Have you ever contemplated getting studio Pilates equipment for your home workouts?

What if I told you that you may already own something that lends itself wonderfully to Pilates work? This month I’ll share with you a Pilates workout that I designed to be performed on…an Ottoman!

Perhaps you don’t have the money or inclination to purchase big Pilates equipment for home use. Well I’ve discovered to my delight that my padded ottoman is the perfect surface for so many Pilates exercises. Here’s a way to do some Aging Strong Pilates® in the comfort of your home and notch up the level.

The video below is my personal quick and dirty ~15 min workout that I do in my bedroom before or after a shower about 2-3x a week. I do it in my underwear for maximum skin to leather traction so I have good grip and don’t slide. Some of the exercises are extremely challenging so proceed with caution. They are safe but difficult, so listen to your body and proceed at a level and pace that matches where you are today.

At the end of this blog post I’ve included a full written list of the exercises so you can print it and repeat on your own with your choice of music.

Note: Your ottoman should not be on wheels or have a base that swivels.

My ottoman has a slope to it. Depending on the direction your lying on it, the slope can make a particular exercise easier or harder. If your ottoman is sloped, try and drape yourself on it in the same angle I do in the video. I demonstrate the exercises at the angle that facilitates each movement.

For example, for the beginning chest lift core series I’m positioned on my back with my buttocks on the low edge and the lower tips of my shoulder blades at the top of the slope. This is the easier orientation but you’ll see quickly that it is by no means “easy”. If your ottoman is level, that’s fine as long as it has nice padded edges so it doesn’t dig into you. If you choose not to do it in your underwear then add a shelf liner to the surface so you don’t slide.

This workout includes all ranges of motion, Flexion (just from Extension (back bending) to Neutral (straight line) so it’s safe for conditions where flexion is contraindicated) Rotation, Side Bending, and Extension. I incorporate wonderful stretches after working the muscles in all these planes of motion.

I have to admit this is one of my favorite routines. It’s a Bad A_ _ Core workout that energizes me and makes we feel worked in a short amount of time!

The planks are extremely challenging but if you have stiff feet or bunions that make it difficult to curl your toes under for planks on the floor, having your feet elevated makes that part actually easier since you don’t have to tuck your toes under. Remember, the more leg you have on the ottoman, the easier it will be, so position yourself wisely.

 

The two sections that I do face down (opposite arm and leg reach, swimming and swan) are great for strengthening the muscles that strengthen the hips and support good posture. Firing those upper back muscles has the added benefit of stimulating bone growth in the spine.

 

Here’s a full list of the exercises so you can repeat them on your own with your favorite music. Note that as you see in the video – you don’t have to do a lot of repetitions to make it count. If you want to get feedback from me on your technique, purchase a 30 minute online Skype session and I’ll ensure you’re moving safely and effectively!

Go slowly. Be Precise. Breathe. Have fun!

Ottoman Pilates Exercise List

On your Back (face up)

  • Big X Stretch
  • Chest Lift Series
    • Center
    • Oblique twisting toward the lifted tabletop leg
    • Advanced: knees lift, lift, lower, lower, alternating lead leg
  • Finish with Big X Stretch to lengthen the abdominals

On Your Belly

  • Opposite Arm leg reach (ottoman under pelvis and belly)
  • Swimming
  • Final extension hands interlaced reaching toward feet-rotating head as you breathe w/ease
  • Child’s pose/Rest position (knees open wide if you have osteoporosis or herniated discs)

Side Lying

  • Leg lifts (bottom foot on floor, top leg lifts and lowers) Waist positioned at middle of ottoman
  • Side Kick top leg, keep hips stacked vertically.    Shift body so hips at middle of ottoman
  • Hover body parallel to floor and hold (head in line with spine)
  • Top leg lifts and lowers
  • Side-Lying Stretch (shift yourself so it’s comfortable for you, grab top wrist with bottom hand)

Repeat above on the other side

Face Down

  • Planks (first with lower thigh and shin on ottoman) Hold position
  • Add pushups if desired
  • Walk further out so less leg on the ottoman-increased challenge
  • Side Plank (one on each side-move slowly and hold/breathe)

Face Down

  • Swan (begin with breasts/chest hanging over the front edge, hands on the floor, feet on floor against base of the wall) Activate core and legs then Inhale as  you rise, Exhale as you lower
  • Child pose/rest position

 

 

Stuart McGill, a professor at the University of Waterloo, has influenced my approach as a physical therapist and the exercises that I give to my Pilates clients to best address their needs.
It seems like the word “core” is ubiquitous, tossed around like grass seed. Who hasn’t heard the admonition that you need a strong core!  There’s certainly an endless array of exercises out there that target the core, some causing more harm than good. In my last blog post, “Ditch the Crunch”, we examined the negative effects of sit-ups and crunches and explored an interesting alternative.
Today we’ll examine a great starting point for improving core stability. In light of scientific evidence, the safest approach to improving your core and enhancing spine stability is through exercise that emphasizes endurance over strength.
The following exercises known as the McGill Big 3, emphasize neutral spine posture with abdominal co-contraction and core bracing to create stiffness and promote endurance. Think of it as creating your own internal corset of support. These 3 research-based exercises are an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to approach their core work with safety and proven efficacy.  If you are de-conditioned, experience back pain or just want to avoid back pain, these exercises are for you!  Watch the video at the bottom of this post to see the exercises in action.
The Stuart McGill Big 3 exercises are:
  • Curl Up

  • Side Bridge

  • Bird Dog
I would insert that the side bridge demonstrated in the video below can be difficult if your shoulder girdle isn’t strong and stable. If that’s the case, just de-weight your hips slightly if able, and over time with repetition, you’ll get stronger and will be able to lift your hips higher off the ground.
You’ll see me in the video below cueing to hold the position for 6-8 seconds. This timing targets endurance. Typically endurance is built first with repeated sets of relatively short holds-no longer than 7-8 sec’s. This is based on recent evidence indicating rapid loss of available oxygen in torso muscles contracting at these levels. Short relaxation of the muscles requires oxygen. The endurance goals are achieved by building up reps rather than increasing the time/duration of each hold. (McGill et al., 2000)
Important note: you should not experience pain with any of the above exercises. Watch for spine deviation or loss of neutral. Maintain excellent technique.
In a future blog, I’ll address the spine, hip and leg stretches that best accompany these core stabilization exercises.
References:
McGill, S.M. 2007,  Low Back Disorders: Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation, 2nd edition 12: 213-235
McGill, S.M. et al (2000), Lumbar erector spine oxygenation during prolonged contractions: Implications for prolonged work. Ergonomics, 43: 486-493
McGill, S.M. (2006) Ultimate back fitness and performance,  Backfitpro Inc. (www.backfitpro.com)

 

STREAMING OPTION!   BoneSmart Pilates® Exercise to Prevent and Reverse Osteoporosis is now easily available internationally in a Streaming Option! People have been asking for this throughout the globe — so I am excited to partner with Vimeo to offer this  streaming link.

What this means for you!

1.  If you live outside of the United States:  Before this option was available, you would have had to purchase the DVD for $29.99 (US Dollars) and then pay international shipping to have it delivered to you. Now you pay the same price, and you can watch thru any device on the internet (phone, tablet or computer), as many times as you wish!
2.  If you’re traveling outside of the United States: You don’t have to take a DVD player (or a device that has a DVD player) with you on your trip!  You can watch thru any device on the internet (phone, tablet or computer) by purchasing a subscription through this link, and watch whenever you have access to the internet!
3.   If you already have a BoneSmart Pilates DVD – you may want to purchase a subscription – so you have easy access when traveling in the United States!

This DVD, created by a physical therapist, addresses exercise that targets common areas of decline as we age. It moves a a faster pace than its precursor, “BoneSmart Pilates®: Exercise to Prevent or Reverse Osteoporosis”. It is a perfect gift for yourself or someone you know that wants to age with strength and grace. Though challenging, it is safe for those with special conditions as well as osteopenia or osteoporosis. Bonus Posture Segment demonstrates how to achieve ideal sitting posture with ease.

Are there times when you’re following along with one of my DVD’s and you aren’t sure you’re doing the exercise correctly?  Or perhaps you aren’t “feeling” the exercise as much as you want to?  Skype Sessions are the answer!  I’ve been teaching them to students who live outside of my region and want a little extra support. It’s a great solution. If you’d like to schedule a Skype Session, just email me!

Teresa Maldonado Marchok, physical therapist and certified Pilates instructor, shares BoneSmart Pilates® Healthy Supported Sitting Tips when you want to sit at the back of a chair.

 

 

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Click to Enlarge

No matter your stage in life, keeping fit is essential to doing the things you love with ease, power and grace. In this class, you’ll increase body awareness and learn healthy functional movement strategies grounded in science. Expect improved posture, injury prevention, coordination, core strength, flexibility and balance with crossover benefits to your daily sports and activities. This class is appropriate for beginner to advanced intermediate levels. If you have low bone density, weight bearing exercises are incorporated and safe mat variations will be offered. 

View Video Preview of class Here

Please bring your own mat.  Various small props are used to enhance your movement experience. Also bring a resistance band and 9 inch inflatable ball if you have them. Balls are offered free of charge to new participants. Low allergy/low latex 5 ft resistance bands are available for purchase in class for $10. Free video links will be made available for participants to encourage consistency of practice. The instructor, Teresa Maldonado Marchok, is a licensed physical therapist, certified Pilates instructor, former professional dancer and ambassador for American Bone Health. She believes exercise should be challenging yet fun so bring a flexible mind, open heart and be prepared to laugh!  For more information email  teresa@pilateswithteresa.com.


To foster a safe, cohesive and consistent environment, drop in sessions are not permitted, however a trial class at no initial cost  
for newcomers is allowed if the class is not full already.

This is a common question I hear. With so much focus on sitting and electronics, kids’ posture and their bodies, are paying a heavy toll.  I call it “iposture” and it’s ubiquitous. The good news is the majority of Pilates matwork is beneficial for and adaptable to kids.

My daughter Katelyn recently presented a school research project about the benefits of Pilates.  See her demonstrating the mat exercise “Rolling Like a Ball” which targets core strength, spine flexibility, control, precision, breath and flow.

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Watch Katelyn demonstrate “Rolling like a ball”

The chart below is a nice way to explain Pilates to kids. (courtesy of the PMA)

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Falling can happen to anyone.    I fell on some icy steps in 2015, and shared this video, so you could see how I worked out 1 week after surgery, with one arm that basically didn’t move!

            Click here or on the photo to see what Teresa can and can’t do 1 week post surgery.
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Teresa fell HARD on icy steps in NY. Though her bones are healthy and remained intact, she sustained a full rupture of a rotator cuff tendon, one of the key players that stabilizes the arm bone in its socket.

So you know that she “walks her talk”, this video clip gives you a sneak peek into what she can and can’t do 1 wk after rotator cuff surgical repair.   Even with her shoulder out of commission, the versatility of Pilates allows her to stay strong and agile providing healing circulation and feel good endorphin release to all parts of her body.   She’ll also let you in on the little she can do with her arm out of her sling.

Can you guess her secret to maintaining sanity in the middle of her sleepless nights?  Watch the end to find out!

See what Teresa can and can’t do one week after surgery