13 Aug Online Pilates Foundations Course: Day 4 of 10
Online Pilates Course: now, about those shoulders…
Many people associate Pilates with abdominals. But the truth is that there is so much more to Pilates that than. Many exercises that look like abdominal exercises are, in fact, shoulder exercises. That would include all of the inversion (rolling up onto your shoulders) exercises: of which there are dozens!
Learning to work this area properly can have a significant impact on how you look and feel: you’ll swim better, you’ll be able to reach up into those kitchen cupboards again and you’ll impress your friends and family with your Push Ups! What’s not to love?
There is, for most people, a massive amount of work we can do here but to divide them into two main groups we’d have one group that focuses on mobility and the other focussing on stability.
If you’ve missed previous lessons, or just want to check back for reference, here are handy links:
Day 1: Foundations – “Breathing, Deep Core Activation and Abdominal Strengthening” click here
Day 2: Foundations – “The Spine & Pelvis: position & control” click here
Day 3: Foundations – “Spinal Mobility & Strengthening” click here
Pilates in Flow: PDF
This is a “playlist” of the exercises arranged in a logical order for you to print off and practice as a work out.
The exercise sheet includes all the exercises already studied and these here: click here (PDF)
Exercise of the week
Strength and Mobility appear to be contrary concepts and indeed they are! But because our shoulders so prone to dysfunction, both qualities are required in equal measure. I’ll never forget the joy in the eyes of one client that told me she was overjoyed that she could now reach up into the kitchen cupboards without a stool! The number of people that come to the studio with shoulder problems after lifting weights or kettlebells is significant!
Move as smoothly as possible through the full range of motion and coordinate the movements of the head, shoulder arm and spine. Be aware of how we work in opposition with the knees wanting to separate as we send the arm over into the stretch.
This exercise is very similar to telescope arms, but the shoulder blade rotates instead of protracting and retracting.
It’s an honour to watch one of the Pilates Elders, so …
Ron Fletcher worked with Joe and Clara Pilates in their studio in New York.
Although this is primarily a breathing exercise designed to increase breath capacity, lung volume and control, it’s also a super shoulder mobilisation exercise with the shoulder blades rotating outwards as the arms come up and over an expanding ribcage. Let’s watch Ron himself perform it!
- When you perform this exercise, you don’t need to go all the way up to twelve – try just five or six!
- As the ribcage expands, think of the arms as an extension of the ribcage, so they work with the ribs rather than lifting up on their own.
- Avoid lifting the shoulders. The cue that Ron used was to imagine you had a weight on the deltoid muscles – the outside of the shoulder / top of the upper arm and think about pressing that weight out to the side. This will help you feel deeply connected to the back of your body and feel expanded through the front.
- Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
External Rotation: strengthening the rotator cuff
This is not going to feature in our full flow Mat Workout because it doesn’t easily flow with the other exercises. But it really s a tremendously useful exercises for tightening up loose shoulders and correcting collapsed chests due to shoulders that hunch forwards. I fully recommend that everyone do this!
Use only the lightest of therabands for this. Keep your elbow against your torso, Place a rolled up towel or small cushion between your arm and your torso to ensure you keep the arm in place.
Sternum (breastbone) Drop
The object here is to strengthen the serratus anterior and mobilize the upper back.Imagine you have a suitcase handle in your upper back and it is being lifted towards the ceiling.
Keep your elbows straight to create a connection between the floor and your shoulder blades as you send your spine up between them towards the ceiling.
Wall Push Ups
… are the start of our Push Up journey. Focus on your alignment here. Don’t skip on these exercises as they really do prepare us for the Pilates Push Up! It’s elegant, refined and requires tremendous strength. You will surprise yourself and amaze your friends!
Keep your body straight from toes to head without sagging at the hips. Keep your shoulder blades wide and stable and as you bend your elbows, don’t allow your shoulder blades to move.
Progressions to the Plank
The Plank forms an important part of the last exercise in the traditional Matwork called The Push Up. The ability to be able to do a Plank is fundamental to so many other exercises: Leg Pull Front on the Mat, Long Stretch Series on the Reformer are two quick examples. The Plank gives us shoulder stability, works the glutes, inner thighs and abdominals!
Aim to get a straight line from the back of the heels, pelvis, in between the shoulders and back of the head. It’s really tough at first but keep working at it and it will, eventually come. This is one of the greatest things that (IMHO) Pilates teaches us: mental discipline! How untrendy LOL!!!
Thanks to Lesley Logan for showing me this one! It’s a great exercise for developing the abdominal stretch needed for Roll Ups and Roll Downs because we’re in the exact position that the difficulty occurs! But there’s also an element of should stability required to prevent the shoulders rising up to meet the ears! It’s a fantastic challenge.
If you can’t mange it yet, start off by easing the pressure off your elbows. Alo, try bringing your elbows further forward. Your abdominals will have to work for a longer period of time to support you, but the “on/off” feeling will be much reduced.
Move the hips in a circle working to loosen up each part of the spine. Go in both directions.
- Imagine a tail at the end of the spine, dip the tail in paint and draw big circles or shapes on the wall behind you.
- You can allow the head to move in coordination with the spine or hold the spine still and focus only on the movement of the hips.
Hip & Shoulder Circles
This is a lovely exercise to perform! Once you’ve got the coordination of the shoulders and lower back working together, the gyroscopic sensation is almost addictive!
Q. I can’t reach the floor when I do the Pinwheel and Telescope Arms?
Be patient, give it time, practice everyday and slowly you will start to notice positive changes. Notice that I couldn’t’ either the day I made that video. Pilates will meet you where you are….
Q. I feel self conscious when I do Pilates style breathing?
I enjoy breathing hard when I’m doing my Pilates practice, but not all people do. Proper breathing is important, but there are many internationally renown Pirates teachers that stress it less (I’m think Andrea Maida here). The important thing is to keep practising and don’t let something stop you!
Q. My arms bend when I try the Sternum Drops?
This is quite common and indicates that you might have some slight shoulder dysfunction. Imagine connecting you shoulder blades to the floor through straight arms!
Q. I get confused with the Hip Circles and Hip and Shoulder Circles – I can’t control my body!
That is totally normal at first! These exercises are not always easy because they demand great control over our body and therein lies their value. Did you know that Joseph Pilates called his exercise methodology “Contrology”? Never, ever give up! It will happen in the end – I promise!
Q. I cycle regularly and ride with a club and I’m really very fit. Does cycling use all the muscles of the legs?
You might develop problems due to imbalances. Cycling uses the quads and calves mainly (though not exclusively) so calf and quad stretches and work on the hamstrings and inner thighs will help balance things out. Also, if you’re cycling a great deal, think about your back, shoulders and neck.
Q. What everyday movements are potentially dangerous for us?
Lack of movement is the worst thing you can do for your body. Our bodies thrive on movement – so don’t sit or lie down for long periods. Don’t pick things up with straight legs, always bend your knees. Avoid carrying children on the same side, alternate. Don’t lift loads that are too heavy for you, Watch out for supermarket trolleys with bad wheels as they force us to push and twist at the same time.
Q. My wrists hurt and I can’t support my weight on them. Should I skip those exercises?
No, find a way to get your wrists stronger. Use a Push Up Handle (I might have some in stock if you want) or rest your hands on a rolled up towel.
Q. Pilates focuses on the abdominals, right?
Not at all – but it’s a common misconception! You core in Pilates often called your Powerhouse and is more than just your abs. It includes your glutes, hamstrings, adductors, abductors, back muscles and the muscles around your shoulder girdle too! Basically, Pilates is about the whole body!
Q. Plates is for women only?
Ohhhhh! Pilates is for EVERY BODY – and everybody! Athletes (David Beckham) love how Pilates helps them prevent injury and work out misbalanced muscle groups. Men should totally be doing Pilates. It was in fact invented by a man for men!