Need motivation to make better health and fitness choices daily? We all do. Welcome to a site loaded with creative, practical tips geared to motivate. Here you'll find essential Pilates principles made fun and simple to enjoy applying everyday.

Hamstring Workout for a Happy Body


Balance test

Balance test

 

TO THE BALL, WE GO!

I am an aspiring minimalist, and this manifests in my workouts for sure. We really can achieve a healthy, balanced, good looking body with very little equipment. Just good old gravity, honest endurance and a little concentration goes a long way. Sure, I believe in the superb benefits of weight bearing and resistance equipment. However, a fun, rewarding skill can be to try to involve as much of the body as possible in a few moves without them. Also, an essential long term goal should always be to achieve as much balance within muscle groups as possible.

This hamstring routine “wakes up” atrophic (sleepy) muscles, and forces them to help out the superstar (hypertrophic) muscles that always try to take the stage!  Balancing on a stability ball, helps us involve the abdominals, “keep the spine on your mind”,  respect symmetry in our shoulders and hips, and relax the neck. All in a humble hamstring workout.  So for these reasons, I think a stability ball is an essential piece of equipment. Here’s how to use it for healthy hamstrings. To the ball, we go!

THIS CHALLENGES GLUTES, HAMSTRING, AND CALVES.

WORK YOUR WAY UP TO THESE REPS

BALANCE ON THE BALL: THIS IS ONLY A TEST

  •  Bridge on the ball. Visualize your spine from the neck to tailbone
  •  Focus on holding the lumbar in the same spot in space by engaging the abs, tell yourself “keep it there, keep it there” while you…
  •  Lift one forearm at a time, then whole arm, René’s Tip: Spread all the “skin” you can picture around your shoulder blades into   the mat. These thoughts should bring you to balancing well on your shoulders.
  •  HOLD FOR TEN DEEP BREATHS. Bring arms back down.

 

ONE LEG BALANCE AND LEG STRETCH: THE WORK BEGINS

Leg stretch with hip stabilization

Leg stretch with hip stabilization

  • Extend leg, turn foot out and HOLD POSE FOR 10 BREATHS
  • Maintaining hip and shoulder symmetry, draw leg up and down without resting, pull to ceiling, pull to wall
  • Engage abs as a “shock absorber” for the move
  • 2 COUNTS OF 8 EACH LEG

 

HAMSTRING CURLS: BIG CHALLENGE

Hamstring curl

Hamstring curl

  • Draw heels to glutes until feet flat on ball
  • Try to keep your tailbone in one spot in space (hips up, neck and shoulders relaxed)
  • GOAL: 8 COUNTS OF 8

 

ADVANCED HAMSTRING CURLS: BIGGER CHALLENGE

Single leg hamstring curl

Single leg hamstring curl

  • Curl in one leg at a time
  • Use abs to keep your hips up in one spot
  • 2 COUNTS OF 8 EACH LEG (it’s killer)

Stretch hamstrings for at least 30 seconds to finish.

For most people, this routine feels really unfamiliar to your body and may give a Charlie horse feeling in the beginning. Listen to your body. You will master this in time.  Be patient, balance in the body takes time. Keeping in mind Pilates principles such as neck and shoulder placement and spinal awareness has a huge payoff. This will help you harnesss unwanted stress and attain important core strength. Challenge your skills in your workouts, and practice these principles in everyday life for a healthy, happy body.

Clam Routine: Beyond the Squat


 

THINK BEYOND THE SQUAT

Why?? Don’t squats cover it all? They sure feel like they do! I know. Well, I don’t really think you should stop doing them if you are. The fact is, though, even the most fit people probably have overworked quads and hip flexors that will lead to posture problems and back pain. Just walking everyday creates this problem because you’re using the same muscles the same way. 15-40% of the world’s population suffer with sciatica pain. So we have to think beyond the squat for balance in the hips, glutes and legs. Don’t get discouraged. It’s a fun, easy fix.

A clam routine targets and strengthens the Piriformis muscle residing deep within the hip, preventing these problems. I view this clam routine as an essential routine to keep balance in the hips and glutes. This routine will help you prevent pain if your a runner or if you’re a gal that just wants to look better in a cocktail dress. Plus, all my clients like it because your at least resting your head. Focus on the good stuff.

NOTE: THIS ROUTINE CAN BE DONE WITH A RESISTANCE BAND TIED AROUND LEGS AND CUT REPS IN HALF

CLAM ROUTINE

David is targeting the piriformis

David is targeting the piriformis

 

  • Lie on your side, “keep your spine on your mind” (keep it aligned from neck to tailbone), bend at knees to almost 90°
  • Try to keep hips lined up, or top hip bone pushed slightly forward to prevent quads and hip flexors from working
  • Glue sides of feet together lift knee slowly up and down
  • Try to stabilize the spine in place, engaging the abs, with a close “romantic” relationship between the abs and spine
  • 3 SLOW SETS OF 8

 

Jeff is involving the hamstring

Jeff is involving the hamstring

 

  • With legs at about 90° lift whole leg slowly up and slowly down
  • Keep knee and foot in the same plane in space all the while
  • Don’t rest on the bottom René’s Tip: Act like your lower leg is hot and you’ll burn the top leg if you rest it on it!
  • 5 SLOW SETS OF 8

 

Dan Dan is targeting the gluteus minimus

Dan Dan is targeting the gluteus minimus

 

  • Point top of knee to side of other knee
  • Lift leg up without kicking, slowly up and slowly down
  • 4 SLOW SETS OF 8

 

Stabilize with lower leg

Stabilize with lower leg

 

  • Keep “glued” feet in the same spot in space as you lift knee up
  • 3 QUICK SETS OF 8

 

Do both sides and this routine is about 15 minutes, which is pretty long for one of my glute routines. But I think it’s a must-do for shaping and balancing the area. For the ladies, your going to love the shape this gives you. For the guys don’t forget…

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Move Mindfully Everyday


All this concentration has to lead to something

All this concentration has to lead to something

 

PILATES WITHOUT THE PILATES

People sometimes throw their backs out picking up a pen. Sometimes people gain 10 pounds and don’t notice until they get dressed for a wedding. There are a lot of bad choices that lead to these dreadful moments.  My Pilates workouts are all about helping us think before we move, in class and in life. I’m passionate about helping people avoid these completely preventable outcomes just by thinking a bit more everyday, and enjoying it along the way! These are 5 simple tips I practice that help me move mindfully everyday, without taking up time or taking away my happiness.

1. BONE UP WHILE BRUSHING ? While brushing your teeth, instead of hunching and scrunching, slide those shoulder blades down your back, lengthen your neck, and try standing on one leg equal time. This tweak will help increase bone density. You can lengthen a leg behind you for a stretch, and pulse it up for some glute work as you polish those pearly whites, too.

2. SAVED BY THE BEAN ? Keep a bowl of beans ready to go in the fridge at all times, and a jar of salsa. This can be your tasty, go-to, high fiber, quick snack for those times you come home starving and want to eat everything in sight.

3. DRY SQUAT ?  (More for the ladies) Hold a squat position as you dry your hair, put on makeup, or do anything to get ready in the mirror.

4. GREEN CHALLENGE ?The supermarket sells 1 pound packages of mixed greens. Pick one up for only yourself, and tell yourself to finish it one week. (If you do this every week you’ll get sick of greens, though). When I do this it helps me focus on what I’m putting in my body rather than what I’m depriving it of. You can throw a handful of awesome nutrients in your body after every meal doing this instead of reaching for more fattening food. You’ll feel great about every meal.

5. SUPERMARKET STRETCH ? Whenever you have a small or medium load, put equal weight on each arm walking out of the market, sliding shoulder blades down and engaging abs. While walking, take long strides.  René’s Tip: Act like your pushing the floor down and back behind you. You’ll get a better hip flexor and hamstring stretch.

Don’t let lack of time and stresses of your environment rule your health. A little forethought prevents many a disaster. Try these tips and soon you’ll move mindfully without thinking of it at all. Stay tuned for more everyday tips that keep us on track.

 

Vacation Workout: In Room


 

"Relaxing" at the Smokies

“Relaxing” at the Smokey Mountains

 

WHEN THE HOTEL GYM FEELS LIKE A HASSLE

“I need a vacation…after that vacation!” That’s a pretty common sentiment in my house. Here’s a snapshot above of my vacation last week. We try to prioritize relaxation, but it sometimes requires a lot of activity just to relax. Also, it can be challenging for families to have the same mindset on vacation, as you see my husband loves activity. Me? I can probably sleep on the beach for five days and people may check my breathing. But we work to make it work. Exactly, more work. So why workout on vacation? Isn’t it just more work? Yes and no. I think we have to make refreshing and rejuvenating ourselves a priority on vacation. So this may rule out going to the hotel gym, if your itinerary makes it too much of a hassle. Therefore a vacation workout can be just the thing to bring peace and control to your “internal environment”, your body, since vacations are not devoid of external stressors. I’ve learned to view it this way and it really helps me relax even more.

So for years I’ve convinced myself to do a few satisfying moves in the hotel while my husband is in the shower.

If I don’t have the time or energy I don’t get upset if I don’t get to this, but if I do…I bust out the white towel to use as my mat and do this…

HIP HIKES

4 SLOW SETS OF 8 REPS

  •  Anchor the shoulders, lengthen the neck, breath deep to expand the ribcage, relax tops of shoulders
  •  Exhale long out the mouth: squeeze every vestige of air out and engage the abs as bring legs straight up
  •  Turn feet out to engage thighs along with belly
  •  DIGNIFY EACH VERTABRA as you use your abs to “grab the spine” and peel it off the floor. Think peel the tailbone, then low back, then center back, place your feet as high as you can
  •  Descend slooowwwly . Think place center, then lower; vertabra by vertabra

René’s Tip: IT’S NOT ABOUT GETTING UP HIGH. But think of it as every vertabra matters. It’s about peeling up what you can peel up slowly, hitting your spot and descending slowly. Even if you only peel up your tailbone and the next few vertabrae.

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BACK PLANK TRICEP DIPS

AIM FOR 100 REPS

  • Hold the backward plank
  • Bend at the elbow, try to maintain the same relationships between, hips, spine and shoulders. Chin to chest, relax neck.

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BRIDGE ROUTINE

4 SETS OF 8 EACH LEG

  • Anchor the shoulder girdle, bridge up, align feet with knees, knees to hip
  • Stabilize your tailbone in space as you draw a line with your leg from ceiling to wall, lining up the knees
  • Engage abs to anchor. No tailbone wiggles. No head sliding. Use abs as a shock absorber.

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8 SETS OF 8 EACH LEG UP

  • DIGNIFY EACH VERTABRA melting one at a time slooowwwly into the towel and take your time coming up
  • Abs as a shock absorber

image image

I do this, not because I’m a fanatic, but because it feels good to lift and tone the muscles I want to look good. It’s not a lot of effort. It’s the perfect vacation workout for me. Its not a hassle. Its “me time”. It’s quick and secret. It makes me feel like I look better in the tropics or feel energized for the mountains. Of course, this is a great anytime, any room workout. But if your going on vacation put your hotel towel to good use and try this!

 

Lower Belly Workout: Stable Spine


This is not as crazy as it looks...really

This is not as crazy as it looks…really

 

BELLY ❤️ SPINE

Yes, the belly hearts the spine. Considering this relationship should change the way think about working out. Think of your belly right now: It likes to hug, support and be really close to your spine. You probably instinctively engaged your abs! I hope so,  that’s what I was going for. So the million dollar question “What can I do to workout my lower belly?” gets this million dollar answer: The key to a strong, lean lower belly is all in the close “romance” between the deep transverse abdominal and the lower lumbar spine. Everyone should know this.

I’m in my forties and have been doing this workout since my twenties, and I think it works the deepest. Here’s the lower belly workout that works deep.

STABILIZE YOUR SPINE IN NEUTRAL

You CAN do this without the foam roller, but c’mon they’re like 10 bucks on eBay and it will come in two days. They really are awesome for learning about your spine and keeping healthy, balanced muscles.

There is no abdominal flexion in this routine. Just get on the mat, or foam roller and ➡️ FIND NEUTRAL SPINE. Focusing on maintaining your natural curve in your lower lumbar (5 vertebrae in low back), place your legs in tabletop position pictured. The foam roller makes this easier to focus on, but challenges the muscles to perform more.

Maintain neutral spine with tabletop legs

Maintain neutral spine with tabletop legs

  • Just push your feet forward about 3 inches maintaining neutral spine and DON’T LET IT ARCH. That’s it. It’s hard to keep in place, you’ll see.
  • Hold for 10 slow deep breaths (about a minute) 2 TIMES. Your control will be better the second time and can bring your feet out further. NOTE: This is not about a long leg extension, but about primarily controlling the low back from the arch. René’s Tip: You can put your foot to the floor a moment to help adjust the spine when it arches as much as you need to. Even if you have a strong transverse, your back still will arch from time to time. Just put it in place and carry on!

 

TINY STEPS ROUTINE

"Tiny Steps" deep work: Fight arching the back

“Tiny Steps” deep work: Fight arching the back

 

  •  Next, keeping the 90 degree angle if the leg drop in down as far as you can maintaining the low back’s natural curve WITHOUT ARCHING THE BACK.  It’s hard. So it’s not about touching the floor. If you are able to go that low, touch lightly, stay active in the belly
  • Do 8 slow motion reps each leg
  • adjust as you need with the above tip, on exhales: think if gripping the spine with the belly, inhales: melting shoulders down and keeping the neck in neutral, chin towards chest
  • take a break: feet on the floor bridge up to stretch hip flexors

 

LEG CIRCLES

Leg Circle: Stabilize everything else

Leg Circle: Stabilize everything else

 

  • 8 slow motion circles each direction, each leg. It’s not about a big circle, it’s about spine control.
  • try to relax toes, head, ankles, neck, and knees (spell T.H.A.N.K.S.)

 

LEG LOWERS

Leg Lower: Keep the spine in place

Leg Lower: Keep the spine in place

 

  •  8 slow leg lowers, linger for a deep breath at the bottom
  •  even lowering a just few inches is good, wherever you can place the feet without arching, grip with the belly.

 

SLOW SCISSOR

Slow, Controlled Scissor

Slow, Controlled Scissor

 

  • 3 sets of 8 slow, scissors, think pull feet to the wall then ceiling
  • Control spine arch, and control any rocking or wiggling in the spine

 

If you got this far reading this, I really hope you try it! I would never make you do this for nothing.

This workout takes stress out of the spine and puts it in the belly. This is for all levels, if you don’t expect perfection.  Remember just bring a foot to the floor to bring yourself back to neutral as often as you need. As your abdominals get stronger and used to stabilizing the spine, you will need to adjust less and less,l I promise.

It’s my hope everyone can learn these basics and get a great lower belly workout without a professional standing over them and adjusting them. But I’m happy to answer any questions if you have them, since I can’t come to your house.

 

Neck Stretches Made Simple


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NECK STRETCHES: A HEALTHY HABIT SHOULD BE SIMPLE

Einstein said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”.  Simple is smart. I believe over-explanation is sometimes a frustrating problem in written fitness tips, so I’m trying my best here. What I do know is no one needs to know the word “scapula” to have healthy shoulders or should have to know what a “cervical spine” is to have a healthy neck, but everyone absolutely should have the basic know-how to keep them healthy! So here’s the simple thing I hope to help you do: STRETCH YOUR NECK…EVERYDAY. IT’S NOT HARD. EVERYONE SHOULD DO IT. So here’s 3 simple, everyday tips to take care of your neck without sacrificing any time.

EASY, EVERY DAY NECK STRETCH

The stretch Dean is doing above can be done sitting or standing, almost anywhere. It hardly needs explanation. All you do is hold your spine as straight, slowly tilt your head, and apply gentle pressure for about 30 seconds each side. The hard part is convincing yourself that you should do this, not learning to performing it.  René’s Tip: I do this at red lights while driving. But don’t forget your driving…Just look at the picture and do it, practice this simple stretch. We can prevent debilitating head, neck and shoulder pain by doing this every day. The benefits far outweigh the effort.

EASY, EVERYDAY NECK CONSCIOUSNESS

Lengthen the neck, draw the chin toward the chest

Lengthen the neck, draw the chin toward the chest

  •  Everyone should know how to hold their neck to keep it healthy, yet the average person is usually unfamiliar with this concept until they are injured. Lynh (above) is simply picturing the vertebrae in the neck, (there are 7) and trying to stretch the muscles within, lengthening the neck. The chin will naturally aim toward the chest, and the stretch feels so right. That’s it. This head placement is not only for while working out, but while sitting, standing, walking, dancing…everything. Notice it doesn’t need much explanation. Just do what is pictured.
Don't overthink "head nod" stretch within the vertabrae

Don’t overthink “head nod”, stretch within the vertabrae

  • In Pilates, there is an exercise called “head nod” to teach this. Pilates certainly deserves praise for helping so many people know their bodies and move them mindfully. Although head nod teaches something essential, if you don’t love Pilates, this vital concept can get lost in the sauce of gaze placement, emphasis on breathing, someone standing over you, possibly touching you!, directing you with imagery etc. This grieves me because, obviously, not everyone will love this method, but everyone needs to learn to stretch around their neck vertebrae. It’s simple and anyone can do it throughout the day easily. You do not need an instructor to coach you. Your smart. So just look at the picture above of Dean and imitate it right now. Lengthen the neck, chin towards the chest. Get a feel for for that stretch, love it, and keep practicing it! The benefits will be immeasurable.

EASY, EVERYDAY HEAD WAG

Here’s another simple, everyday practice. While sitting, typing, standing, cleaning, your kid writes on the wall in crayon, or anytime you become aware of your neck and shoulders gathering stress…wag your head. I actually cue people to do this often in my classes in the middle of stretches and workouts, as it helps us take stress out of bad places and direct it to the core.

But for everyday, anywhere, just wag your head…often. Like this…

  • Keeping your body stable, as if your saying “nooooo” emphatically, slooowwwly look to the left and right. Just respect the vertebrae. That’s it. Move fluidly. You’re graceful. You’re smooth.  Breathe deeply. You’ll harness the stress to better places.

 

Resting pose; relax spine then lift glutes a bit and wag the head

Resting pose; relax your spine, then lift glutes a bit and wag the head

Stretch shoukders and wag the head

Stretch shoulders and wag the head

  • If you want your whole spine to benefit, get in the above pictured positions, wag your head there, engage your abs and your whole body will enjoy it. Uncomplicated.

A pain in the neck is really more than a just pain in the neck. These 3 practices should be part of who you are. You may become known as a random neck stretcher and head wagger, but you’ll be pain and stress free.

Core Endurance: Home Workout Challenge


 

True...just a reminder for the guys that think this is easy...try this!

True…just a reminder for the guys that think this is easy…try this!

 

LIKE A RELIABLE, POETIC HERO

I know I can be accused of loving the transverse abdominal muscle a little too much. I love that it’s so deep. It’s so stabilizing, unifying and actually thrives on tests of endurance. A description of my perfect hero, really. The humble transverse abdominal also doesn’t mind giving its glory to our muscles that enjoy the limelight, such as our rectus abdominus (6 pack) and obliques. Actually, the more we test its endurance, the more it will make those muscles proudly shine! It think it seems to suck the outer muscles in like a vacuum, giving you a leaner look just by using it. My hero…So use it we should! Here’s a unique, VERY challenging core endurance routine you can do anywhere. It’s all in the way you do it.

THE “LOW C” CHALLENGE

The Low C Challenge

The Low C Challenge

 

René’s Tip: The LESS weight in your hands the MORE challenging for the core. Use two 2 lb weights or something around there. It’s not about pumping iron, it’s about taking the heat out of the back.

1.  Engaging the abdomen, descend into this low C curve position performed expertly by the lovely Kathy (pictured above) and stay here for 2 slow counts of 10. Get THE LOWEST you can to the mat without touching the mat with your spine at all. Breathe deep, engage abs deep, slide shoulders down the back, and keep a long neck. Just linger here. You’re going to want to take a break but instead…

2.  Slowly (for a count of 4 seconds) descend to touch your lower spine only, very lightly on the mat and take 4 seconds to come back up to the low C position. Do this four times. It’s killer. Then you will want to stop, but remember the transverse likes to endure. So don’t take a break. Drop the weights and…

3. Stay in your lowest C and repeat 1 and 2. If it hurts your back without the weights keep them.

Try to do this 4 TIMES alternating with and without weight.

 

SIDE PLANK WITH SLOW-MO HIP DIP

It's gotta be slow motion

It’s gotta be slow motion

 

Here’s Jeff rocking the pink “Real men do Pilates” Tee. He knows this plank variation hits hard, and so will you.

1.  Hold this side plank for a slow count of 10

2. Take 4 slow seconds to dip the hip to the floor, lightly touch the mat, 4 slow seconds back up. One count of 8. It’s not about the destinations of this move, it’s the long journey down and back. Again, killer. Try not to take a break.

Try to do this 2 TIMES both sides

 

SIDE PLANK WITH SLO-MO WEIGHTED LEG LIFT

"It's about the journey, not the destinations"

“It’s about the journey, not the destinations”

 

Again a little weight goes a long way. Bill is using 2 lbs wisely because it’s more about stabilizing those hips.

1. Holding a 2 or 3 lb dumbbell close to the outside of the knee, take 2 full, slow seconds to move the leg up and 2 seconds down 10 times

2. Do both sides

3. Stretch your hips, back and sides. Done.

These are challenging positions even without the movements. The primary goal is using the muscles in harmony, letting the strong, heroic “father figure” transverse abdominal unite the core family in stabilization. So beginners, just try to endure the low C and side plank and be proud of any slo-mo moves you can achieve. Then, work your way up to more reps with less breaks. Take your time and enjoy the journeys within the workout!

Barefoot Squat Shaper


IT IS CRAZY TO OVERLOOK BALANCE AND FLEXIBILITY

I’m pretty sure Einstein said it is insanity to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.  Of course, in fitness, repetitive movement is necessary to achieve strength, so we tend to think that definition of insanity sounds like a good thing. Fitness types are usually proudly insane this way. However, doing the same old squat, which will inevitably make us strong, will result in an imbalanced muscle group.

The good news is it’s fun and easy to shake things up. Here’s a beloved routine I’ve been doing for years. It promotes balance, flexibility and strength to the hips, thighs and glutes. This squat shaper not only results in a great look, but prevents future injuries that result from imbalances in the hips. This can be done with footwear, but done barefoot, you can be aware of relaxing and wiggling toes the entire time, harnessing the energy more thoughtfully. I think you’ll enjoy this barefoot squat shaper as I do.

BAREFOOT WIDE LEGGED PLIÉ 

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  • Just try your best to get in this pictured position as low as you can.
  • Take 10 long, breaths here about 10 seconds each. You want to be still at least a minute to focus on the “good stuff” which is…
  • Try to get stress out of the wrong places and let the core, thighs and glutes take over so…wiggle your toes, René’s Tip: Wag your head fluidly as if to say “no” really dramatically, the ladies may want to do the belly dance move “snake arms” a while to release stress from the shoulders, elbows and wrists. Gently push the heels of your hands together and relax your neck, tops of shoulders, even your fingers. Keep abdominals engaged. Spine neutral.
  • Now at the slow pace of a little slower than a second per pulse, pulse 10 sets of 10 (yes, 100 pulses) pulse to about an inch lower than you thought was your lowest position
  • Hold for another 10 deep 10 second breaths

 

FEET IN NEUTRAL SQUAT

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  •  Try to point toes forward, placing feet just past your body frame, pause in a low, seated position. If your not used to this position don’t force too much. Do the same relaxing of the joints and core engagement for 10 deep breaths, 10 seconds each.
  • Same as above, 10 sets of 10 slow pulses an inch or 2 lower, slower than a second each
  • Hold your lowest position for 10 long breaths, wag head, wiggle toes
  • Use a dumbbell or extend arms up as you get more advanced in this position

 

HEELS TOGETHER SQUAT

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  • Again, for many this is a tough position. It’s not about going low at first. It’s about getting your muscles to handle it.
  • Take 10 deep 10 second breaths where you think your at your lowest. breathing and PRIMARILY getting stress out of the toes. Wiggle and watch them. Engage the abs while maintaining neutral spine, no hunching
  • The goal is 10 slow sets of 10 here, too. Lower than you thought you could do.
  • Hold again for 10 long, deep breaths

 

DIGNIFY YOUR MUSCLES

This routine can be done in less than 15 minutes, and you will quickly get the instant feeling of waking up sleepy muscles. Work your way up to this amount of reps. Put this routine in your life for balance.

I always say, there’s more to the body than a quad and a bicep.  Yet, we all tend to focus more on the muscles we don’t want to see jiggling in the wind. Many of us also fall into the trap of getting numbers oriented about our goals. If we have the goal, though, to dignify and use muscles we’ve been ignoring, we will have a grateful body. Our balanced body will always thank us for treating it safely and creatively.

 

No Crunch Abs: On the Ball


 

WHEN TIME’S NOT ON OUR SIDE

We all have something to do right now instead of working out.  Even if you’re in the minority whose achieved the goal of actually having a disciplined, scheduled workout week, things STILL get in the way. We’re only human. This is why I believe in having a reportoire of routines that give a lot of bang in a little time. Here’s one of my faves. You will be able to fit this in during your busiest weeks…really. The only catch is you have to THINK more to reap the desired, shredded ab results. Here’s what to think about.

PROPRIO-WHA?!!?

Proprioception is an essential quality to develop in order to move correctly. It essentially refers to your sense of your body in space. For example, bad proprioception is when you jam your finger on the shower door because you didn’t perceive the spatial relationship, as you were more concerned with shampooing to have fluffy hair on your date. Our “internal environment”, as I like to call our body, has many spatial relationships to try to picture. Learning to picture the relationship between the rib cage and the hips, the shoulders in the ribcage, spine and hips etc. helps us use our muscles around them properly. Stretching the right ones, and strengthening the right ones for healthy posture and bodies.

Here’s a quick, easy to remember, results oriented workout in which you practicing proprioception matters. I know this move doesn’t look like much, but if done right, it gets the whole abdominal wrap involved in a great, effective way.

NO CRUNCH ABS ON THE BALL 

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  •  This is all about keeping the spine on your mind. To start, sit on a ball. For this move, the smaller the ball the better. (1.) First, think of your lower lumbar, 5 big vertebrae, picture them. Float your entire ribcage up, creating even space from the hips, thus creating space in between those vertebrae, as you inhale. Basically stretching and decompressing the area. (2.) Try to keep that “stretchy back” idea going as you engage the abs and pelvic tilt, walk forward a bit, holding onto the ball, until you place those 5 lumbar vertebrae in the ball, getting in the above pictured position.

 

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  • Next, as you just place your spine parallel to the floor, your aim is to try to get as much of the spine located in between the shoulder blades and up to the head hanging in space!  Support that head with spread out fingers, using fingers to relax the neck. This isometric should already feel like a work already. If not, you can probably get more of your spine off the ball, so walk back a bit. Take a deep long breath.
  • The move is a crunchless, meaning no flexion in the center of the spine, movement. Just think of using your entire abdominal wrap to lift the ENTIRE spine straight up a few inches. René’s Tip:. Think of your spine like its a pole that if you flex in the center you will break it. So you imagine the whole spinal column, the healthily spaced vertebrae within, working in as one harmonious unit, moving straight up, not forward.
  • Here’s the clincher. The goal is to do 8 counts of 8, 3 TIMES. Take a break of a few deep breaths between each 8 count of 8. After just one 8 count of 8, yes 64 moves, you will feel fatigue, and may feel like your done. So take that break about 2 or 3 deep breaths will gear you up for another. After 3 times, most people will get an intense workout for the entire abdominal wrap.

 

Engage abdominals to maintain neutral spine

Engage abdominals to maintain neutral spine

 

  • Next, if you have time to continue, get on the floor and maintain a neutral spine while extending legs with the ball as long as you can. For 10 long deep breaths is a decent challenge, even for the tough guys! Maintain neutral by basically not letting the lower lumbar arch. Really picture the relationship between the lower abs and the spine and try your best to maintain its natural curve while relaxing your head, neck, shoulders and knees.

 

This can take about 5-7 minutes, if done thoughtfully. I think it’s an essential go-to routine to know for a time crunched week. This works superficial and deep abdominals. Translation: awesome definition and a healthier core and spine are the result. I hope this is a fun, productive exercise in strength and proprioception for you. Pass this on to your time pressed, smart friends, too!

 

Core Challenge: No Crunch Abs


WHY WE SHOULD ALL WORK OUT LIKE WE’RE PREGNANT

This is not just for girls. We can ALL learn a lot by the way a pregnant person is supposed to workout. Really, they are forced to work harder than the crunch! This is because they are at risk from flexion in crunches, which can cause diastasis recti, a tear in the connective tissue connecting the two sides of the abdomen.  We should all be imitating this idea anyway. It yields a strong, balanced core. Pregnant people are not supposed to work out like wimps! And crunches bore me, quite frankly.

This challenging no-crunch ab routine, focusing on true stabilization, makes us work deep and hard and may change the way you think you should be working your core. While doing these moves focus on breathing as slowly and deeply as you can. All moves promote flexibility, and work muscle groups to fatigue.

*If pregnant, be cautious not to try to gain more flexibility, as this is dangerous, and focus more on doing a kegel than whole abdominal engagement. My pregnant model Theresa had a strong core before she was pregnant, so she can master this routine. Always consult a doctor before attempting a new exercise routine.

CORE CHALLENGE: NO-CRUNCH ABS

René’s Tip: These moves are a challenge only when your truly being honest with yourself about your efforts to stabilize. When moving the limbs you must try your best to truly brace the muscles supporting the spine, ribs, and hips. Really think about it. It’s not about perfect stabilization, but trying to use those muscles, as aggressively as you are able. Basically, work to prevent wiggling and shifting! 

  •  SPINE STRETCH AND PLANK CHALLENGE:  “The stretchier the back…the stronger the belly.” I say. Hold this stretch inhaling deep about 30 seconds. Hold this low plank moving a leg up and down slooowwwly. Goal: 2 counts of 8 each leg without falling out. Visualize and stabilize the hips and tailbone. No squiggles.

 

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  •  “C” CURVE CHALLENGE:  This is part of my signature routine. Engage the abs, pelvic tilt, and descend to form the spine in a letter C. Go to where it’s very hard to maintain against gravity and maintain it as long as you can.  Visualize the spine, hips, and ribcage. Keep them in those locations as you slooowwwly move 1. Arms up and down 1 count of 8 slowly (work to stabilize the ribcage) ; 2. Arms out and in for 1 count of 8 slowly; 3. Each leg up and down slowly 8 each; 4. Combine the slow arm and leg movements stabilizing that C. I cannot emphasize the word slowly enough. All the work is in the spine stabilization. If you do it right, you’ll know exactly what I mean. It feels powerful and so right. Goal: do this whole routine without taking a break from the C position.
Maintain C Curve

Maintain C Curve

 

  •  ELEVATED SCISSOR:  You guessed it, scissor the legs slowly in this position. 3 slow counts of 8. Slow, I mean it. Really work at trying not to collapse the low spine. Stabilize those hips. Relaxing the neck and shoulders will be a challenge the first times you do this. If you persist, you will train to the core to take over a few times diligently trying this, and it will become less of a pain in the neck. An encouraging progression to observe.

 

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  •  MAINTAIN “V”:  Hold this position for 10 deep breaths. Less advanced may keep feet on the floor. More advanced, move arms up and down slowly, out and in slowly a count of 8 each way.

 

 

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  •  MAINTAIN SIDE PLANK:  Hold this side plank for 10 deep breaths. More advanced, stabilize the rest of the body while slowly moving a leg up and down. GOAL: 6 slow counts of 8

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Where there is deliberateness and grace, there is strength and beauty. This routine looks slow and boring until you actually get on the floor and try it. My most expert clients, like Theresa and Colleen (pictured) listen to their bodies, stretch, don’t hit every rep, and stop if it hurts their back. Our body is like an “internal environment” we can control much of. This is powerful and comforting, as we can control so little of our external environment and stressors. Try this and share love for thoughtful movement.