I bet you’ve heard the man dressed in athletic clothes with a pre-workout drink in his hand boast to his friends, “It’s leg day at the gym.” Perhaps this has even been you, or maybe it is you. No judgement here! We just hope you keep reading to find out why you’ll never hear a Pilates instructor say “It’s _________ day at the studio.”
An overarching theme in Pilates is finding and creating balance within the body. Just as we seek to eat balanced meals and balance our work and play, we should seek to create a balanced body. Doing so optimizes our movement mechanics. We need balance between strength and flexibility. We need balance between our left and right sides. We need balance between front and back. We need balance between endurance and power. We need balance between our intrinsic and extrinsic muscles. Overall, we need balance for functional movement.
The Pilates repertoire is designed to strengthen the body in a balanced way. There are countless exercises, all of which have a different objective and muscle focus. For example, the Pilates roll up exercise works spinal flexors while the Pilates swan exercise works spinal extensors. Additionally, Pilates heavily emphasizes the need to strengthen our intrinsic muscles which support our stability. In this way Pilates is kind of like working the body from the inside out. (Don’t worry, we’ll work your glutes and biceps too.) With all the options that the Pilates repertoire offers, it’s our job as instructors to piece the exercises together into individual workouts that strengthen the body in a balanced manner.
Every Pilates group class and private session offered at MPS and Central Core incorporates forward flexion and extension, lateral flexion, and rotation among all types of joint movements as appropriate with your physical abilities. Additionally, all of our group classes incorporate a theme of the week. Theme examples include a specific muscle engagement such as transverse abdominal recruitment or muscle hypertrophy.
It is known that complacency in training can result in plateaus and decreased muscle engagement. Accordingly, one reason for incorporating themes of the week is to help avoid complacency with our Pilates practice. While Pilates exercises are nuanced, it is easy to take short cuts once the exercise is no longer new. (Even us instructors need themes of the week to avoid going into autopilot mode.) Beyond the concern of complacency, themes allow us an opportunity to engage in a layered based approach to focusing on all Pilates has to offer. Take the following for example.
We will still teach spinal flexion, extension, rotation, etc. exercises as well as leg and arm exercises for a transverse abdominal theme. However, we will direct your attention on each exercise towards your transverse abdominals to emphasize the importance of abdominal engagement through all movements. In other words, we work EVERYTHING—both intrinsic and extrinsic muscles—in Pilates in a balanced manner even when we are working with a specific theme. And while we do incorporate themes of the week, we still incorporate all types of joint movements in a balanced manner with each routine.shaking from working intrinsic muscles you didn’t even know you had before.