Are You Engaging Your Abs or Your Butt?

In almost every exercise it is easy for another part of the body to take over and do the work of the muscles we are targeting.  This is particularly true when we do a pelvic tilt or rock from imprint (basically a flat lower back) to neutral (the natural curve in your low back).  Often instead of initiating imprint using the abdominals, people will squeeze the butt.  It gets the job done, but you then you miss all that wonderful ab work.  The glutes are a major mover and a big muscle.  They can create an imprinted position when called upon to engage that way.  But if you want to strengthen and improve control of your abdominals, particularly to counteract back pain and help protect the back when moving, you need to make the glutes quiet down and learn to fire the abs.  So how can you tell if you are engaging your abs or your butt?

What Do You Feel?

Start by just stopping to notice what you feel.  Is your butt squeezing when you imprint?  Do you feel like your legs are involved by sort of pushing into the floor?  Do you even feel the abs doing the work?  If […]

Are You Engaging Your Abs or Your Butt? 2018-03-07T16:19:39+00:00

Maggie’s Workout Routine

Of course you can always find me planking like here on the Turkish Steps in Sicily.

People occasionally ask what I do for a workout routine.  I like variety and my schedule changes seasonally.  But this is basically what I’ve been doing currently.  My calendar is marked with my workouts to give them a sense of priority.  Both my body and my mind need me to exercise.  When I skip workouts I turn into a gremlin.

Mondays:

Run 3-4 miles with cool down walk/stretch

Tuesdays:

Ride a stationary bike for 30-minutes

Five to ten minutes of stretching

A private Pilates class

Wednesdays:

Run 3-4 miles with cool down walk (ride the bike when it is cold)

Thursdays:

Day Off

Fridays:

Run 3-5 miles with cool down walk and stretch (in summer/fall the distance increases)

Saturday:

Kickboxing class or something high intensity

Sunday:

Run 3-5 miles with cool down walk/stretch

Additionally

Though not on the schedule, I try to walk 2 or more miles at least three day a week.  Winter weather can get in the way of that.  I also throw in 10-minute Pilates workouts—short workouts for myself or to post on YouTube.  After I ride the bike or run I usually do some Pilates because I like that […]

Maggie’s Workout Routine 2018-02-14T15:21:46+00:00

Get the most out of your ab workouts

Most people I’ve met want fabulous abs.  Others are looking for ways to strengthen and support their back knowing that abs play a roll.  Whichever desire motivates us (and sometimes it’s both), we often make time for ab exercises.  That’s great, but if you’re going spend time doing ab workouts, let’s make sure you are working them the best you can without hurting other parts of your body.  Here are some ways to get the most out of your ab workouts.

 

  • Knees over Hips

It’s really easy for the knees to creep in, but keeping them over your hips will create a lot more ab work.

There are lots of exercises for the abs where the legs are in the bent in the air.  Often on these exercises the knees start to creep in over the stomach instead of staying over the hips.  If that happens because you are taking pressure off the back, that’s a form of modifying, but know that you want to build up to being able to support your legs in tabletop position (with the knees and hips at 90-degrees).  It’s not worth straining […]

Get the most out of your ab workouts 2018-02-14T16:33:04+00:00

How to “Knit the Ribs”

One of the hardest basic principles in Pilates is referred to as knitting the ribs.  The goal is to ensure that your ribs stay connected during movement and that they don’t pop.  Most people when they move their arms, particularly over head allow their ribs to pop up—losing the connection with the abdominal muscles.

Knitting the ribs does not only provide you better ab-work, but it also created a healthier spine.  This video can help you start to understand and visually see what it means to knit the ribs.  Lying on the floor will make it easier to feel if are connecting because you can use the floor beneath you as a contact point.  Once that starts to become easier you can play with the concept in a seated or standing position.  Any overhead exercises are the time to check in on your ribs and make sure you are not arching your back in order to move the arms more.

As you experiment remember not to be forceful.  You shouldn’t feel like you are jamming your ribs into the floor.  Just like you don’t want to jam the back into the mat when you rock to imprint on pelvic tilts.  […]

How to “Knit the Ribs” 2018-02-14T15:32:24+00:00

Conquer the Full Roll Up

full-roll-upThe Full Roll Up is one of the Pilates exercises that frustrates people the most. So many people struggle with this movement. They get discouraged and blame their abs. Sure, your abs might be a part of the problem. They may need to get stronger to do the exercise, but they also might just need to learn how to fire properly—meaning they could do it if they understood what they were supposed to do. Most of us weren’t taught how to do a sit up or ab exercises properly. Many of us use other muscles like hip flexors or the muscles in the neck to try to pull ourselves up to a seated position. Your abs might be strong enough, but they’ve never had to do the work before, why should they start now? And it’s not just about your abs. Tightness in your back could be getting in your way. So, how do we break it all down so you can conquer the full roll up?
First, cut yourself some slack. Yes, it’s true, you might not be able to do this exercise right now, but that does not mean you […]

Conquer the Full Roll Up 2018-02-14T17:41:48+00:00