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.

The Surprising Way that Posture Affects Your Mood

Most of us live our lives looking for ways to make ourselves and others happy.  Well, here’s a simple tip that you can use on yourself and suggest to others to help bring up everyone’s spirits.  This video shows how changes in posture can change the ease at which someone smiles or frowns.  Watch it for yourself  see what you think.

When people say that it is work for them to hold an upright posture, it’s often because they’re working too hard which can create over-recruitment of their muscles into a forced posture.  This can create fatigue and stress in itself and is not what we are going after.  We like to teach the concept of understanding where a person’s skeleton should be stacked so the optimal alignment takes away excessive muscle work and creates ease in the posture.

As Pilates teachers, we teach people how to create efficient, effortless postures and movements, which is probably why you end with a smile at the end of Pilates class!

For more information, goto:  www.ProBalancePT.com
We are located in Alameda (Near Oakland), CA and specialize in Physical Therapy, Pilates, and Sports Rehabilitation.

ProBalance Pilates for Athletes (Mat) at Concrete Body

man exercising workout

*ProBalance donates 10% of all proceeds from these classes to Alameda Education Foundation to help fund Middle School Sports.

When: Monday & Wednesday’s 5-5:45pm
Where: Concrete Body (in the building just adjacent to ProBalance in our same complex…2259 Harbor Bay Pkwy, Alameda 94502)
How Much: $20 drop in or 8-pack for $120.
(Introductory Rate $99 for 8-Pack)
(Student rate discount available for the this class)


This Pilates mat & movement class is designed for athletes who need to focus on optimizing flexibility and movement strategies to help get the most out of their sport or higher intensity workouts. Special attention will be given to optimizing shoulder girdle stability for overhead and weight-bearing activities, spinal mobility and control during dynamic movements in multiple planes of motion, flexibility, balance and coordination to optimize lower body control and alignment, and pelvic/core control needed to provide an optimal transfer of forces for any power sport or activity.

This level 2+ class is an excellent complement to other high intensity workouts for athletes of all ages who want to remain active and competitive for the long haul.

Mats are available, but you may prefer to bring in your own.

(*Note: This class may not be appropriate for all bodies. Please check with instructor first before participating if you have an active injury/medical condition or low bone density.)



Dr. Brent Anderson Coming to ProBalance for 2 Special Events

FLYER Brent Mat Master Class Alemeda CA 2014 jpg


For those of you who are in the know in the Pilates and Rehab world, Dr. Brent Anderson, PhD, PT, OCS, PMA-CPT is the founder/CEO of Polestar Pilates International.  We are very fortunate to have him come to ProBalance for 2 very special events:

Master Class with Dr. Brent Anderson:  This one hour mat Class will be a fast paced, fluid class that will explore transitions, breath, and flow.

Date/Time:  Fri. Dec 12th 7-8pm
Place:  ProBalance Studio (upstairs)
Cost:  $50
Register for Master Class Here

Pilates-The Modern Day Pill for Pain:  Workshop by Dr. Brent Anderson:  This 4 hr workshop will focus on the latest science of pain and pain modulation.  Anderson will expand on how Pilates’ movement experiences can actually modulate pain perception and the physiology and blood chemistry of the brain and body.  Anderson will teach the use of language, movement, and perception as tools to reduce pain.  Discover how through Pilates you can access your internal medicine cabinet.
Date/Time:  Fri. Dec 12th 7-8pm
Place:  ProBalance Studio (upstairs)
Cost:  $150
Register for Pain Workshop Here

ProBalance PT & Pilates
2213 Harbor Bay Parkway
Alameda, CA 94502

(ProBalance is located in the Harbor Bay Business Park less than 10 minutes from Oakland International Airport).