Making Pilates a HIIT–How to really make a Pilates session cardiovascular

12 minutes per week vs. 90-180 minutes per week for cardio:
Which would you choose?  Which could you commit to?

One of the limiting factors of people sticking to an effective exercise program and healthy lifestyle (and hence seeing results) is the time commitment.  This is another one of those cases where you can make a dramatic difference by choosing quality over quantity.

We know that a body responds to the stresses placed on it.  This is how we build muscle, bone, and improve our cardiovascular system.  Therefore, we want to make sure we incorporate forms of exercise that adequately challenge the body so that it needs to adapt to improve.  Recent research tells us that while  low/moderate jogging, brisk walking, stair master/eliptical machine, etc for 30 -60 minutes 3-4 days/week are beneficial for cardiovascular health and improving metabolism, it is not nearly as efficient (and even as effective) as doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), otherwise known as Sprint Interval Training in just a fraction of the time. In fact, to get the same effects, one study in a review of the literature showed that actual exercise time was 42x less for the HIIT group than the low/moderate exercise group.

Pilates, has so many wonderful benefits, but the one place that Pilates (in the traditional sense) may not be as efficient at is boosting cardiovascular fitness and metobolic rate for those interested in weight loss as it is a low/moderate form of exercise.  So, how can we incorporate HIIT in a Pilates class or session?  Let me introduce you to a great piece of equipment that we use at ProBalance called the Xiser.

The Xiser, at first glance, looks like one of those cheap mini-steppers that you might buy at your local discount store, but it is actually a smooth, quiet, hardcore piece of equipment that is actually found in training rooms of several professional sports teams.  What it does is essentially give the user the convenience and equivalent of sprinting up stadium steps for a minute.  Without breaking a sweat, you maximize your workload, you breath harder than you ever would after a brisk walk or jog, and you move in a way that doesn’t pound the joints and is consistent with our principles of alignment, balance, and control.  We are able challenge an elite athlete in the same way we can challenge a beginner since the resistance is increased as the force is increased.

We often incorporate 3 to 4 one minute intervals in a 55  minute class or session when we want to incorporate this additional component.  Our clients and patients love it, and it’s such an ideal fit for the Pilates studio.

Interested in purchasing?  Click here and use our ID 110425.0923.

Have You Had Pain for Longer than 6 Weeks? Watch This!

Pain is produced by the brain, not by the tissues. The good news is that the brain is the most trainable part we possess. This is why our work as movement specialists is only as successful as the positivity of the movement experience…especially to a person with pain. When we can become conscious of what things our brain perceives as threats, our likelihood of tapping into those very things that make us feel safety and pleasure might be more accessible. This is the essence of the conscious movement experience and what happens when you have a skilled Pilates or movement teacher guide you towards your potential.

Please share this wonderful video where Lorimer Moseley explains what the neuroscience is telling us about chronic pain, how it’s perception is shaped by prior experiences and previously held beliefs rather than actual tissue damage. The fact that there is almost no correlation between tissue damage and pain intensity should cause us to re-think how we frame our diagnostic tests, our treatment plans, and most importantly, how we communicate/interact with someone with chronic pain. As I like to say, with Pilates, we are retraining your brain…it just happens to be connected to your body.

Why the Concept of Core Strength Can Be Misleading

Often, when I ask someone why they’re interested in doing Pilates, a common answer is that they want to improve their core strength.  While there is a certain amount of absolute strength one needs to be able to perform his/her activities of daily living, sport, etc., the ability to perform these tasks more efficiently, has a lot to do with core control.  It is the body & brain’s ability to provide the appropriate amount of stability for the anticipated load or task that is at hand that is much more important.  This helps to explain why people say that after just 2 or 3 Pilates sessions, they feel significantly stronger, when physiologically, it takes several weeks to see muscle hypertrophy that translate to actual increased strength.  Our focus on movement quality in the Pilates environment versus quantity means that we can perform the same task with greater efficiency when alignment and motor control are optimal.  In the end,  you’ll feel stronger and have more endurance to get more out of your other workouts and activities without necessarily increasing your absolute strength.

Mobilize the Ankles for Healthy Movement Elsewhere in the Body

This is a simple self mobilization technique which is helpful for restoring accessory motion in the ankle joint.  It can be done using Pilates springs or by using a resistance band.

Having adequate ankle mobility is optimal for maintaing lower extremity alignment for a variety of functional tasks such as squatting, walking/running, etc.  This is due to the spins/roll/glides that need to occur at the ankle joint when it bends (dorsiflexion) during functional weight-bearing activities.  If there is inadequate mobility at the ankle, then those spins and glides may be transmitted to the joint above, potentially feeding into hyper mobility at the knee joint which may lead to  wear and tear and/or pain.  Often, if there is excessive spin/movement at the knee joint, then the hip joint musculature may become excessively tense, which can lead to abnormal mechanics at the hip and even spine.  This is why the location of the pain/symptoms is not necessarily the same as the location of the dysfunction.

Harnessing the Power of the Mind to Heal

This is such a pertinent video in today’s “healthcare” (or rather, “disease management”) system. Think about how you are treated when you visit your MD or healthcare professional? Are you reduced to a diagnosis or do you leave there feeling like you are both being cared for as a whole, as well as empowered to make choices in your healing process?

Get away from the notion that you have or are a diagnosis and remember that you are a whole complex system that ultimately, is controlled by your brain’s response to input. Make sure that those who are in your life are nurturing and empowering to enjoy your greatest potential for healing. 

The mind is an extraordinarily powerful and overlooked tool in the healing process, and it is a large reason why, within our physical therapy/Pilates studio, the focus is on creating a positive movement experience to help reset the brain into helping the body achieve and recognize what it can do, rather on focusing on pain and what it can’t do. There are plenty of practitioners out there who may possess superior technical skills, but when you can harness the inner strength of the whole body in front of you, the possibilities are tremendous!

If you can spare 18 minutes, this is an excellent video on the mind’s potential to heal and the medical establishment’s potential to either help or hurt you.  It’s great food for thought.

Which Pilates Exercise Are You?


Which Pilates Exercise Are You?
By Ada Wells, PT, PMA-CPT

These days, social media is obsessed with quizzes ranging from what superhero should you be to what country you should have been born in. I’m going to pass on the quiz, but go straight to the answer key.

So…which Pilates exercise are you?

People often think they know you at first glance, but you let them know that there’s more to you than what you see on the surface. There are some who fear you because you’re quick to let them know with a good hamstring cramp that they are trying to power through without attention to pelvic control and lower body alignment. Just a way to strengthen your glutes? Think again. Just add a dash of spinal articulation to encourage mobility with segmental control in the lumbar spine and suddenly, you’re everyone’s best friend that is always being invited to the party.

You provide just the right combination of support and feedback. You don’t just leave the body alone to battle the challenges of gravity, but rather, you create some support, while at the same time leaving room to grow and progress. Your easygoing nature makes you a flexible companion, as the stability required at the torso and pelvis will enable adequate mobility at the hips. Add a dose of scapular stability and ribcage alignment and suddenly, people know not to take you for granted.

People are often in awe of you, but you are sometimes perceived as unapproachable. You know that this is so far from the truth.   They just need to know that they can’t just jump right in and think they can just charm you with abdominal strength alone. They’ll need to coax you out of your shell by making sure there has been a proper warm up to encourage good lumbar articulation into flexion to see you shine. You and your younger sister, the rollup, make a great team.

You are a classic….full of grace and strength. You are the fountain of youth with your hip and thoracic extension combined with the attention to head/neck/shoulder organization, spinal mobility into extension and core control. So many people attempt to be like you, but they often fall short because they try to lead with their head instead of their heart, causing them to lose control of what’s important. Your secret is your lengthening energy that creates space to move. Even though you lead with your heart, you still keep your gaze moving on its path upward, which keeps your head in the right place.

You can be very misunderstood and polarizing at times.   Some think you can be very approachable right from the start, but if they’re not careful, you’ll quickly make the situation more tense…and be perceived as a “pain in the neck”. Spending a little time encouraging good head/neck organization and creating the right energy will go a long way to avoid being perceived as a blow hard.

You are the most organized of the bunch because you have to be, and you’re not afraid of being committed to achieve results. If you let any one aspect of your body organization to fail, the result is a fall from grace. However, when you’re at your best, you have the ability to bring everyone and everything together.   The combination of staying anchored while allowing flexibility and flow in multiple directions makes you someone that everyone looks up to and respects.

Standing Roll Down:
People think you’re a pushover, and often assume they can just roll all over you without thinking you care. However, you do care…especially if one just skips straight to hip flexion without taking care to appreciate the importance of lengthening the lumbar spine and articulation into flexion. It’s usually best to come later to the party so that everyone has had a chance to warm up to you and can appreciate the sense openness that you can provide.

Rolling Like a Ball:
You have the ability to consistently put a smile on people’s faces. You remind us that movement is fun and sometimes, you just have to follow the momentum and roll with it…so long as you maintain some control at the end.

Pilates Teachers/Physical Therapists: Advanced Assessment Skills Part 1 Coming May 16-17 (CPTA & PMA approved)

Advanced Assessment Skills Part 1:  Polestar Pilates Teacher Training FLYER Oakland Advanced Assessment Amy CA
Offered at ProBalance in Alameda (10 minutes from Oakland Int’l Airport) May 16-17, 2015 by Amy Broekemeier, DPT Register by calling: POLESTAR PILATES

With a combination of online and onsite instruction, the Advanced Assessment Skills series helps movement teachers learn and apply necessary intake, assessment and reasoning skills to maximize outcome and increase professionalism in practice.

Part 1 will cover:
    1. Intake & Interviewing skills
    2. Advanced Assessment of the Head, Neck, Spine and Pelvis

Alignment is a key principle in Pilates. It is essential for Pilates teachers to develop a keen eye and a deeper understanding of postural alignment and variances to assess what intervention will produce the greatest change in clients’ performance and overall outcome.

Using the Polestar Function Movement Outcome Measure (FMOM), students will develop skills in static and dynamic postural assessment. This more elaborate screening tool, the FMOM, brings to light key anatomical landmarks to improve the teacher’s eye in assessing symmetries and asymmetries that are common to many clients.
Emphasis will be placed on how Pilates exercises can influence asymmetries of the head, neck, trunk and pelvis. Students will refine their interpretation skills appropriate for their scope of practice and how to apply this information to design a safe and effective program or when to refer the client to the appropriate care provider.

In addition to enhancing crucial assessment and critical reasoning skills, this course will also cover the legal and professional requirements for a teacher to initiate a session with a new client in a studio or a gym. Students will learn the most effective communication skills for interviewing clients to gather information pertaining to client’s medical, health and fitness status. Objectives Students will:

    1. Be able to implement a formal intake procedure in their studio or gym
    2. Learn basic interviewing skills to gather important information
    3. Be able to interpret the information gathered, appropriate to scope of practice
    4. Be able to apply this new information in the design of a workout
    5. Understand appropriate procedures for referring to other healthcare providers
    6. Be familiar with limits and responsibilities appropriate for gathering information from clients and the legal and professional responsibilities pertaining to privacy, scope of practice and ethics
    7. Become familiar with the Polestar Pilates Functional Movement Outcome Measure (FMOM)
    8. Use the Polestar Postural Assessment to identify basic asymmetries as they pertain to alignment of the head, neck, trunk and pelvis, and upper and lower extremities
    9. Identify how asymmetries in alignment can affect movement efficiency in daily activities
    10. Apply Pilates exercises to improve alignment as it pertains to functional activities

Duration: 3.5 hours online prior to onsite course, 16 hours onsite (Approved for 1.85 CEU’s or 18.5 contact hours by CPTA #15-219).

    • Minimum of one year experience teaching Pilates, yoga or other movement discipline
    • Equivalent of one year of Anatomy/Physiology
    • Desire to implement professional and ethical practice into Pilates training