5 Hot Tips to Ignite your Hip Twist and Swimming Exercises

The Hip Twist on the MatHey there –

It's been a rough couple of days on the Mat, my friend!

At the time of this writing, March MATness lands us on everyone's fave, the Hip Twist or Hip Circles.

Tomorrow brings another doozy, Swimming.

You're in luck!

I've got some hot tips on these nasty little exercises. Make them favorites-in-training!

The Hip Twist is a perfect way to meet people.

Way back in 2011 I met one of my favorite Pilates peeps and #marchMATness founder, Benjamin Degenhardt at a Pilates event hosted by another Pilates bestie, the Pilates Nerd Queen herself!

Little did I know this meeting would teach me about green screens and get my Hip Twist ready for its closeup.

Yup, that's me doing my best Benjamin-doing-Hip-Twist impression – needs work I know.

1. Consider the Hip Twist as an elaborate Teaser 2.

The best way to pull yourself off the ceiling about the Hip Twist is to take your mind to a happy(er) place.

The Teaser 2, which you've completed just moments before it's time to Hip-Circle-it-up has many of the same elements as the dreaded Hip Twist.

Keep the lift in the trunk of your body and change your lower-lift to a modest circle at first.

Remember all the lift in the body that's required to move the carriage for Frog+Circles on the Reformer? Well, now is when you need it.

Oh, Gravity! (shakes fist at the heavens)

2. How are those hands back there helping me??

Use your hands on the Mat behind you for the Hip Twist to your best advantage. You're spot on to look for the assistance this position can give you.

Oh Stomach Massage Series, where are you now? Keeping your lift when the hands hit the Mat can be problematic.

Try this: Reach back and don't touch.

Now you'll discover what should hold you up and how your arms placement can assist you.

3. Don't let your body get dragged away by a pair of circling legs.

You've all seen this exercise done with huge circles at the expense of everything else.

Try out my rule of balancing out your forces: the part of the body that's just (in this case) sitting there doing nothing, should be doing all the work.

Use your circles to challenge how lifted and above-it-all (and Joe-Pilates-arrogant) your body can be.

How did I adjust my bad attitude toward Swimming?

Swimming on the Mat

Why, by making a T-Shirt of course!

Nothing motivates my Swimming more than being in a Mat class. Every teacher will make me swim for much longer than I ever do myself LOL

So at home I have Jaws for my inspo.

I created this image for March MATness 2017 when I simply hated this exercise.

Now in 2021, it's not great, but I don't really hate it. I view it as a project to work on.

Yup, add it to the list, right?

And remember, it's gonna be a great workout. Do the nasty exercises and then move on. We have other exercises.

4. The premise of the Pilates method is THE best Swimming hack I've found.

Whoa, don't get all crazy and whip out the premise of the method right here in the middle of the Mat!

Yes.

Joe Pilates literally has your back on this one. At the beginning of many a Pilates workout, you begin lying down.

The Mat especially gives luxurious support to all of the back of you.

Use the previous exercises (Teaser and the Hip Twist) well.

These 2 exercises lie you down on the Mat, “ironing” out the backline of you along the Mat over and over again.

Not to mention you've done it earlier in the workout: Hundred, Roll Up, Roll Over, One Leg Circle, etc…

Take a moment to use the Mat behind you.

Use your muscles, your opposing forces to elongate the back of you.

This is the challenge of Swimming, right? To keep the back long in an extended position. Not easy to do.

Once you feel you've memorized the feeling of elongating your back against the template of the Mat, turn over onto your stomach and prepare for your Swimming.

Be the Mat…and then flip over.

Now without the Mat behind you, find the same elongation, as much as you can.

Start slowly, trying to duplicate and then maintain the length of the back of you as you start to swim.

See how you do.

5. Watch beautiful movers to better your own execution.

My acting school was holding auditions for the role of the Bawd in Shakespeare's Pericles. I was in the midst of reading and my teacher plucked the script from my hands:

“Whore isn't quite at your fingertips, Andrea.”

Yup, instead I was cast as Marina, Pericles' daughter who gets kidnapped by Pirates and sold to a brothel.

Much more my speed…

And it's no secret, Swimming is not in my wheelhouse either. It's okay.

I feel the same way about Swan Dive, actually – hmmm… coincidence?

It's helpful to find another body to watch – a body that understands and coordinates well in the exercise. That often helps my body to get the idea of what I'm after.

Meet Christina, my Swimming inspiration:

This video shows a Swimming that is streamlined like a jet. I do not feel like a jet when I do this exercise.

So I watch, I do my exercises and I try again.

Oh, reeeeeeeeaaachhhhh… yes that feels better.

Try these hot tips and share your success in a comment below.

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

The original version of today's post was my very first blog post ever on Pilatesology, so I thought today I would shine it up a little and share some love, circulation and Pilates on this, our sweetest of all days.

February

  • Valentine's Day
  • Hearts!
  • Chocolates
  • The Hundred

Ah but I digress…

Pilates does wonderful things for your heart muscle.

There are also many individuals who express an extreme devotion and LOVE for the Pilates Method… including moi of course!

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

The heart is equated with:

COURAGE “You gotta have heart!”

ENTHUSIASM “Put your whole heart into it.”

A STRONG WILL

A SPIRIT TO SUCCEED

All of these are helpful in approaching your Pilates workout.

Deep in the heart of your Pilates workout:

See? Another one… the vital part or essence of something…

The Hundred

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

Whaaa?

Perhaps one of our most “memorable” Pilates exercises is the Hundred (100).

On of the first exercises one learns as a Pilates student, the Hundred is ever-present, lengthy and challenging to do well.

The Hundred uses vigorous pumping of the arms from your strong center and deep, full breathing to warm up the body. You'll get the blood circulating (heart!) and squeeze all the stale toxic air out of the lungs.

Bodily House Keeping with Blood Circulation

or What's not to love about quality house keeping?

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

I like to refer to my workouts as an ‘internal shower' followed by an external one:

This is the equivalent of an ‘internal shower.' Your blood will flow with renewed vigor as the direct result of your faithfully performing the Contrology [Pilates] exercises.

Translation: Just do it and trust the exercises are working. Remember that Rome was not built in a day…

These exercises induce the heart to pump strong and steadily.

You are moving and hopefully sweating. Remember it is a workout!

As a result, the bloodstream carries and discharges from your system more of the accumulated debris created by fatigue. [Pilates] exercises drive pure, fresh blood to every muscle fiber of our bodies, particularly to the very important capillaries which ordinarily are rarely ever fully stimulated once we reach adulthood.

Capillaries fully stimulated… check!

As a heavy rainstorm freshens the water of a sluggish or stagnant stream and whips it into immediate action, [Pilates] exercises purify the bloodstream and whip it into instant action.

Feelin' like a stagnant stream? Then let's see some action! Move, move, MOVE…

The result is that the organs of the body, including the important sweat glands, receive the benefit of clean fresh blood carried to them by this rejuvenated bloodstream.

This is like porn for vampires…

In addition…note that all the exercises are performed in a sitting or reclining position. This is done to relieve your heart from undue strain as well as to take advantage of the more normal, original position of the visceral organs of your body when in such positions.

Pilates is NOT a heartbreaker. 🙂

All quotes can be found in Joe Pilates' book Return to Life Through Contrology.

Contrology is Joe's original name for his method.

BONUS!! Check out this NYT article for a play-by-play at the cellular level! 

BONUS #2!!  more deets on our heart-friendly Hundred from one of my Pilates besties, Benjamin Degenhardt.

And here's where to find me in 2018.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

For Corrie

Wowza, it's been an amazing month of March MATness. I hope you enjoyed all the MAT-tastic images and videos abounding over social media this March.

What a Like-fest!

Thanks again Benjamin Degenhardt for infusing and enhancing our Pilates lives with the 5th annual!! month-long homage to all things Return to Life.

You. Da. Bomb.

Meanwhile, back on the Reformer

If you've been lolling about on your Mat of late, let's dig into our series of 4 splits with gusto!

Side Splits on the Reformer was our first installment of the series of 4 splits that come at the very end of our order of the Reformer exercises.

Today's post and tutorial features the 2nd split in our series, Front Splits.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

Full disclosure:

The series of splits come literally at the end of 80 or so exercises done on the Reformer. They are also after the “closure sequence” of the Reformer which I've come to refer to as ‘the beginning of the end.'

The beginning of the end = Knee Stretches, Running and Pelvic Lift.

I often finish my Reformer – due to time constraints or exhaustion constraints – at Pelvic Lift and then I do a bit of rolling on the Mat – without visiting our Control Push Up Series or our series of Splits.

Today I vow to change my (quasi) cheating ways.

Especially for my body – and I suspect for many of you out there – one-sided exercises are crucial to strengthen my one-sided body. Sure they are fun (?) stretchy splits, but more importantly the split series works each side individually.

Just what I need to be skipping doing.

Front Splits on the Reformer

Welcome to Front Splits, all the fun of Single Leg Pull and Going Up Front combined!

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

See the upside down Front Split?

(Scroll down for a shot of Going Up Front)

The Front Splits on the Reformer is a wonderful opening of the hips in preparation for the full-on splits of the 2 subsequent exercises Russian Splits and Big Splits.

Moments in this exercise are reminiscent of the Down Stretch, but done one leg at a time.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

The Front Splits series has about 4 parts to it which are taught in 2 different orders.

Originally you may have worked the Front Splits thusly:

  • Standing up with one foot on the footbar, front leg bent
  • Standing up hands behind head
  • Kneeling on the carriage one foot on footbar
  • Finishing kneeling balance

You'll see both this order as well as the one I prefer to use now, which is exactly the same parts just reorganized:

  • Kneeling on the carriage with one foot up on the footbar
  • Kneeling balance
  • Standing up with one foot on the footbar, front leg bent
  • Standing up hands behind head

I enjoy the preparation of what is essentially a kneeling thigh stretch – your one-legged Down Stretch! – and the standing strength move as the final moment of each side.

Check out both versions of the Front Splits in the video at the end of this post.

See what you think.

Front Splits Deconstructed

Here you are in a similar position to our oh-so-favorite series The Long Stretch Series.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

Oh boy.

Dare I say you may face the same plight of overworking with the arms and upper body in the Front Splits? Remember what's attached to the carriage: the lower body.

The Front Splits – all the splits to be precise – are lower body exercises.

I love the standing moment in the Front Splits as it is Going Up Front on the Chairs all over again.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

What good news!

Work to keep this much lower body action especially when you've got your hands on the footbar.

Enjoy this short tutorial.

Stay tuned for our next installment, Russian Splits.

And here's where to find me in 2017.

March MATness Day 13: The One Leg Kick

March MATness Day 13: The One Leg Kick

At first blush some Pilates exercises are no big deal.

Right…

Enter the One Leg Kick.

What's going on here anyway?

Although it was hard to keep my legs tightly together, what's so hard about bending your legs and kicking your bottom a few times?

Okay, pull my stomach in.

So?

Let's. Look. Closer.

The Order of the Universe: It's Swantastic!

March MATness Day 13: The One Leg Kick

The One Leg Kick is our 2nd exercise since – in a radical turn of events – we've landed on our bellies. 

Here in the Land of Swan we're still expected to scoop our middles off the floor and yet somehow lift our chests??

Swan, One Leg Kick and [spoiler alert] Double Leg Kick place our limbs in various configurations.

Don't be distracted: it's still Swan. Our body shape is an elongated evenly arched back position.

No dumping in the lower back please. 

Now where did I put my 2-way stretch?

I'm sure it's here somewhere.

One Leg Kick presented a puzzle to me: how is this exercise like all the others?

How do I find our quintessential Pilates exercise the Double Leg Pull

If you, like me, are also bereft of your Double Leg Pull in the One Leg Kick here's a few tips I've found to be helpful:

  • Reach your toes away with your legs straight before starting the kicks. Not only will you increase the opening in the hips and thighs but you may even pinpoint a teensy bit more of your seat. Huzzah!
  • As you replace each leg into the floor reach away in both directions augmenting and elongating your Swan shape and your lift with each switch of the legs.
  • Use your forearms to firmly press into the Mat creating greater lift in he upper body.
  • Squeeze the legs together more than you think possible. Then do it some more.

Help to be Found in the Greater Pilates System

My helper exercise isn't an easy one but it helps to find your center in the One Leg Kick (always the first thing to go).

Hamstring Stretch on the Reformer

March MATness Day 13: The One Leg Kick

You may encounter this exercise in a few forms: Rocking, Hamstring Curl and Mushy Tushie.

I originally learned a version of this exercise on 2 springs but Hamstring Stretch is done on 1 spring. Use both legs if you're new to the exercise before working the one leg version. 

It's a familiar position yes? 3 sets is plenty here on the Long Box.

Do 5 sets of One Leg Kick on the Mat

Enjoy the MATness!

Use my Mat workout playlist on my YouTube channel for your daily Mat exercises. Even if you've only got 5 minutes, there's a workout for you.

Check out my new poster which features all the exercises in Joe Pilates' manifesto Return to Life plus a few more.

Related Mat Posts:

And here's where to find me in 2017!

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

It's hard to believe we are on the cusp of March MATness 2017!

How did it all start?

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

Now in its 5th year, March MATness is a global celebration of the original Mat exercises and brilliant body conditioning system that is our beloved Contrology.

Read more here.

OMG I love the Mat exercises!

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

Yes.

It's true.

I'm endlessly fascinated with all of Joe's Mat exercises. He stretches us to the very edges of our capabilities with infinite variations on a theme.

My personal Mat workout consists of the 34 exercises from Joe Pilates and the 3 extra ‘Series of 5‘ exercises reportedly added by Romana Kryzanowska: Single Straight Leg Stretch (Scissors), Double Straight Leg Stretch (Lower Lift), and Criss Cross. Another staple is Thigh Stretch, an exercise Jay Grimes learned from Joe Pilates in the 1960s.

Which brings my total to a whopping 38 exercises!

Sometimes I like to add the High Bridge after the Shoulder Bridge. Because I can.

And if you can you should.

Every little bit of this workout can be completed in under 30 minutes.

Let's get the party started with the Hundred on Wednesday March 1, 2017.

The Order of the Universe

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

I'm a huge fan of Joe Pilates' original order of the Mat exercises.

What a precious gift from Joe Pilates.

We've got an entire month (and beyond) to focus on his brilliant sequencing.

Thanks Joe.

If you're new to the order of the Pilates Mat exercises get your list of the exercises here.

Stay tuned in March for the debut of My Mat Poster…coming soon!

3 Cheers for our Faves

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

This year I'm thrilled to have a few more favorites on the Mat than in previous years. Maybe you do too.

Since last year's MATness I have come to thoroughly enjoy Swimming.

Way more than I ever thought possible…

Other stretchy favorites include Control Balance and Bicycle.

Don't get me started on the rolling exercises…  #goodtimesroll

Wanna take a closer look?

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

On the Mat, perfecting your exercises can take time.

Use these posts to dive in deep this week and sail on through the weekend:

Maybe you're ready to link your exercises together into one glorious chain of movement?

Tighten up those transitions between exercises all month long:

Or you can watch the playlist on YouTube.

MATness All Month Long

I hope you'll join me here for Mat-centric posts as we move and sweat our way through the MATness.

Got an exercise you'd like to see featured in a post or tutorial?

Leave a comment below and I'll get on the Mat!

And here's where you can find me in 2017.

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