the next cue in a week or two!
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Maintaining pelvic and shoulder stability during weight bearing exercises such as plank is incredibly important, particularly as we layer movement onto an already challenging pose. Consider a simple exercise like Quadruped – on all fours, shoulders in line with wrists, hips in line with knees. Pretty simple because each of the limbs work together to provide a broad base of support. What happens, though, as we take away one of those limbs and reduce the base of support? The newly unsupported hip and/or shoulder tends to drop as the balance and weight bearing becomes more of a challenge.
In order for our clients to benefit from these simple exercises, their focus throughout needs to be keeping hips and shoulders level. Maintaining hip and shoulder height challenges the core, especially the oblique slings, the shoulder girdle and the client’s the sense of balance.
Here’s a cue to give them motivation to do just that. Have them imagine they are balancing a tray of champagne between the hips on the back of the sacrum, and another just between the shoulder blades! See if that doesn’t provide some added incentive to stay level! And if it happens to be a Monday morning when you use this cue, try a couple of mugs of coffee in the balance instead of the bubbles!
This cue comes from a great Pilates instructor and friend, Emma Wilson, who always knows how to blend good humor and hard work in her classes. It will be a favorite with your lady clients. Have the client imagine her most sparkly, sleek, slim clutch handbag. Then have her imagine she is holding two glasses of champagne (one for her date of course). Where does she put her clutch? Between her arm and her ribcage and then hold on like hell so it doesn’t drop!
As a cue, this one helps a client to pinpoint some key stability muscles while moving through exercises in which weight bearing through the upper extremities is required. It creates stiffness (readiness, support) through both the anterior and posterior shoulder muscle groups, as well as firing posterior oblique slings (latissimus dorsi, thoracolumbar fascia and even the contralateral gluteus maximus).
From a joint perspective, this cue will create the proper alignment of the shoulder joints, particularly the scapulothoracic joint during upper extremity weight bearing.
As an added bonus, this cue can help the client to work towards the midline, beginning with the extremities.