Online Pilates Foundations Course

Online Pilates Foundations Course: Series 2 Episode 3

Online Pilates Course: Series 2 Episode 3

The Principles of Pilates #5 precision

The Principles of Pilates #6 flow

This is the final day introducing Pre-Pilates Foundations, but as we dig deeper into Pilates exercises proper, we won’t ever be leaving the Foundations behind because they can and do teach us so much about how both our bodies work and how Pilates works as a system of exercises!  A great example of this is the “Pelvic Clock” – it’s an exercise that requires such great control that it’s not really suitable for beginners – you would just get frustrated as hell trying to practice it and repeated failures would be counterproductive!

In this lesson, we start of with the Pilates exercise: The One Hundred.  It’s the first exercises in the traditional mat exercise repertoire and is designed to be a warm up: it focuses on the big mover muscles and breathing!  Other Pilates exercises that we meet today are: the Single Leg Kicks, the Side Leg Kicks on our fronts and sides respectively.

The remaining exercises are a miscellaneous collection of preparatory exercises: Alan Herdman’s Roll Over prep, Rocking prep, Side Leg Lifts and Knees Off with Sternum Drops; stretches: Child’s Pose and the Piriformis Stretch and “addons”: Beats.


Other Lessons:

If you’ve missed previous lessons,  or just want to skip around, here are handy links:


How it all works and how to use it! click here

Foundations of Pilates

Series 1 Episode 1: Foundations: “#1 Breathing, #2 Deep Core Activation and #3 Abdominal Strengthening” click here

Series 1 Episode 2: “The Spine & Pelvis: #4 Position & #5 Control” click here

Series 1 Episode 3: “Spinal #6 Mobility & #7 Strengthening” click here

Series 1 Episode 4: “Shoulder #8 Mobility and #9 Stabilisation” click here

Series 1 Episode 5: “#10 Alignment & Standing” click here

Principles of Pilates

Series 2 Episode 6: “Breathing & Concentration” click here

Series 2 Episode 7:  “Centering and Control” click here

Series 2 Episode 8: “Precision & Flow” click here

Joe’s Pilates

Series 3 Episode 9: Starting the Traditional Series

Series 3 Episode 10: Starting the Traditional Series


The Workout: Pilates in Flow

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)


Where are we headed?

One Hundred Prep & One Hundred

The One Hundred is the signature abdominal exercise of the Pilates repertoire.\

It’s name comes from the breathing pattern.  There are ten cycles and each cycle consists of one exhalation and one inhalation.  For each cycle, the arms ar pumped ten times: five times for the exhalation and five times for the inhalation.

It’s a watershed exercise in that it indicates that we have assimilated and have in our bodies many of the Foundations of Pilates: Breathing, Deep Abdominal Activation and Abdominal Strength as well as awareness of Lumbo-Pelvic Position and Shoulder Stability.

You you’re having difficulty lifting your trunk into adequate spinal flexion, then your probably not ready for the full version of the One Hundred.  In that case, I encourage you to continue with the preparatory exercises because if not done correctly, the One Hundred can in fact be counterproductive.

In the initial stages, keep your legs either on the floor with bent knees, in tabletop position or stretched out.  When you are able to lift your legs off the floor, keep them at height that allows you to keep your lower back imprinted on the mat.  This is easiest when you have your legs more perpendicular to the floor.

Optimal form is keeping everything stock still whilst the arms are pumping vigorously anjd the legs are just a few centimeters off the floor whilst maintaining control of the lumbo-pelvic area: that is, the spine is firmly imprinted into the mat.

  • Visualise the movement of the arms generating energy like a generator, whistkeepijn the rest of the body stabilized.
  • Contract the abdominal muscles throughout the exercise in order to imprint the lower spine into the mat.
  • Keep tension out of the neck and shoulders.
  • The pumping motion should be smooth, small and free of tension.
    •  Imagine you are patting the surface of water.
    • The are movement should come from deep inside the armpit.




The Exercises

Alan Herdman’s Roll Over Prep

This is a preparatory exercise for the rather challenging Roll Up.  The roll over motion is not facilitated by momentum, rather it is achieved through deep abdominal contraction that gives us the desired spinal flexion.  Practice Roll Ups, Roll Downs (in sitting and standing), Rolling Like a Ball and all spinal mobilisation exercises to help with this.

  • Don’t use momentum to assist your roll over.
  • Maintain the hips at ninety degrees of flexion throughout.
  • Imagine that your spine is like a metal spring being wound up by your abdominals.



Quadriceps Stretch & Rocking Prep.

Rocking is an advanced exercise.  It’s difficult on the matand eye wateringly difficult on the Reformer!  This is an excellent preparatory exercise.

  • Reach the femurs out of the pelvis and make your legs as long as you can rather than lifting up your torso off the mat.
  • Reach your feet towards the ceiling.
  • Your knees will want to separate out: keep pulling them slightly together to avoid pressure on your pelvis and lower back.



Single Leg Kicks

The set up of this exercise is important because the position of the body can place great stress on the lower back if good shoulder and abdominal support is not there.

  • Place the elbows directly under the shoulders and lengthen your neck by pulling down your shoulder blades.  Really get connected to your upper spine!
  • Draw in your abdominals and reach out your tailbone away from you to support your lower back.
  • the movement of the leg should not be disassociated from the stability we have created.  Reach your leg out behind you, making it as long as possible
  • When you kick your leg towards your butt, dorsiflex your foot to increase the stretch.
  • Don’t allow your knees to open out too far – keep them close to provide lower back and pelvic support.
  • Lift your knees off the mat for greater effect.
  • If you do suffer from excessive pressure on your lower back, bing your hands together with your forearms resting on the mat so that you can bring your head to rest on them.  Use other exercises like the baby Swan to hep you develop sufficient shoulder strength and abdominal ontroll to support your spine.




Beats is a great transitional exercise between Side Kick Series exercises,but it can also form part of exercises on the Trapeze and Reformer such as The Magician and Long Box Overhead Press.  It’s a great preparation for exercises like “Swimming” where whilst lying prone, we eleate the legs and the arms and move them whist keeping our torso still.

It’s great for activating the glutes, inner and outer thighs and hamstrings as well as deepening our control in the prone position!



Child’s Pose

After a great deal of work in the prone position, many people feel that their lower back is rather tight and this is where the “Child’s Pose” comes in: it’s a great stretch for the lower back!

Make sure that you are really tucking in the tailbone and activating the abdominals to get a real stretch!



Side Leg Lifts

Every good,well balanced exercise program should include side bending of the trunk.  The Side Leg Lift is a Foundations exercise that while simple to perform, reveals so many things we can work on in this and other exercises: imbalances of strength and range of motion, lumbopelvic stabilization and shoulder stability.  It’s also a great stepping stone from “Pelvic Pushes” to maintain the start position for other more demanding exercises such as the Side Kick and  Side Bicycle!

The ideal alignment in this exercise is a straight line with a slight flexion at the hip.  Both your abdominals and your spinals need to be active to maintain your neutral spinal curvature and not go into spinal flexion.

  • Imagine a long line of energy reaching from the top of the head through your trunk, legs and feet.
  • Rather than the leg lift, focus on the leg closing to get the glutes and inner and outer thighs active and connected!




Side Kicks

The Side Kick Series is invaluable for developing awareness of and strength of the core.  It focuses on stability.  Side lying makes it difficult to maintain balance in a backward – forwards direction because of the narrow base of support.  Added to that, the swinging of the leg further adds to the difficulty!  The way to maintain stability is to activate and connect to the muscles in the sides, back and front of the spine in a coordinated fashion to maintain stability.

If you can manage this stability, then you’ll benefit from the dynamic hip flexor and hamstring stretch that this exercise can provide.  It then becomes an excellent preparation for the more advanced Open Leg Rocker exercise – though instead of rolling, we’re on our sides.

  • Lengthen the top side of the torso by doing a few pelvic pushes to ensure that you’re in a neutralpelvic position and breathing isn’t compromised by a compressed chest.
  • Don’t let the upper leg drop down  as it moves backwards and forwards.
  • Keep both legs dead straight by activating the knee extensors.
  • Point and flex the foot as it moves backwards and forwards respectively.
  • Emphasize the connection to the back extensors to maintain the neutral shape of the lower spine (resist the temptation to look at your foot).
  • Similarly, connect to the back extensors to limit the rocking backwards and forwards of the pelvis as the leg moves forwards and the abdominals as the leg moves backwards.
  • Imagine the leg swinging forward and backward freely with a gentle recoil at the end of the movement.



Knees Off with Sternum Drop

This is an excellent exercise to further develop shoulder strength as we build up to the challenging Push Up that is the final exercise in the Traditional Matwork series.  But it’s not just the Push Up that requires strong shoulders, but many of the intermediate reformer exercises require a good degree of shoulder strength an control.  This shoulder strength is also needed for a great many exercises on the apparatus – so don’t neglect it!



Piriformis Stretch

Helps to stretch our tightness of the deep muscles in the pelvis.  The piriformis muscle is deeper than the glute maximus and you might find that you need to stretch out the gluts before you can actually feel a deep stretch that targets the piriformis.

The Piriformis muscle starts at the lower spine and connects to the upper part of each leg bone (femur).  It’s function is to allow us to externally rotate the leg (turning the leg and foot outwards) against a stable pelvis.  The sciatic nerve runs directly under this muscle and dysfunction here can cause sciatic symptoms.

A tight piriformis muscle can cause extra strain on the inside or the outside of your knee joint.  this make the outside too tight and the inside too weak, causing instability in the knee.




Q.  What Pilates exercises are good for an out of shape, flabby bottom?

When we do face down (prone) exercises, we learn to activate our bottom.  That glute squeezing is something that you can take away from Pilates and do anywhere and at anytime.

Q.  When I lie on my front, my lower back hurts.  Should I skip these exercises?

This lower back pain is usually caused by a small postural problem.  Try to pull your navel towards your spine (which at first feels totally counter intuitive) and that should make the pain go away.

Q.  It’s difficult to pull in my abdominals when I’m on my front.  Is there a special Pilates technique?

No, there isn’t.  It’s more difficult than in nay other position because we’re simply not used to doing it and because the abdomen falls forward when we lie prone.  Keep practising until you get used to it and you get stronger. You may well surprise yourself!

Q.  I sometimes wake up with a stiff neck.  Should I do neck mobilisation exercises in bed?

Your pillow may be the wrong size, s check that first.  A bed is never a good place to do any kind of exercise because  as the mattress may not be firm enough. If you wake up and have stiffness, some gentle stretching before you leap out of bed can be very beneficial.

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