Some people are either or people. I believe both have benefits for improving bone health.

When you add resistance to your routine, your muscles release calcium, magnesium, and other minerals that strengthen your bones. Your muscles don’t know whether the resistance comes from bands or weights.  Whatever you are more prone actually to do, that is the mode of choice. If you dislike weights, go for bands.
I personally like mixing things up.

Here’s the thing, though, you need to really challenge yourself for change to occur.

With resistance training, it’s too light if you can breeze through 20 reps of an overhead press. You’re building endurance, not strength. You should feel “worked” after 10-12 reps at a given resistance (whether it be weights or bands) with excellent alignment and good breathing technique.

I tell Pilates teachers to load up the springs on the Reformer for leg work for their clients with osteoporosis. If the springs aren’t heavy enough, they won’t gain strength or bone. (of course, ensuring proper form)

The other thing to remember is that your bone health is not only a reflection of your exercise. It’s also a function of your nutrition, supplementation, daily activities, or lack of…it’s difficult to tease out.

I believe your best shot at optimal bone health is doing weight-bearing resistance and impact exercises, dancing, walking/hiking, sports you enjoy AND also addressing other factors in your life that support bone health. When appropriate, medications may be the right choice.

Most people want a multifactorial approach to their bone health. I get that. In many ways, we are our own laboratory.

I want to share this interesting study from researchers at the U. of Oregon demonstrating how training with resistance bands increases bone mineral density.

“It is sometimes difficult for sedentary people to change their habits, and going to a gym would be more difficult. But elastic bands offer an interesting alternative since they allow enough intensity to stimulate bone mass, and a multitude of exercises are possible. Regular practice of 2 weekly sessions involving work on the main muscle groups of the body will increase bone mineral density.”  Here’s the research study



  • How do I view your offerings and register?
    • 2 ways to get there. Go directly to or go to my website and navigate to Group Virtual Classes from the “Classes” pull-down tab. That will redirect you to which is my landing page for registering.
    • From there you can see all the different categories of classes and register for what you want.
  • What classes do you offer?
    • Currently, I offer a 1 hr Standing Strong Pilates class that includes both weight-bearing and mat work. In addition, I teach the following 30 min classes: Foam Roller Release, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), Bootie Barre, Superpowers (strength training with hand weights), and Restorative Pilates
  • Who is the target audience of your classes?
    • Typically those of you 50 and above that want to age strong, be challenged, and be safe.  All classes are designed by a licensed PT with bone safety and bone-building in mind.
  • What if I can’t make a class that I registered for?  
    • Just email me ( and I’ll send you the recording preferably before the class occurs so I make sure I record it.
  • Can I just register and receive the recording?
    • If you take the class live, the recording is an additional cost (1/2 the price of class) If you’re not taking the class live, you’re entitled to the recording with no additional charge
  • Can I get a consultation on what classes are appropriate for me?
  • What’s my best value in signing up for classes?
    • There are 2 options: The following option at $180 saves you $20 over purchasing single classes and you can mix and match 30-minute and 60-minute classes The 10-20 class group pass
    • This option at $95 saves you $5 over purchasing single classes and you can also mix and match 30-minute and 60-minute classes. The 5-10 class group pass
  • If I purchase a Discount Bundle of Virtual Classes am I limited to one type of class?
    • No, you are free to mix and match any 30-minute or 60-minute class until your credit is used up.
  • Might my Discount Bundle of Virtual Classes expire on me before I can use them?
    • I build in a 6-month expiration for all bundles which is typically ample to take your classes. If you run out of time I’ll always extend your pass. My goal is to help you experience the physical and mental benefits of a consistent movement practice.

  • Do I have to be seen on video when I take class?
    • No,  you can keep your camera off. If I can see you, I do make a point of offering both general and specific cues and corrections in a safe environment with no judgment.
  • Do the recordings show all the participants?
    • No, the recordings I send to those who request only have presenter view so you’ll just see me demonstrating.
  • Must I have prior Pilates experience?
    • The classes are mixed level-beginners are always welcome.
  • What classes can you just sign up for 1 class at a time and not a whole series?
    • My Sunday Standing Strong Pilates and all my 30-minute class offerings can be purchased one at a time.  In the fall and spring, I offer a Tuesday morning hybrid (in-person and virtual) series that requires a purchase commitment for the whole series. The class builds incrementally each week on the previous class. Everyone automatically receives a recording with the hybrid class so if you miss it, you can take the class at your convenience, and if you took it live you can repeat it.
  • Any hints for navigating the online registration process?
    • Definitely, create an account with a password and always “log-in” when you register for classes.  That makes it easy to see your upcoming classes and view how much you have left in your account.
    • View the following video tutorials if you need a little extra help

It’s easy to assume that someone frail won’t have the strength to lift weights. I ask you to remember that adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”  This is true of your muscles and bones. Contrary to what you might think, lifting weights for weak bones is a good thing!

yes you should lift weights if you have osteoporosis

What are the Key Points?

It’s all about proper dosage (weight amount and reps) as well as proper alignment and breathing. Everyone, no matter your age, can benefit significantly from resistance training.

  • Research references strengthening your back muscles (spine extensors) to strengthen bone and prevent spinal fractures. (1)
  • Research also points to the effectiveness of squats for building hip bone mineral density. The key is to emphasize rapid initiation of the concentric portion of the squat.(1) This will build power.
  • This concept can be generalized to most strength training moves (think biceps strengthening-quick on the concentric (bending) portion and slow on the eccentric (lengthening) portion.

On a side note, I recommend wearing foot coverings when lifting weights (like tennis shoes). This will protect your feet should a weight slip out of your hands.


lifting weights safely with osteoporosisWhat are the Benefits of Weight Training?

Weight training, more than any other exercise, can help strengthen your muscles and bones, maintain and improve posture, hone your balance, reduce pain, and prevent osteoporosis-related falls and fractures.

And as you become stronger, you’ll notice the aches and pains associated with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis often begin to subside. My clients and patients often report that they feel considerably better and stronger over time, once they’ve added a few weights into their daily routine.




Why does Lifting Weights Work?

Bone mass decreases as we age, so lifting weights can help strengthen the bones and restore lost mass or help minimize loss. (2)  When the tendons of muscles pull on their attached bone, it stimulates bone to grow. You actually want your bones to weigh more because heavier bones are less subject to the brittleness and fractures associated with osteoporosis.

The other benefit with weight training is that the stronger your leg and hip muscles are, the more stable and steady you’ll be. If you do happen to trip, you might catch yourself with your hands.  Strong arm and core muscles can help decelerate your fall, mitigating injury to your knees or hips.

Those with osteoporosis should focus on exercises to strengthen the back, hips and wrists since, according to the Mayo Clinic, these are the areas most damaged by bone loss and at greatest risk for fracture.


How often should you weight train?

Resistance training should be done optimally two or three times per week. Each session should include exercises to strengthen the hips and legs, trunk and arm muscles, and each exercise should be performed at least eight to 10 times.


I teach a twice-weekly strength training class called “Superpowers”. It’s a 30-minute time-efficient strength training class using 2 sets of hand weights, one light and one heavier set based on your current fitness level. All levels are welcome and movements are carefully designed to be spine safe, bone safe and bone-building!


Join me every Monday at 9 am and Friday at 11:30 am Pacific Time on Zoom for Superpowers and level up your muscle and bone health.

Register here:



  1. Sinaki et al. Stronger Back Muscles Reduce Vertebral Fractures, Bone Vol. 30, No. 6 June 2002:836–841
  2. Mosti MP, Kaehler N, Stunes AK, Hoff J, Syversen U. Maximal strength training in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis or osteopenia. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Oct;27(10):2879-86. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318280d4e2. PMID: 23287836.
  3. Zamoscinska M, Faber IR, Büsch D. Do Older Adults With Reduced Bone Mineral Density Benefit From Strength Training? A Critically Appraised Topic. J Sport Rehabil. 2019 Dec 12;29(6):833-840. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2019-0170. PMID: 31835241.

Click here to sign up for classes.   

Virtual Class Schedule Change:

Starting Monday, May 16, 2022, we’re replacing our Monday Standing Strong Pilates class with two 30-minute choices.

Superpowers at 9 am PST and our NEW Restorative Pilates at 9:30 am PST. This gives you the option to do just one or both workouts.





Here’s a map of my virtual class offerings with brief descriptions so you know what to expect.   

Standing Strong Pilates

Research cites the importance of weight-bearing exercise to build both muscle and bone. About half of this class is done standing, emphasizing strength and balance. The second half includes bone and spine safe Matwork. Exercises are done on your back, side, belly, and all 4’s to maximize your strength in all body orientations.


What you’ll need: An inflatable core ball, a long resistance band, ½ tennis ball, and a myofascial release ball aka purple pickle.






Designed for the active ager, this 30-minute Strength Training class uses both hand weights and body weight. We’ll target upper and lower body strength with core and posture underscored. Everyone works at their own level to stay effective and safe.

What You’ll Need: 2 sets of weights (or cans/water bottles, Lighter weights are typically 1-3 lbs. Heavier would be roughly 5-10 lbs.

For optimal strength results, it’s suggested you take this strength class twice a week.




NEW Restorative Pilates

Incorporating standing and matwork, the focus of this class is on gentle strengthening exercises and movements that promote mobile flexible bodies. This 30 min flow class will leave you refreshed and ready to take on the day.

What You’ll Need: Pilates inflatable core ball and a long resistance band.








Active Aging Bootie Barre

Strong glutes are more than pure aesthetics. They help keep your back pain-free.

This 30 min. low impact class will Improve your hip, leg, glut, and core strength. (no ballet barre or dance background needed)

Build endurance to enjoy your daily activities with ease.

What You’ll Need: a chair, an inflatable core ball, and at times, a resistance band or loop. Bone safe, spine safe!





Foam Roller Release Class

The perfect antidote to prolonged sitting, tight muscles, and accumulated stress.

Focus: Knead out knots and promote a fluid, flexible body.

What You’ll Need: Foam roller 6 in diameter by 36 in long.  All exercises are bone safe. Calming low-intensity class.






HIIT – High-Intensity Interval Training

Burn fat and boost your strength and cardiovascular fitness with this fun Dance inspired 30-minute HIIT class. Modifications are given so you can work at your own pace.

Added perk, this class builds neural connections boosting your brainpower. We string together movements that challenge your memory and coordination.

What You’ll Need: Tennis shoes, a water bottle and a sense of fun.





We are bombarded through media, with anti-aging approaches like botox, plastic surgery, facial creams, and expensive supplements.  I personally think the concept of anti-aging is BS.  We are all aging every day.  If you actually stop aging, you are …dead.   I prefer to age, embracing every wrinkle as a testament to the privilege of still being here and with it, hopefully, some added wisdom on top.  Now how we age is a choice.  Everyone makes the choices that feel right for them but I want to share with you an additional approach you can add, that works from the “inside out”.


Did you know that Pilates can make you look and feel younger?  This is all without expensive creams, needles, or surgery.  The only side effects? Improved flexibility, balance, strength, and posture! Exercise also improves your skin and complexion. By increasing blood flow, exercise helps nourish skin cells and keep them vital. We lose about 1% of our leg strength and about ½ a percent of our bone density yearly after we hit 50.  Pilates slows down the muscle and bone loss that occurs with aging.


Do you prefer to be guided in your movement practice with skill and a keen eye toward the active ager?

The local Aging Strong Pilates® class that I teach in Los Altos, CA,  my DVD series AGING STRONG Pilates® and my Zoom Virtual Classes all focus on those areas at risk of decline as we age. Those areas include the hips and legs (to keep us strong, mobile, and doing what we love), the spine (to prevent slouching/hyperkyphosis), and balance (to prevent falls).


If you want to find a Pilates teacher local to you, search for one that is certified through the Pilates Method Alliance  (is an NCPT-Nationally Certified Pilates Teacher) and who has the skills to customize a program to your abilities. If you have certain challenges like osteopenia, osteoporosis, herniated discs, stenosis, joint replacements (the list goes on) your instructor should be aware of the movement contraindications for each diagnosis and be able to create a program that keeps you challenged yet safe.


Remember- 1x a week is helpful but consistency is key in the Aging Strong formula. Improvement is dose-responsive. The more classes you take, the stronger, more balanced, and agile you’ll be. If you can’t get to more than one class, make sure your instructor gives you an individualized home exercise program designed specifically for you. (and try my DVDs if you haven’t already)

I believe in interspersing Pilates with the other movement activities in your life that bring you joy. For example,  I love dancing, hiking, and walking my dog Chip.

Please share in the comments section below, what movement activities raise your spirits and your core temperature!




Written by Teresa Maldonado Marchok, Licensed PT and NCPT (Nationally Certified Pilates Teacher

Creator of the BoneSmart Pilates® Method and acclaimed DVD series

Pilates Studio owner since 1998 melding PT and Pilates in her Mountain View, CA private practice.

Ambassador for American Bone Health

Learn more at

Imagine getting your DEXA (bone density test) results and learning you have osteoporosis. You’re frightened you’re going to “break,” and the first thing your doctor suggests is medication.

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, that scenario is all too common.

Here’s the story of how I came to specialize in bone safe movement

The year was 2010, and the wife of a Stanford professor came to me for an evaluation and treatment plan.  She’d just been diagnosed with osteoporosis and wanted “out of the box” ideas to address her bone health.  For the sake of privacy, I’ll refer to her as “Clara.”  Her doctor had discussed prescription drugs as a recommended treatment approach.

Taking extra time to explain her test results in ways she could understand, I also had her complete the online FRAX assessment, which calculates your estimated personal fracture risk.  I listened and answered her questions.

I shared with her the kind of movements that help build bone and the types of movements and postures to avoid that increase her fracture risk.

teaching alignment at a workshop

Teaching alignment at a workshop

Like a sponge, Clara soaked it all in.

I taught her the spine-sparing hip hinging technique, using a dowel to ensure optimal alignment. For her homework, I asked her to practice this technique whenever she needed to bend over and any time she transitioned from sitting to standing or standing to sitting.

She learned my BoneSmart ABCs for maintaining and building bone. These principles of Alignment, Balance, and Contraction (as in muscle-strengthening contraction and contraction from impact, like stomping) are the cornerstones of my method.


This remark she made still gives me pause.

“Why didn’t the doctors tell me any of this?”  You might be asking yourself the same thing.

Why don’t doctors share this movement information?

In many cases, movement and exercise for osteoporosis is not their area of training or expertise. The medical model often defaults to drugs as the first line of defense.  I’m not saying osteoporosis meds are bad. They are appropriate for some people, but not all people in all situations.  In addition, many lifestyle changes can help your bone health.  (I won’t get into them here. That’s another article-my focus here is on movement.)

The link between the pink pole, Clara, and BoneSmart Pilates.

On our next appointment, Clara proudly presented her homemade dowel, fashioned from a Home Depot closet rod which she festively festooned in neon pink tape!

It was clear to me that she’d done her homework and was applying the principles of safe movement and bone-building exercise in her life.  The trajectory of her bone health took a turn for the better. Her infectious enthusiasm and that pink pole fueled me to do more.

Encountering more people with excessive bone loss

After that experience, I continued to meet more people of all ages dealing with excessive bone loss. Some people were quite young, experiencing the effects of bone loss due to secondary causes like the adverse effects of drugs, eating disorders, and cancer. All had little understanding of the ways to move safely with bone loss or the movements to avoid that might cause a break.

She broke her back

pilates exercise rollover

                           Pilates exercise, “Rollover”

Another incident that spurred me on… my client has a sister with osteopenia, and she fractured her spine doing a “rollover” in a Pilates class.

This is a typical move in Pilates but one that you should avoid if you have osteopenia or osteoporosis. The reason being that position puts compressive loads on the spine predisposing you to fracture.

Although she didn’t have full-blown osteoporosis, the movement guidelines are the same for osteopenia and osteoporosis

Because this teacher was not well informed of the need to modify for her client with excessive bone loss,  the client broke her back.

The realization hit me that too many Pilates teachers and general exercise instructors don’t understand the movement guidelines for their clients with excessive bone loss. Unknowingly, they are putting their clients at risk of injury with every unmodified Pilates or exercise class they teach.

Enhancing my expertise and the birth of BoneSmart Pilates

To bolster my expertise in this area, I immersed myself in research and trained with experts such as Sherri Betz PT and geriatric specialist Sara Meeks PT, a pioneer in osteoporosis work and whom I consider a mentor.

In 2013, I created the BoneSmart Pilates method and produced my first DVD BoneSmart Pilates®: Exercise to Prevent or Reverse Osteoporosis. Met with critical acclaim, it won the  Pilates Style Magazine’s best DVD award.  Soon after, Sara Meeks endorsed my DVD, which now appears on the cover.

Because osteoporosis is a silent disease that affects people of different ages, it was important to me that my first DVD had diverse demonstrators. Each demonstrator represents a different decade from their 40’s to ’80s, as seen here on my DVD cover.  I intended to create a DVD relatable to people of varying ages.   



Teaching the teachers

Teaching Pilates Instructors in Costa Mesa, CA

I made it my mission to continue to spread the word about bone-healthy movement by presenting educational workshops to Pilates teachers.

My goal, to empower them to work safely with their clients that have osteopenia or osteoporosis.  There are so many healthy alternatives to improve muscle and bone strength. No more crunches or “Rollover”  fractures!


Spreading community awareness

Leading an American Bone Health presentation

In 2012,  I became an ambassador for the national organization American Bone Health.  I continue to serve as a volunteer educator, leading bone health awareness community presentations.  Topics include fall prevention,  fracture prevention, bone safe exercise, and proper nutrition to support bone health.


The genesis of the Aging Strong DVD Series

As an active ager myself, I know firsthand the physical challenges that seem to creep in with aging.  How does one safely navigate exercise with arthritis, joint replacements, and the plethora of itis’s and issues that come with aging?  I realized I needed to create something that spoke to a broader audience, not just those with osteoporosis.

This was the seed of inspiration for creating my 2 volume BoneSmart Pilates® AGING STRONG DVD set.   I wanted to address the needs of our active aging population that would benefit from safe Pilates.   “Motion is Lotion.”  We need to keep moving, but we need to do it safely and efficiently.

These DVDs pick up where “Exercise to Prevent or Reverse Osteoporosis” left off. They increase challenge and complexity while still observing the rules of bone safety.  My AGING STRONG DVDs speak not only to bone loss but to common challenges seen with aging, such as sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss), compromised joints, arthritis, and disc herniations.

All of my DVDs and live or virtual classes are bone safe, spine safe, and active aging friendly.

My diagnosis

I used to wonder if people would listen to me since I didn’t have excessive bone loss.  In the last year, due to risk factors like increasing age, low body weight, petite body frame, and being a female, I’ve been diagnosed with osteopenia.  While this may have been a stress point in the past, I’m confident that I have the knowledge to ensure my safety and bone health.

Connecting through movement

I also believe that what I have to share is helping more people than I realize.  It warms my heart to get a call or email from someone I don’t know reaching out to tell me how my work, my movement ideas, have improved their bone health and quality of life. That means more to me than any sales target.  You may think it silly but I still have many of those first letters I received from some of you mounted where I can enjoy them.  Seeing them keeps me motivated.

One bright aspect of the pandemic: It forced me to learn to teach virtually, and this has increased my outreach more than I could imagine.  Moving together virtually has helped deepen our connections across our community.  I hope you feel that. I surely do.   A major development was the genesis of my On-Demand BoneSmart Pilates® Movement Library and BoneSmart Burst™ Subscription series to meet the demands of your busy lives in a format of evidence-based, bone-safe movement.  My On-demand subscriptions offer maximum flexibility to move when it’s convenient for you.

I’ve loved experiencing this journey of spine health, bone health, and aging strong with all of you, whether we’ve connected through my DVD, through virtual class, or my live classes.  Together we’ve gained new perspectives on our perceived limitations and the surprising extent of our physical and mental resiliency. We are, in essence, co-creators of our well-being.


I’m honored and grateful that you have allowed me into your lives and trusted me in this journey of transformation. I commend you for committing to live your lives with intelligence, mindfulness, and an energetic, playful spirit.


About the author


Teresa Maldonado Marchok PT is the creator of the BoneSmart Pilates® Method and award-winning DVD series.  Her passion for bone-safe exercise and active aging is reflected in the classes she teaches and the way she lives her life.

Her DVDs have national and international exposure,  her On-Demand classes and her products have received over 200 Amazon 5 star reviews.

This workshop is for you if you’ve been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis or if you have healthy bones and want to keep them that way! In this 90 minute session you will discover how to move safely with bone loss.   You’ll learn to find your ideal posture, how to lift safely, what exercises help with hip and spine bone strength, and how to avoid fractures.

I’ll share my easy to remember BoneSmart ABC’s for bone health, which will be the foundation for you to live a  bone healthy life.


Along with the workshop, you’ll get free access to my Private Forum on the BoneSmart Pilates website.  You can ask any exercise-related questions that you have on the forum. Your password will be emailed to you when you register.

This workshop is presented by Teresa Maldonado Marchok, licensed PT, nationally certified Pilates teacher, former professional dancer, ambassador for the national organization American Bone Health and creator of the award winning DVD series BoneSmart Pilates®

This workshop is a great balance of research and information, along with exercise and practice. I highly recommend this workshop if you are 50+ whether you have osteoporosis or not. Brilliant!

– Linda A.

Purchase the workshop here!


Do you ever wonder how the hunchback of Notre Dame got his hump? And do you worry that you are heading toward the same fate?  If you spend too much of your time sitting, driving, doing computer work and/or texting, you just might be. Or, if you’re a breast cancer survivor experiencing surgical tissue tightness across the front of your shoulders, you might collapse your chest in subconscious protective posturing.

These activities all promote a forward flexed spine which can restrict our mobility, impair our balance and breathing, and cause all kinds of problems we don’t want to deal with—including the dreaded hump!

How often do you extend (bend backward)? Unless you change lightbulbs for a profession, I bet not very often. Extension is especially crucial for those with osteopenia or osteopososis-a silent disease of low bone density.  Decreased bone density can lead to a forward flexed spine due to common undiagnosed spine compression fractures.

Extension exercises will help to decrease that forward curve inclination. Those with decreased bone density are more susceptible to fractures, especially from falls. Upright posture is associated with decreased falls and studies show extension exercises build stronger bones in the spine. Added bonus, extending the spine just feels great!

In this workshop, discover the secrets of spine extension exercises to

  • Improve your posture and prevent falls
  • Build bone in your spine
  • Promote healthy aging to continue to do what you love

Learn how to do spine extension correctly, avoiding common pitfalls.  Experience simple extension exercises in multiple body positions, to unleash your optimal posture and bone health throughout the day.

You’ll receive a printable follow-along guide that you can also reference afterward to remind yourself of all the things you’ll learn in the workshop.

Extend Yourself!


With over 80 active participants from several countries this virtual event was a resounding success!  Thanks to your support, we collectively raised $1,625 to benefit the national organization American Bone Health, a nonprofit that I’ve volunteered with for the last 8 years to increase community bone health awareness and fracture prevention.

It is with gratitude that I express to you my thanks for showing up, being engaged, and asking thought-provoking questions!

Two questions from the chat that I wanted to answer here are:

1) Is walking considered a bone-building exercise?
2) Should I use a weighted vest?

1)  Walking is not considered bone-building exercise but it is great for your heart if you keep up a good pace.   It’s also good for osteoporosis in terms of bone maintenance, helping to prevent further bone loss. So keep walking and if you can add hills and vary speed-even better. Keep in mind that we experience about 0.5-1.0% of bone loss yearly. The rate of loss due to menopause can jump to a 2-5% loss those 5-6 years post-menopause due to the dramatic drop in estrogen.  If your T score remains the same over time that’s a good thing, you’re preventing loss as what you’re doing is offsetting the natural 0.5-1% yearly loss.

(Palombaro KM. “Effects of walking-only interventions on bone mineral density at various skeletal sites: a meta-analysis.” J Geriatr Phys Ther. 2005;28(3):102-7.)


2) A lot of people with osteoporosis ask about using weighted vests. Some designs are not suitable for those with osteoporosis including ones where the vest sits on the shoulders with the majority of weight in the upper trunk. This can put undue downward pressure on the spine promoting hyperkyphosis (an exaggerated rounding of the upper back) that puts the spine at risk of increased fracture.  Weighted vests should not be used by those with hyperkyphosis or spine fractures.If you are cleared by your healthcare practitioner to use a vest, make sure the vest has a snug fit, is weighted throughout the trunk with the majority of weight close to your hips. Start with a small amount of weight and make sure to use the spine sparing hip hinging technique we practiced in my Osteoporosis Do’s and Don’ts Workshop to avoid rounding your spine.Weighted vests with lunges, squats, step-ups, side lunges and small jumps 3x per week build bone in the hip according to Christine Snow’s bone research lab at Oregon State University.


(Long-term Exercise Using Weighted Vests Prevents Hip Bone Loss in Postmenopausal Women by Christine M. Snow, Janet M. Shaw, Kerri M. Winters, and Kara A. Witzke Journal of Gerontology: 2000, Vol. 55A, No. 9, M489-M491)

While there are no definitive studies on how much weight a vest should have, experts recommend anywhere from five to ten percent of a person’s body weight. This recommendation is based on studies on maximum weight allowances for backpacks. Too much weight can result in injury.

Back extension exercises are great for the spine.   

Remember that back extension exercises (lying on your belly lifting your chest and head slightly, improve the strength of the muscles in your spine and don’t carry the risks of a weighted vest. The pull of the muscles on the bone stimulates bone growth. A study by Dr. Sinaki from the Mayo clinic showed fewer fractures even 10 years after the study in the group that did back extension exercises vs the control group.


(Sinaki, M, et al. 2002. “Stronger back muscles reduce the incidence of vertebral fractures: A prospective 10-year follow-up of postmenopausal women.” Bone, 30 (6), 836-41.)


(Sinaki, M., et al. 1996. “Can strong back extensors prevent vertebral fractures in women with osteoporosis?” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 71 (10), 951-56.)


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