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All Entries For pilates

You Asked: Does Pilates Count as Strength Training?


This is not an easy question for me to answer. As a certified Pilates instructor and long-time Pilates practitioner, I've seen the many benefits of Pilates first-hand, and with many of my students. Pilates can sculpt your core, help you stand taller, improve your balance, tone your muscles and even prevent and relieve certain issues like lower back pain. I'm a huge advocate of Pilates and think it can benefit any body—male or female, young or old, beginner or athlete.
Posted 3/28/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 12 comments   20,168 views
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4 Effective Exercises for a Beach-Ready Butt


Whether you are curvy, muscular, or slim, chances are you want to have a swimsuit-ready backside, especially in the area where the buttocks meet the upper thigh (called the gluteal fold).  Strengthening this area can help lift, tighten and tone our bottoms.  But despite endless repetitions and time spent on toning this area, many women aren’t getting the results they want.  Why is it so difficult to strengthen and tone this key area? And what are the secrets to getting a strong and sculpted bottom?
 
For better or worse, I have become an expert on getting toned buttocks— mainly because my own backside needs constant toning to stay lifted and firm.  Many fitness experts and trainers seem to be born with airbrushed bodies.  On the other hand, I tell my clients I probably had cellulite when I was in diapers!  Even at my thinnest throughout my teens and 20’s my thighs were riddled with stubborn cellulite no matter how many butt toning exercises I did.  And believe me; I did every single one I could find every day.  It wasn’t until I started working out smarter, not harder that I finally saw the results.  Now I use Pilates and (ballet) barre techniques and each year, I get a little more lifted and toned.  You can’t ask for better than that, right?  I love sharing these tightening and toning techniques with other women—and hearing about your results!
Posted 6/24/2013  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 19 comments   41,173 views
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5 Moves That Are Missing from Your Core Workouts


In college I was a dancer, and Pilates was part of my daily training. Somehow I would ''get through'' the mat classes, just going through the motions, but miraculously, I was never sore. My roommate, on the other hand, would be doubled over the next morning, whining in agony as the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) would remind her of class several hours after it ended. It took me years to figure out that the reason I wasn't sore was that I didn't know how to recruit my innermost abdominals. I was skimming the surface without going very deep. Once I learned how to engage and target the internal abdominals, I was able to redefine my abs from the inside-out.

And that is exactly what I am going to show you how to do today!
Posted 4/29/2013  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 45 comments   172,344 views
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5 Exercises that Sculpt, Strengthen & Soothe Back Pain


In today’s world, we all sit for too many hours each day. We drive instead of walking. We take the escalator instead of climbing the stairs. As a result, our posture suffers—and our necks get tight because we spend hours looking down at our smart phones. (What's so "smart" about that?) We forget to breathe because we are constantly multi-tasking. And as a result, we suffer from a multiplicity of ailments, especially chronic shoulder tension and back pain. We are more "connected" than we have ever been, yet we are increasingly disconnected from ourselves and what we need to do to truly live vital, healthy, and inspired lives.
 
So what can you do? The answer is MOVE. But more specifically, strengthen your core, which can help stabilize your spine, improving its fluidity and flexibility.
 
The following simple exercises are a powerful antidote to all that sitting. They are a potent time-saving combination of Pilates moves and yoga poses that will help you stop pain in its tracks, reduce stress (which can also contribute to back pain), and improve your spinal alignment. This series also stretches and strengthens the core and back.
 
So, want to feel stronger and longer, leaner and meaner, more fluid and flexible in just a few minutes? Grab your mat, and let’s get started!
Posted 10/26/2012  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 19 comments   46,745 views
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The Best Workout You Can Do for Your Core


We're all busy. But we can't let that get in the way of our desire to be fitter and healthier. That's why we need to know the best ways to maximize our efforts in the gym.
 
Recently someone asked me, "What is the best workout I can do for my core?"
 
It's a common question! And no reason it's so confusing. There are so many abs gizmos, belly-fat-burning pills, and ab-centric workouts available, that it's hard to make sense of it all.
 
So what works best? Here's my answer.
Posted 10/5/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 26 comments   64,935 views
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What's the Difference Between Yoga and Pilates?


I have always thought of the combination of Pilates and yoga as the perfect marriage. Both are transformational, focused methods of movement that facilitate positive change in the body, mind and spirit. In my opinion, their differences complement one another in the best of ways. Pilates is known as a "workout," and yoga as a "practice"; however, the irony here is that, in order to improve at anything, we have to practice, and when we practice well both Pilates and yoga are can be exceptional workouts.  And as you will see, both are worthy of your time and attention for innumerable reasons.
 
Unless you're very familiar with both—or a trained instructor—it may be difficult to tell how these two programs are different. In truth, there is a lot of overlap and similarities between yoga and Pilates. And what better way to understand them both than with a little history lesson on each.
Posted 8/17/2012  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 26 comments   101,251 views
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Why Men Should Do Pilates


It's no secret that I love Pilates. It's one of my favorite workouts for a number of reasons. It has helped me develop greater core strength, increase my flexibility, manage my chronic back pain, improve my posture, and relieve stress. I truly believe that Pilates can benefit people of all ages and fitness levels. Yet many people think of Pilates as an "easy" mode of exercise or a "gentle" workout that's more for old ladies than it is for fit young men, for example.
 
As a Pilates instructor, I've taught a wide variety of clients, as young as 13 and as old as 75. I've worked with professional dancers, collegiate football players, stay-at-home moms, and triathletes. While women (young and old) dominate my classes, the occasional male finds his way into class. Some have become "regulars," while others are never to be seen again. While I'll never know what makes one guy pursue Pilates and another try it only once, one thing is true: Pilates does benefit men just as it does women.
 
In fact, what people might not know is that Pilates was not only created by a man, but originally intended as an exercise program for men as well. Nico Gonzalez, Cincinnati-based personal trainer, master Pilates instructor, and creator of the DVD "Pilates Playground" explains, "Joseph Pilates himself practiced his method and trained many males.  The practice was very athletic in nature." He worked with German soldiers and helped many of them recover and rehabilitate from injuries using his exercise method.
 
It wasn't until many of the "Pilates elders" (people who studied directly under Joseph Pilates) started teaching that Pilates changed a bit. "Many of these elders were ex-dancers, so they infused the dancer language into the practice," says Gonzalez.
 
While most Pilates practitioners and students these days are women, I wanted to share the experiences of three men I know (including Gonzalez, quoted above) who regularly practice Pilates. These guys all vary in their fitness goals, but all come back to Pilates regularly. Find out what they like about it from a male's perspective.
Posted 7/18/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 13 comments   30,223 views
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2 Pilates Moves for a Flatter Belly


Are you still doing crunches? While there is nothing inherently wrong with that classic abdominal move (I still do them from time to time myself), we now know more than ever about core training. And with this knowledge, you can graduate to a higher level of exercise that will help you get better results from your efforts.
 
It's no secret that I love Pilates. I've been practicing and teaching it for several years now, and thanks to that consistency, I have better core strength and balance—and less back pain—than ever. One great thing about Pilates is that it helps you strengthen ALL of your core muscles. Whereas exercises like crunches only target the outermost abdominals (rectus abdominis), Pilates moves can engage and strengthen your internal and external obliques, erector spinae, and even your deepest abdominal muscle, the transversus abdominis.
 
This muscle is extremely important, but hard to target, and often neglected by exercisers. A weak transverse can contribute to back pain, poor balance and an overall weak core—even if you do hundreds of crunches a day. But when strengthened, this important muscle helps you with functional strength—and aesthetic appearance. A strong transversus acts like a corset, not only bracing your core and protecting against injury and back pain, but helping create a leaner, flatter appearance of the stomach. No amount of crunches can do that!
 
So which types of exercises best target your deep "corset" muscles? Research shows these two Pilates moves do it best.
Posted 6/13/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 19 comments   43,690 views
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DVD Review: Xtend Barre Lean & Chiseled


Barre workouts are HOT, and this workout trend doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon. Once available only in posh gyms and exclusive studios, barre workouts are not popping up in big box gyms across the country, and they are as varied in their moves and styles as their instructors and branded names.
 
What I love about the barre workouts and DVDs I've tried is the variety. I've been doing strength training since I was in middle school, and quite frankly, it gets boring to me over time. So for me, a barre workout is a new and different way to strengthen and challenge my body that isn't the same old stuff I've done for years. Plus, barre workouts are infused with so many of the elements of Pilates (my favorite workout of all time), like core engagement; lengthening of the limbs, spine and muscles; control and precision. I love these things about Pilates; they allow you to constantly push yourself to a new level of mastery, and forget about your day because you're so focused in the moment.
 
Acacia recently sent me one of their barre DVDs, Xtend Barre®: Lean & Chiseled ($12.49, amazon.com). This 55-minute DVD is the creation of Andrea Rogers, a professional dancer and choreographer turned Pilates and fitness instructor. Find out if it's right for you.
Posted 8/3/2011  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 27 comments   36,530 views
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3 DVD Reviews in 1: The 'Keeping Fit' Series


I've been really bad. You see, there's this new DVD—actually set of DVDs—that I tried months ago and loved. I mean L-O-V-E-D. And even though I continue to work out with these DVDs and still enjoy them, I haven't shared them with you. I know, it's completely unforgiveable. But I'm finally finding the time to share my this secret now, and the good news is that you, too, can now benefit from this fitness trifecta by Andrea Metcalf called "Keeping Fit" (Acacia, 2010). These were sent to the SparkPeople offices and I've been keeping "Keeping Fit" all to myself, and I don’t plan on giving up these DVDs any time soon.
 
The set ($32.49 at amazon.com) contains three distinct titles: Strength, Cardio and Pilates. Each DVD has 60 minutes of total workout time that can easily be split up into multiple 5-minute segments.
 
Based on the description on this box, it's actually geared toward middle age exercisers, designed to help "build lean muscle, increase bone mass, and enhance balance and flexibility so you can remain active." So I was actually expecting a pretty easy workout when I first popped in the DVDs. Boy was I surprised!
Posted 7/15/2011  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 18 comments   10,626 views
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8 Pilates Moves for a Leaner Body


My first exposure to Pilates was in summer of the 2009, but since I was in the midst of training for my first marathon, I found I did not have the time or the energy to devote to attending a weekly class. But the few months that I did participate in Pilates, I grew to have a deep appreciation for this amazing workout. I knew it would be just a matter of time before I found myself back in the Pilates studio.

This year in my quest to bringing more balance in my life I took up Pilates once again. My class is a combination of workouts where half the class is done on the mat and the other half is done on the Pilates Reformer.

What I love about Pilates is the focus and concentration one must have when doing the exercises. Because Pilates focuses on the abdominal and back muscles, also known as the core, it makes a great addition to my current workout routine which includes running, spinning and kettlebells. Pilates also helps with pelvic stabilization, flexibility, strength, as well as postural alignment, with an added bonus in helping one obtain better mind/body awareness. And because you do very few repetitions and do not take the muscles to full fatigue, Pilates can be done on a daily basis.

While many people equate Pilates to the reformer, I have received some really great benefits doing my mat exercises, especially at home. Below are links to some of my favorite mat Pilates movements.

Posted 4/26/2011  2:40:25 PM By: Nancy Howard : 26 comments   39,384 views
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Denise Austin Workout Exclusive: 5-Minute Toning Routine


Don't let the dreary days of winter keep you from your workouts! You don't even have the leave the house to get fit and toned this season. Don't believe me? We asked our friend and fitness guru Denise Austin to create a short and effective workout that our readers could do indoor—without any equipment.

The result? Denise Austin's 5-minute workout routine, which features just four simple exercises that you can squeeze into even the busiest of days. Target your abs, lower body, and arms with this effective routine.
Posted 12/17/2010  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 24 comments   24,729 views
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Rave Review: Quick Sculpt Pilates DVD with Toning Ball


I like to do Pilates twice a week. That's the minimum amount of core training I need to keep my persistent back problems at bay and to feel centered and limber. Fortunately for me, I've been teaching two mat classes for the past several years—until recently, that is. One of my classes was recently canceled, so I've been on my own to fit in my mat exercises…only I've been a little lazy about doing it on my own.

Last week I dug through my library of workout DVDs searching for a good Pilates DVD to plug the hole in my routine. The folks at 10-Minute Solution sent me the Quick Sculpt Pilates kit (which contains a DVD and a toning ball) a while ago, and now was the perfect time for me to try it.

I've said it before, but I LOVE doing Pilates with the mini ball. I use it in my classes all the time, and my students really enjoy using it, too. I tested the Bender Ball a couple years ago and loved it, so I had high hopes for this DVD. Still, I was a bit skeptical, because it's not easy to find quality instruction on Pilates workout DVDs. Here's what you need to know about trying this Pilates workout set.
Posted 7/14/2010  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 24 comments   15,939 views
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Another Reason to Try Pilates: Sculpted Arms


I love Pilates. Having practiced the method for more than five years, I can't imagine my workout routine without it. My once-persistent back pain is virtually nonexistent these days, an improvement that I attribute to the core strength I've gained from my twice-weekly sessions.

While most people think of Pilates as a core workout—and it definitely is one—it offers so many more benefits, from increased flexibility to the mood-boosting effects of mind-body exercise. And thanks to a recent study, we can now we can add upper body strength to that list of perks.
Posted 6/4/2010  7:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 49 comments   18,253 views
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There's Nothing Funny about Chelsea Handler's Workouts


I must admit that I was a little surprised to see a bikini-clad Chelsea Handler on this month's cover of SHAPE magazine. Don't get me wrong—I have always thought that she looks great! But based on the jokes on her TV show, "Chelsea Lately" on E!, and the humorous stories I've read in her books, she never really seemed like the beacon of health and fitness, with all her talk of late nights, strong drinks, and lack of structured exercise routine.

As it turns out, this funny woman is a fit one, too. She made a decision to eat healthier and change her lifestyle, which is outlined in the April 2010 issue of SHAPE (find the story online here). These days, her diet is filled with wholesome and healthy foods like oatmeal, salads and edamame, but she still makes room for vodka. And while she has been active all of her life, she told SHAPE that finding a workout she loved was a real challenge. She'd quit every fitness program she tried out of boredom or a lack of results. (Like me, she wasn't thrilled with yoga either.)

But there is one workout that Chelsea swears has "changed my body—and my life." Can you guess what it is?
Posted 4/9/2010  11:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 101 comments   31,192 views
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