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Blogs about Pilates Exercise and Fitness Workouts
Check out the most recent blogs by the author’s of Sculpt and Shape: The Pilates Way. Learn about Pilates lessons, workouts and exercises via reading these blogs.
You hear it everywhere… “Pilates is so good for your neck issues” or “Use Pilates to make your abs stronger and fix your back pain.” Of course Pilates has helped a lot of people, but we are here to tell you that not ALL Pilates is good for all people. Before we tell you why, let’s give you a little history of Pilates.
Pilates was created by a German man named Joseph Pilates, or “Joe” as we call him affectionately. He was born in 1883 and died in 1967, and the bulk of the Pilates repertoire was created in the 1920’s to 1960’s. At that time, we didn’t have computers, fast cards, long highways, cell phones or tablets.
When Joe became well known in NYC, the dance community found him (since he taught in a studio near their dance studio) and dancers would go to Joe to “get fixed” from their injuries. What Joe did was unique- he used resistance springs to strengthen the whole body including the core. He emphasized the breath. A majority of the work he taught was performed in a “round back” position where the mid and lower back areas are rounded to engage the abdominals optimally. Today we would call a lot of these positions a “crunch”. Joe called them the “Hundreds”, “Single Leg Stretch”, “Hamstring Pull” and a myriad of other variations of a similar position.
Today, however, our spinal issues have changed. Most people are already rounded from looking at their computers, cell phones and sitting in their cars. Sure most people need to strengthen their abdominal, but they also need to STRETCH the front of their bodies and strengthen the back side of the body in order balance their spine back into alignment.
Joe’s repertoire has exercises that do this: “Rocking”, “Swan Dive”, “Single Leg Kick”, “Double Leg Kick”, are all exercises that work the back muscles and open up the front. The issue with most average (low cost, high volume) Pilates studios these day is that they do the opposite of this.
Some instructors are so focused on getting the “core burn” their clients’ want that they focus on the “crunch” movements and other challenging front working activities. We don’t remember the last time we entered a studio (other than our own) and had an instructor spend more than half the class working the “back” or doing any of the mentioned exercises above. We believe it’s important to work the back, glutes, hamstrings and other muscles groups that get underutilized from our lifestyle.
So why not Classical Pilates you ask? Because the classical work was designed in the days where our bodies and postures were not the same. Instead, take out some of the excessive “rounding” exercises. We are not saying ALL, just some. Emphasize the exercises that will not only change your silloutte and make you leaner, but also be better for you neck, back and spine.
Or pick up a copy of Sculpt and Shape: The Pilates Way… which will exactly tell you which exercises you SHOULD be doing for your posture and alignment.
We love a good workout. The burn, the sweat and the panting are all a bit miserable when you are doing it, but the after-glow and benefits are tremendous. It’s rare that we will discourage someone from doing ANY kind of workout, except, when there is a chance the workout is wrecking your body. After checking out some of the new boot camps on our area that tout a “brand new body”, we have determined that despite the cardiovascular benefits, a majority of these classes can actually do more harm than good.
The concept of a Boot Camp is to combine muscle strengthening work, with high intensity cardiovascular training, into one neat, low equipment workout. “Low equipment” usually means that the activities are performed with limited assistance, therefore relying on body weight to make the exercises challenging. So what does a low equipment exercise selection in the average boot camp look like?
Every one we tried involved many exercises in the “plank” position; face down, with the hands on the ground and your whole weight loaded on your chest and shoulders. You can expect burpees, push-ups, mountain climbers and planks to be littered throughout the workout, with little attention being paid to proper form.
What does this mean for your body? Well let’s talk about the most detrimental postural misalignment in our society today, Kyphosis. Kyphosis occurs when the shoulders round forward bringing the head forward and affecting the curvature of the upper spine. This posture creates tension in the neck, stress on the shoulders, and even affects the middle and lower back. The chest muscles are usually super tight, and the back muscles are very weak and under utilized. This posture is becoming more and more problematic as our society spends more and more time in front of cell phones and computers.
Now, in a Boot Camp, we take the population (of which most clients have some form of Kyphosis), and we give them a workout that emphasizes this postural problem by working the (already tight) chest muscles and shoulders. By doing excessive planks, pushups, burpees and mountain climbers (all done in this position face down with the hands on the floor) the client is accentuating this Kyphotic posture, instead of working to counteract this “forward” posture through back strengthening and chest opening exercises.
To make matters worse, these boot camp classes aim for quantity of movement, over quality. Look around a boot camp and watch what happens when the instructor asks the group to hold a plank for two minutes. Clients will clench their hands together and round their upper back (see picture above) to make it easier and often will lift their hips up and place all the emphasis on the shoulders versus the core. Put them in the proper position, and it’s likely they cannot hold the position for even 30 seconds using the correct muscles.
Other workouts such as Yoga, Classical Pilates and traditional strength training using weights don’t often place the body in this face down position excessively, and these other workouts counteract today’s postural issues through proper exercise selection. Therefore we pick on Boot Camps for a reason.
Of course we encourage you to come try Vertical Pilates, where postural alignment is our number one focus. We will target the proper muscles, will balance out your postural tendencies, and help you feel stronger all over. You will get the same benefits as your local boot camp, without all the rounded shoulders. Not convinced? Come give us a try. We promise to keep you upright!
Today’s blog is focused on Kyphosis – a “diagnosis” you probably don’t know you even have!
Kyphosis, or “hunchback” posture, is characterized by shoulders rounded forward with the neck protruded forward.
Mid back, upper back, shoulder and neck pain can all be associated with Kyphosis.
Some of our clients with Kyphosis don’t experience direct muscular pain, but may suffer from headaches, low energy, and low self esteem.
Low self esteem, you ask? Yes! Posture can also affect your emotions! Kyphoticposture usually accompanies fatigue, low self confidence and negative first impressions.
So what’s causing your Kyphosis?
Well the increase in poor posture is a direct result of our technology-driven lifestyle full of texting, computer work, driving, and other “forward rounding” activities. We sit for hours on end, which lowers blood circulation and overall energy, causing fatigue in the mind and in the muscles.
In the past, Kyphosis was observed mostly in older clients. But with the increase in activities such as texting, the problem is occurring as young as adolescence. Instead of sending your teenager to a chiropractor for “treatment” of neck pain, how about addressing the issue preventative?
Fix your posture – fix your pain! Bio mechanically, what happens is that the chest muscles become very tight, as do the “Lats”, which are the big muscles running down the sides of the back.
The weaker muscles are, of course, the back muscles, which should help pull the shoulders back into alignment: they include the trapezoids, posterior (rear) deltoids and the rhomboids.
At Vertical Pilates, every exercise we do has the long term goal of addressing your postural issues. We also burn calories, build muscles, improve balance, increase flexibility and confidence, and help you look and feel absolutely great!
So, what are you waiting for? Visit or contact us today to FIX your Kyphosis!
Filed Under: About Pilates