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

 

 

This is when your butt muscles basically forget how to fire correctly.  How does this happen?

It’s actually a common problem today. People are spending inordinate amounts of time sitting behind their computers, driving their cars, sitting on couches etc.  Sedentary, lifestyles often driven by work environments, tend to be more the norm than the exception these days. 

With all this sitting, the muscles around the hip joint experience something called “reciprocal inhibition”. That’s when the muscles in front of the hip, your hip flexors, become short and tight from being in that shortened position of sitting and the opposite muscles, the butt muscles, are neurologically inhibited and become overstretched, weak and inactive.

Why does this matter to you?

Well besides developing a saggy weak butt that’s beginning to head south, there’s another concern.

Your Gluteus maximus, your largest butt muscle, is your strongest hip extensor and external rotator muscle. If it’s inhibited from doing it’s job, the Piriformis muscle-a smaller external rotator, may have to jump in to take up the slack.

If the Piriformis muscle does more than it’s designed to do and over fires you can get something called “Piriformis syndrome”. This is when the Piriformis muscle becomes irritated and inflamed and may press on the sciatic nerve. This can result in sciatica which is pain, numbness and tingling down your leg.

In general you want to avoid gluteal amnesia because you don’t want other muscles jumping in to take up the slack, as that can result in injuries.

How do you fix it?

First you need to stretch those muscles in front of the hip that are short, tight and inhibiting gluteal action. Then you want to strengthen those gluts!

Watch the video for the exercises that combat gluteal amnesia, normalize the relationship of the muscles in front of and behind the hips and get your glutes firing!  You can fast forward to the 2 min mark to see just the exercises or watch from the beginning and see the explanation with visuals.

 

Does your back bother you after a plane trip? Learn an insider tip from a physical therapist. Teresa Maldonado Marchok PT and certified Pilates instructor uses an inflatable miniball on every flight she takes. It’s small enough to fold into a ziplock bag and keep in your purse. Once at your destination, you’ll have an exercise prop with you for core work and more. This tip is also a spine saver to use in a chair or in your car!

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)

Aging Strong Pilates Volume 2 is at the printer right now and I’m so excited to make these workouts available to you!  This DVD is a brain body challenge with 2 efficient workouts ~ 25min each, for when you’re tight on time!  In addition to standing weight bearing exercise and core mat work, It includes a bone building stomping dance and a bonus posture coaching section. If you have all 3 of my DVDs, you’ll have a workout for every day of the week!  Pre-order by 8/19 and enter code FREESHIP to get Free Domestic Shipping!

Sakinah Salahu-Din hails from Ohio and has been a dedicated and consistent user of my DVD – BoneSmart Pilates® Exercise to Prevent or Reverse Osteoporosis.

“My daughter asked me to share this feedback with you because she’s watched my transformation and felt it was important enough to share with others.  I am 71 years old and was having arm and neck problems when I started using this program in January 2016.  The shoulder and neck pain affected me to the point that I could not do certain exercises without modifying the range of motion or making the resistance band less taut.  About two months ago, however, I was able to do the resistance band exercises with full range of motion, with stronger resistance and remarkably, with no pain!   
I like the fact that BoneSmart addresses pain or weakness in arms, hips, back, and knees which is what many people my age have problems with.  I also like that the program is set up in a way that I can break it into parts.  For example, I do the resistance band upper body program and the hip blaster 3 days a week and MAT exercises 2 days a week. I’ve gained strength and flexibility and am very pleased with this program and the positive results that I am experiencing.

 

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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.

With 55 people in attendance and a long wait list, Teresa shared her key secrets to Aging Strong and included plenty of science, practical demonstrations from volunteers in the audience and a rousing dance that got everybody up and moving. “It was both helpful and fun, I brought 5 friends and they all raved about it!”  ~Katy D. “Your presentation was great-like Live Dr. Radio!”  ~Mercy F. “I am shocked how slumped I was sitting & immediately am sitting straighter” ~Elayne M. See a Sneak Peak of Aging Strong in Action IMG_1860

Save the Date: FREE Workshop April 20

Aging Strong

When: Monday, April 20 7:30PM  Free but call to reserve a seat 650-988-9800 

Where: East West Bookstore, 324 Castro St., Mountain View                                                                                                    

              
Learn how to strengthen your body and reduce your risk of falls, simply by changing the way you move. If you have spine issues, bone loss, or just don’t feel as strong or steady as you’d like, this interactive workshop is for you. 

Teresa Maldonado Marchok, PT, is a licensed physical therapist, certified Pilates instructor, and representative for the national organization American Bone Health. Her award-winning DVD, BoneSmart Pilates®: How to Prevent or Reverse Osteoporosis, is helping people worldwide. A free inflatable exercise ball and handout are included only if you register by Apr 19. Call 650-988-9800

Pilates For Boomers at Stanford*
*You must be affiliated with Stanford University – student/faculty/staff or family of student/faculty/staff in order to enroll in this program.
Pilates for Boomers
Tue 03/31-06/02
5:30 PM-6:30 PM
Instructor: Teresa Maldonado Marchok
Location: Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center (AOERC), Studio 111
REGISTRATION STARTS 03/18
As we age, keeping fit is essential for enjoying life to its fullest.
In this Pilates class we will utilize resistance bands and inflatable 9” miniballs to provide resistance or creative assistance as needed.
Expect improved posture, coordination, core strength, flexibility and balance with crossover benefits to your daily activities.
If you have low bone density, weight bearing exercises are incorporated and safe mat variations will be offered.
BRING A MAT, resistance band and 9 inch inflatable ball if you have them. The instructor is a national presenter, licensed physical therapist, PMA certified Pilates instructor and ambassador for American Bone Health.
“Older Adult Friendly” class.
A Stanford University ID card that is activated for the Card Reader is required for entry into the building. If your ID card is not activated, please contact the HIP office to initiate the process.
Call: 650-723-9649 or Email: healthimprovement@stanford.edu HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES: A Rec Card is required to gain access to the facility where your class is held and is limited to the day(s), and the times of the class only. If you do not have a Rec ID Card, contact the HIP office at healthimprovement@stanford.edu or call 650-723-9649. Please note: You must obtain the Rec ID Card from the Stanford ID Card Office http://campuscard.stanford.edu. There is a $20 one-time charge due at that time.
BeWell Berry BeWell Fitness Berry
Category: Fitness : Pilates Mat/Healthy Back
Levels: All Levels
Fee: 110.00 (BeWell Fee: $30) , STAP/EA Funds: No

Class Code: pfb-01