Exercises for Core Training

Learning to contract the Core.

Breathing.
Lay face up on the floor, in the psoas position (this means knees at 90 degrees and feet flat to the floor). Relax and practice breathing into the abdomen, with your hand rested gently over your navel. You should aim for the navel to lift about 2” on your in breath. Breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Relax on the in breath and squeeze your stomach in when exhaling fully.

Once you have mastered this, relax and start again, but this time you need to make sure that your pelvis/spine is in a neutral position. To do this, place the heel of your hands on the prominent hip bones and your finger tips together on the pubic bone. They should all be level. Now start the breathing pattern again.

Then add in the contraction of the pelvic floor, whilst keeping the breathing pattern going. “Imagine stopping the flow, when going for a wee”

Next stage is to add in the contraction of the’ core’.

The best way to achieve this is to place your hands on the side of your ribs just below the chest level. You can use the pressure of your hands to push in, on the out breath, and encourage them to expand on the in breath. When ready tighten the whole of the abdominal area, holding the navel down toward the spine, but not moving the spine from its neutral position. The idea is to keep breathing normally as you do this. You will feel your abdominal area holding firm, as your lower ribcage expands laterally.

Lastly, try to slide one leg (heel down, toes up) away from the body. There should not be any movement, tilting or adjustments of the spine or pelvis to accommodate the one sided pressure. If there is then start again until there is no movement!

These exercises may take many sessions, even weeks to perfect and you should only move on a stage, once you have mastered the previous.

Love and energy,
Liz and Jessica x

Upper Cross Syndrome

This could be you? To be honest we all have to a degree, and I would like to mention it just briefly.

If you stand yourself or your partner, up against the wall with your back to the wall and your feet just 2/3 inches away, you should be able to get you back, from the base of your spine up through your entire torso and the back of your head to almost meet with the wall. Try it…

If you find that when your lower back comes close to the wall and your shoulders lift off, or when you put the shoulders back and in contact with the wall, it leaves a big gap at your lower back, you are probably someone who has the above.

Is it bad? No, not necessarily, but it can lead to many problems and you may be suffering with its negative effects now. Because of the rotation it causes in the shoulder girdle, it can cause tension headaches, dizziness, shoulder pain, pain when lifting the arm, numbness in the fingers, pain in the upper back between the shoulder blades (scapula), to name a few.

Is it easily rectified? With education and a little hard work and dedication, in most cases it is! The cross (X) part refers to the muscles being tight in one section of the cross and loose in the other, therefore creating an imbalance in the way we function in the upper torso.

If we move and posture incorrectly for a long time this causes the body to compensate and over use one set of muscles and renders the opposing muscles inactive. To improve the situation, you need to first become aware of what is occurring and then set about correcting it, by stretching the tight set of muscles and then strengthening the weak (loose) set.

Simple? It really is! But you will need someone who is a specialist in anatomy and movement to help you to build a plan to correct it.

If you are suffering with any of the above, clinic and posture are my passion and I would love to help. There, so now you know a little about upper cross syndrome and how to test for it.

Love and energy,
Liz and Jessica x

Pilates exercises (not for first timers!)

A little routine for my own clients, please do not use this if you do not normally do Pilates with us at BackFit. This is a mix of exercise to practice and perfect at home. Good luck, do not strain or push past your normal ability; everything will improve with practice, determination and continual repetition.

One of the most frequently asked questions about Pilates is: Will Pilates help me lose weight? The short answer is yes, Pilates is supportive of weight loss. In many cases just beginning Pilates class, or a home routine, is enough to jump start weight loss. However, as time goes by you may find that your body becomes accustomed to your workout level. Then, you will need to increase the intensity of your workout enough to help you continue to burn extra calories. Here are some ideas to help you amp up your workout:

1. Pelvic Tilt from a neutral position

 (courtesy of Peak Pilates)
The warm-up exercises are very important in teaching the foundations of Pilates movement. They also prepare the body for safely executing more challenging exercises later. I suggest that you choose at least two or three to begin each Pilates routine you do.

2. Chest Lift

 (by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios)
Muscular focus: abdominals – especially upper abs
Tips: This is not a crunch. The abdominals must be pulled way down into a deep scoop as you use them to control a slow, smooth curl up and roll down.

3. The Hundred

 (courtesy of Peak Pilates)
Beginners please use the knees in a table top position.
Muscular focus: abdominals, breathing
Tips: Your abdominals will be deeply pulled in, so you will have to use your full lung capacity by breathing into your back and lower ribs. Use your abs to hold yourself up–don’t get caught up in your shoulders and neck.

4. The Roll Up 

 ((c)2006 Marguerite Ogle)
Beginners please bend your knees
Muscular focus: abdominals
Tips: Use your abdominals to roll up and down with control. Do not rely on momentum or letting your legs lift off the mat.

5. One Leg Circle

 (courtesy of Peak Pilates)
Beginners bend the non active leg.
Muscular focus: abdominals, thighs, hip flexors
Tips: The abdominals keep the pelvis stable as the leg moves. No rocking and rolling!

6. Rolling Like a Ball

  (by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios)
Beginners put your hands behind the thighs. Round the back and breath in as you roll back, breath out on the return to balance point.
Muscular focus: abdominals
Tips: Stay in your curve for the whole exercise. Initiate the roll back with the abs and not by throwing the upper body back.

7. Open Leg Balance

 (courtesy of Kolesar Studios)
Practice from the balance point you used with the roll back position and start by straightening one leg at a time.
Muscular focus: abdominals, hamstring stretch
Tips: Use you abdominals to control the pose. Try not to pull on your legs for balance.

8. The Side Kick Series

  (by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios)
Do not over stretch the leg, focus on keeping the leg long and strong.
Muscular focus: abdominals, all thigh muscles – especially inner thigh
Tips: The ribs should stay lifted throughout each exercise. Do not let them sink to the mat.

9. Front Support/Plank  the press up the position.

 (courtesy of Peak Pilates)
Muscular focus: back extensors, abdominals, shoulders, arms
Tips: Stay in one line from your heels to your ears. Though the focus is somewhat on the upper body, if you engage the legs and imagine squeezing the sit bones together, the exercise will be easier.

10. Saw 

 ((c)2006, Marguerite Ogle)
Beginners can soften at the knee and just do rotation, without the flexion (moving forward to the toe)
Muscular focus: hamstrings, inner thigh, oblique abdominals, back stretch
Tips: Keep your hips anchored and level as you turn to the side. Extend energy through the back arm even as you reach forward.

Neck and Back Stretches

All these stretches must be done in a slow and controlled movement, no bounce and keep the spine in neutral for all these stretches, always do both sides.

Start with an upright position, drop the arm on the side you want to stretch, then place the opposite hand over the top of your head and just rest it there. Now apply a downward pull on the arm toward the floor, until you feel the stretch and hold for 10-15  seconds.

This is similar to the above but start with the head rotated to the side before applying the downward pull. 7-10 sec

Start with the head in neutral, pull your chin in, then lower your head towards your chest. Place your hands on the top of your head and let them rest. You should feel a stretch from the base of the skull and down the centre of the upper back.

What is Pilates?

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates, a pioneer who had a passion for the way the body moved and an eye for correcting its function or dysfunction. He wrote a great book called ‘Return to Life through Contrology’ and that is exactly what Pilates is about, learning to control your own body one muscle at a time and then as a whole. In Pilates we teach you to isolate and then activate.

Pilates is a programme to build core strength and activate these muscles to protect the spine and get them to work prior to gross movement. If you have back or joint pain, find a qualified trainer to get a one to one with and start taking control today.

Love and energy,
Liz and Jessica x