Revisiting the Basics: Side-to-Side on the Short Box

Side-to-Side on the Short Box

Hey there!

This week's post is a request from a subscriber, Joanne.

Thanks, Joanne, it's high time for another post about one of my not-so-favorites, Side-to-Side on the Short Box.

Side bending, in general, has never been a skill of mine. Over the years I have fought the good fight and have emerged (occasionally) victorious.

For further reading, check out my previous posts on this same subject here and here.

The Makings of a Great Side Bend

Side-to-Side on the Short Box is the very first side bend shape you'll learn.

While not as basic as the Footwork or the Roll Up, Side-to-Side on the Short Box is one of the more manageable side-bending exercises in the Pilates System.

And for those of you who desperately need this skill of side bending, it's one hell of an introduction.

Let's Start Tall

Looking at the order of the Reformer exercises, the Short Box Series gives you one of the best prerequisites for Side-to-Side: The Reach – which is your tallest back shape.

Reach on the Short Box

The tall back shape encourages you to lift and continue to lengthen both sides of the trunk in a straightforward movement pattern. It's this lift you will preserve to take into Side-to-Side.

Consider The Reach to be your basic best friend (BBF) for the kinda-not-basic-depending-on-who-you-are Side-to-Side exercise.

With beginning or first-time students you may wish to delay adding Side-to-Side to their program depending on how well they do the Round and Reach exercises.

What's going on back there anyhow?

TBH, it was news to me that anything on the back of me would be useful to do Pilates.

Short Box exercises – decidedly one of the meat-and-potatoes series on the Reformer – can be challenging since you are essentially stranded up there on that box with no feedback and nary a spring in sight.

One of the best places I've found to illuminate the back of me as I side bend is on the Cadillac.

Roll Back One Arm on the Cadillac

The Roll Back done with one arm is a wonderful place to feel your back on the Mat as you make your Side-to-Side shape.

But what exactly am I doing? Where am I going?

If you're like me, maybe Side-to-Side has been mysterious for a while.

I remember so vividly each time I'd visit this exercise in my first year of Pilates group lessons on the Reformer. I'd have a plan in mind, but I soon came to associate this exercise with “Oh this is the one where Lesa comes to fix me.”

Years later I'd finally feel that one side really didn't know how to lift or move at all.

And over the many years that I've been practicing Pilates, I've been taught this exercise MANY different ways.

Ultimately, you're looking to find equal strength, lift and length on both sides of the body without compromising your tall back shape.

I believe the direction to lean forward, or add a twist to the front corner of the box to be just a few ideas to help the truly Side-challenged folk. It can be a good option for a while and with practice, ultimately lead to even better execution of the exercise.

The Pole: Your Apparatus of the Moment

Joe Pilates never leaves us unprepared.

Luckily he suggests using a pole for the Short Box Series.

Look at the pole and see a big truth-teller for Side-to-Side and Twist.

Does one end of the pole point downward when your student bends to the side?

Both sides of the trunk must work to lift up both ends of the pole. Sounds easy I know…

If you bend to the right side, it must continue to hold up the pole as the left side lifts up and over.

Which brings me to my other hot tip for Side-to-Side… Spine Stretch Forward?

Spine Stretch Sideward, Anyone?

Think about the Pilates Mat exercise Spine Stretch Forward.

Spine Stretch Forward on the Mat

This forward-bending exercise requires you to get a big LIFT! of your bottom and back up and over the bony landmark of your ribcage. To get more opening in the middle back just under the ribs, this is the spot you're after as you Spine Stretch.

Meanwhile back in your side-bending exercise, work to lift each side UP and over the rib cage without any shifting or crunching. Give it a try and see what you think.

Side to Side on the Short Box

New this week on my YouTube Channel

Check out today's video for more nerdy discussion on all things Side-to-Side.

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New Videos You Won't Want to Miss

Back in February – when people could still visit you at home, I filmed the first episode of my new series ‘Between 2 Arm Chairs.' This episode features my friend, colleague and longevity expert, Dr. Nicole Marcione.

In the video Dr. Nicole and I give a little preview of her recent workshop, Longevity, the Brain and Pilates which I had the privilege to attend in person last year.

Dr. Nicole has graciously extended a special promotion to my YouTube subscribers. In the description box you'll find my promo code for big savings on her amazing workshop!

Check it out:

More Wunda Chair, please!

So many of you enjoy working out on the Wunda Chair. Good for you!

It's one of my favourite apparatuses and I have started a new series of short (but brutal, trust me) videos on our lovely Wunda.

Here's the first in the series – a shorty at just 5 minutes.

And in just a few exercises, it will make you sweat I promise!

Stay well and make sure you get in your Pilates workout – no more excuses like “I don't have time to workout!”

Do you have any video requests?

Lay it on me in a comment below…

Get a Fantastic Workout on your Busiest Day

Get a Fantastic Workout on your Busiest Day

I dearly love my Pilates workout. Last week I was on a family vacation and I got in an invigorating Pilates Mat workout each morning in the lovely hotel fitness center.

I've got ample time for my Pilates workout when I am away from my studio. Sure I miss the Reformer, but daily Pilates is luxurious.

How can I aspire to a daily workout at the top of a busy workday? This is my conundrum.

“I can't do anything in less than an hour!”

Yes. I can. And you can too.

My beef for years was how to get in the full-on hour workout – a big Reformer workout – during a super-packed busy day. My morale runs high in the morning, dips around lunch time and at the end of my day I've really got my sights on dinner and not the Hundred.

Boo…

My Go-To Pilates Workout for Busy Days

Today I'd like to share with you my new plan to workout little by little throughout your day.

And you'll still feel fabulous!

At the end of my day I'm also more inclined to want closure for the workout I started earlier. Usually it feels too daunting to begin my workout at 7pm.

And I'm hungry.

3 Cheers for the Small Apparatus!

In today's video I share the apparatus and exercises I use daily. I will change up the major apparatus, whether I'll be doing Mat, Reformer, Cadillac or Chair. But the small apparatus ritual at the top of my workout remains the same.

For now.

If I've got more time I will do all of my small apparatus exercises, and if I am running late in my morning it only takes about 5 minutes to do a pared down version.

A couple scenarios…

No time to workout? There's an exercise for that.

Busy Day #1

6:55am

Small Barrel: Arm Series (Circles, Up/Down, Hug, Breathing) and Leg Series (Circles, Walks, Beats, Scissors, Bicycle, Hip Twist).

You'll finish in about 4 minutes.

1:30pm

Foot Corrector: all the exercises included in the video

Mat: Hundred, Roll Up, Roll Over, One Leg Circle, Roll Like a Ball, Single Leg Pull, Double Leg Pull, Scissors, Lower Lift, Criss Cross, Spine Stretch, Open Leg Rocker, CorkScrew, Saw, Swan, Single Leg Kick, Double Leg Kick, Thigh Stretch, Neck Pull

In about 20 minutes you've done all your Foot Corrector and jumpstarted your Mat exercises.

7pm

Mat: High Scissors, High Bicycle, Shoulder Bridge, Spine Twist, JackKnife, Side Kick Series, Teaser, Seal

Yes, you could finish up all your Mat exercises at this point at the end of the day, but dinner is often a real concern…

Or maybe you'll workout on the Reformer:

Busy Day #2

7:30am

Foot Corrector – all the exercises included in the video

Small Barrel: Arm Series (Circles, Up/Down, Hug, Breathing) and Leg Series (Circles, Walks, Beats, Scissors, Bicycle, Hip Twist).

Reformer: Footwork, Hundred, Overhead, Coordination

In just 15 minutes you've visited 2 small apparatus. You've also gotten the ball rolling with your Reformer.

1:30pm

Reformer: Long Box (Pull Straps, T, Backstroke, Teaser), Long Stretch, Down Stretch, Up Stretch, Elephant, Long Back Stretch, Stomach Massage Series

In about 20 minutes post-lunch you can complete Long Box 1 Series, Long Stretch Series and the Stomach Massage Series. Maybe you can get it done in 15?

Not too shabby.

6pm

Reformer: Short Box Series, Short Spine Massage, SemiCircle, Knee Stretch Series, Running, Pelvic Lift, Side Splits, Front Splits

Mat: Roll Like a Ball, Open Leg Rocker, Seal

At the end of the day you'll finish off the major exercises in what you may know as an Intermediate Reformer workout followed by an invigorating rolling ending.

Well done!

Give it a try and see how you do. Share your tips and successes in a comment below 🙂

I hope you'll enjoy this workout as much as I do.

Thanks for watching! 

Oh and about this video…

My body generally avoids the Shoulder Bridge on the Small Barrel. It's always my intent to include this exercise after the Bicycle but alas, as I edit this post I realize my body has gotten the best of me AGAIN and I “forgot” to include Shoulder Bridge in the video.

Bad Pilates Teacher!

You should still do it (and so should I).

Let's help each other…

Classes, Private Lessons and Much Much MORE!

October 5-8, 2017 I'll be in Portsmouth UK at Everybody Pilates. Private lessons are filling up! Reserve your spot by using the link below:

Everybody Pilates Mind Body Online

I look forward to seeing you there.

And here's where to find me this Fall.

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

Welcome to the fourth and final installment of my Pilates Home Practice Project.

So far in our Project we've met Bill. At 82 he embarks on his Pilates path. Find out more about his workout in part 1.

Read about Sit-to-Stand in the 2nd installment of this series,

Nearly a year into her regular Pilates lessons, Fran, 60, plans any travel to and from work to include a stop at LauraBPilates Studio at least twice a week.

What does she dig most about her new workout regimen and dedicated ‘me' time?

Find out the answer and learn about Functional Reach in part 3!

3 critical skills for the 75+crowd

My esteemed colleague, Nicole Marcione, holds a BS and MS in Gerontology. She's currently in the midst of her PhD in Biokinesiology at USC and has graciously shared her expertise on the older adult population.

With older adults, I constantly address 3 skills: Sit-to-Stand, Functional Reach and Balance (especially while maneuvering through their surrounding environment). 

In today’s post we'll look at Balance and successfully maneuvering around obstacles.

OMG, I think we should all work on this one…

Balance

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

Whoa. A big topic.

First some sobering statistics:

1 in 3 adults 65 and older will fall at least once annually.

1 in 2 adults over 85 will fall at least once annually.

Nicole stresses that we must work with our clients “on their balance, not only when they are standing still, but more importantly while they are moving: climbing up and down stairs, stepping up onto a curb or stepping over something in their path.”

Remember Bill?

He felt the benefits of his Pilates exercises and was no longer unsteady when rising from a seated position.

Evidently he felt SO good he stopped doing his exercises.

Oh no…

The balance problems came back.

I do my best not to be the Pilates Police…however he did mention the guilt I have instilled in him when he passes by the room where the mat lives and maintains he “needs to get back to it.”

Bill and his wife both had a fall on the same day.

Walking between 2 parked cars, Bill hit his shin on a tow hitch. He fell, hit his face and scraped himself up pretty well.

His wife, a few years his junior, fell first thing in the morning as she arose, maneuvering around the side of the bed and other furniture.

On a positive note Bill and his wife are making huge dietary changes. They have both lost a significant amount of weight. Bill tells me I will not recognize him when I see him he is so skinny.

To which I replied:

“Wow, think how easy those Pilates exercises will be now!”

I'm confident he'll return to his Pilates exercises, even if it's not until I'm there to crack the whip in person.

Now I have a couple new exercises for him.

Thanks Nicole. 

2×4 Exercises or Calf Raises

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

From Nicole:

“The plantar flexor muscles are the most important for propulsion in walking, so they need to stay strong.”

This one's no joke. Make sure to find your entire body to work this exercise, not just the ankles.

Remember we're defying gravity. And cultivating control.

And keeping our feet supple and strong.

  • Stay tall as you slowly lower the heels. Don't get any shorter!
  • Push down into the balls of the feet to lift the heels up.
  • Repeat 10x.

Standing Pumping on the Wunda Chair

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

Why is it always the simple, straightforward exercises that are the most challenging?

Deliberately control the pedal in both directions: you must push it down and you must pick it up.

The pedal should not push you around.

Keep the spring quiet.

  • Use the tall gondola pole for added support if necessary.
  • The spring tension can be graduated for this exercise and increased as the student builds strength and confidence. 
  • I like to use 2 springs on the bottom to find maximum connection. Once that's working well you might work your way toward 1 top + 1 bottom over time.
  • Work to stand evenly on both feet.
  • Nicole points out the importance of “emphasizing the UP part.”

Foot Slides

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition IMG_7385

Using the kitchen counter or the back of a chair for balance, seniors can practice this versatile exercise just about anywhere.

They'll strengthen their stomach and seat and keep their hips flexible as they find their balance on one leg.

  • Stand facing the Ladder Barrel.
  • Gently hold on the Ladder for support.
  • Slide the foot to the side 10x on each side.
  • Slide the foot to the back 10x on each side.

Step Ups

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition IMG_7367 IMG_7368

Remember the part about stepping up onto a curb? Or stepping over an obstacle in your path?

This simple exercise is fantastic to reinforce these skills in older adults.

It's a crucial skill for us all.

  • Use the Reformer box or something smaller if needed.
  • Put the box against the wall.
  • The client will face the wall with palms on the wall for support, if needed.
  • Do 20x for each side.

A Delicate Balance

Use one of these simple exercises in your next workout.

You may be surprised to find out how hard they are to do well.

I know I was.

Nicole Marcione is a classical Pilates teacher who has trained extensively with Jay Grimes. She is a Gerontologist and is currently getting her PhD at the University of Southern California’s Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. She works in the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab and teaches Musculoskeletal and Analytical Anatomy to PT students at USC. Although Nicole is busy with school, she still teaches and is available for private lessons, Skype lessons, workshops, and consultations on optimal aging.
http://pt.usc.edu/nmarcione/ 

How do you work on balance in your own workout?

Share your hot tips in a comment below so we can all try them!

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

When I started my blog a few years ago I dreamed of a world in which all of my loved ones came to cherish our beloved Pilates Method.

I even wrote a post about my dream.

Now nearly 4 years later you've read about my father-in-law, Bill and his commitment to his Pilates Mat exercises.

I further documented his progress in a follow-up post .

In North Carolina with the Fam

I regularly travel to Raleigh to visit my family.

Last November I was thrilled to present my workshop On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises in Raleigh, NC at Laura Browning Grant's beautiful home studio.

My sister, Fran and her best friend Sandy each took a private lesson with me while I was in town.

How lovely.

Fran, Fran, Fo-fan, Banana-fana fo-fan, Fee-fy-mo-man, Fran!

My sister turned 60 last year.

Without a regular exercise routine, she wanted an enjoyable workout which would serve her well going forward.

Fran has a stressful full-time job, she checks in frequently on our aging parents and she's got 3 young grand-daughters that keep her on her toes.

And like me, it's hard for her to sit still.

We share a love for organization, direction, order, precision and excellence. Naturally, I thought she would really take to Pilates.

And it turns out she did. She's been having private lessons twice a week with Laura since December last year.

And I'm super proud.

Unlike Bill who prefers to workout by himself at home, Fran needs the structure of the private lesson in the studio. I keep pushing my YouTube channel at her, but she assures me that working out at home on her own is not gonna happen.

“I like the Hundred!”

Now after 6 months of Pilates Fran is feeling the love – and the results! – from our beloved Pilates Method. 

She has more energy, she sleeps better at night and our mom has noticed a huge change in my sister's posture. We've got a bit of the “slumpy gene.” 

And yes, Fran really likes the Hundred. And all the “ab stuff.”

I should also note that this is the very first time Fran has been able to commit to doing something for herself.

It feels good for her to carve out time for herself in the midst of her demanding job and essentially caring for everybody else.

While catching up via Skype Fran couldn't resist showing me her new muscles: “the guns” and her back muscles.

Woo Hoo!

Now that Pilates has given her shapely arms it is surely time to administer the Kool-aid…

3 critical skills for the 75+crowd

Fran is hardly in this age-group, but these concepts and exercises will serve every one of us well in our journey on the Pilates path.

An esteemed colleague of mine, Nicole Marcione, (who holds a BS and MS in Gerontology and is currently in the midst of her PhD in Biokinesiology at USC) enabled me to share her expertise on the older adult population.

With older adults, I constantly address 3 skills: Sit-to-Stand, Functional Reach and Balance (especially while maneuvering through their surrounding environment). 

Read about Sit-to-Stand in the 2nd installment of this series,

In today’s post we’ll cover Functional Reach. Stay tuned for more of Nicole’s tips in part 3, Balance in the near future.

Functional Reach

The term ‘functional reach' refers to reaching your arms overhead. Nicole explains that this skill is not even on our radar as younger people.

You probably don't even think twice about putting a dish in the cupboard or storing a box on the top shelf of a closet, but we can lose this skill as we age.

We must help our clients keep their shoulder joint mobile, stable and strongly supported by all the surrounding muscles.

In Pilates we are working on this skill in every exercise.

We all know that our arms start from our backs so we will want to focus on the back-arm connection throughout the entire session.

No prob.

Use the following exercises (as well as countless others) in our beloved Pilates Method to perfect your functional reach.

Arm Springs Lying Down on the Cadillac

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

The Arm Springs exercises done lying down are nearly at Scrubbing Bubbles status.

Exercises here include Straight Down, Circles, Triceps and Side Arm.

With the mat behind you for feedback you can feel what's going on in your back muscles.

The support of the Cadillac also encourages clients to use their entire body to execute these “arm” exercises.

Full. Body. Workout.

Arm Series on the Spine Corrector (or Small Barrel)

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

The Arm Springs lying down help us locate our back muscles.

Now the Spine Corrector and Small Barrel will enable us to lift our back and reach it up and over the Barrel.

It's true that for delicate clients the Barrels may present an extreme challenge or even be inappropriate.

Know that you can do the same exercises lying down on the Mat without a Barrel. It's a nice maneuver for myself as well.

Can you also see the very beginning and finishing moments of the Roll Up here?

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project, Fran 60UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project, Fran 60

Pedipole

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project, Fran 60

Slowly I am understanding that the Pedipole is no joke.

It's the Arm Springs lying down, but SO MUCH more demanding.

It's the Wall on steroids.

Probably not for most of the 80+ crowd, the Pedipole is only for those that can keep their balance.

Another great place to work on the back-arm connection is of course the Arm Chair!

Sitting Side Bend with the Magic Circle

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

Throughout my Pilates career I have underestimated the power of side-bending exercises.

We're all tight in our sides and waist, especially if you are 75+.

Side bending is also a delicious way to stretch up and out of the hips.

The seated pre-cursor to the Side Bend with Magic Circle (in the photo above) is a lovely safe place for your older client.

I love this exercise myself for addressing imbalances.

Use the Magic Circles to find the back muscles and then proceed to the Side Bend.

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project, Fran 60

There are great side-bending exercises done kneeling with the Push-thru bar and on the Wunda Chair as well, but keep in mind that not every older adult can kneel.

Thanks for sharing your expertise, Nicole!

Nicole Marcione is a classical Pilates teacher who has trained extensively with Jay Grimes. She is a Gerontologist and is currently getting her PhD at the University of Southern California’s Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. She works in the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab and teaches Musculoskeletal and Analytical Anatomy to PT students at USC. Although Nicole is busy with school, she still teaches and is available for private lessons, Skype lessons, workshops, and consultations on optimal aging.
http://pt.usc.edu/nmarcione/ 

How do you best serve your older clientele? Have questions?  

Share your thoughts in a comment below.

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