By Lariesa Bell • Edited by Amanda Altman
Ever since I started my career in the fitness industry 16 years ago, I’ve been on the hunt for exercises that are physically challenging, yet safe and biomechanically correct. The only problem: I noticed a large gap between “challenging” and “correct” in most exercises. That is, until I found the Pilates method. It’s the perfect blend of strength, mobility and flexibility with proper alignment at the forefront.
I’ve always loved using the Cadillac swing, an unstable, moving device with so many benefits. It maximizes neurological returns while working multiple muscles at once, all in a unique way. However, it’s a piece of equipment that tends to be underused in a lot of studios. I want to inspire instructors to dust off this awesome device and put it to good use in a new and refreshing way!
This series will strengthen your muscles with an emphasis on the core while working in multiple planes of motion. It will promote flexibility and mobility in the muscles and joints, and challenge the deep muscles that stabilize the shoulder girdle and pelvic floor. This exercise program is consistent with the important principles of the Pilates method that lead to a better posture, proprioception and alignment to prevent aches and pains. Although not for the faint of heart, once you get into the swing of things these exercises are actually fun!
I genuinely enjoy a challenging workout, but more importantly, a workout that will lead to better alignment and more balanced muscles. Isn’t that why we love Pilates?
Apparatus Setting: Hang the swing about a third of the way from the end of the Cadillac; the strap should be hanging below the seat when applicable.
Breath: Exhale on exertion in a manner that flows with the motion.
• Use the modifications to build your way into these challenging variations. It’s more important to do the exercises correctly than to force them.
• Focus on pulling your naval toward your spine to support your torso and align your spine.
• Keep your shoulders away from your ears.
• Remember to have fun! These exercises will inspire your senses as you move with your breath while challenging your muscles in new ways. The goal is to get to a point where your body can work efficiently with less effort as you perform each exercise.
Core Plank Hinges to Child’s Pose
Purpose: warms the body; works core, shoulder and lower-body stability; stretches the back, chest and shoulders
Setup: Get into a kneeling position with your knees sit bone–width apart, hands shoulder-width apart on the swing’s seat and arms straight.
1. Hinge back from your knees while keeping your arms straight and abdominals active; inhale.
2. Exhale as you lean forward into Plank and stretch your arms in front of you.
3. Keeping your arms straight, relax down into Child’s Pose for a breath.
4. Return to the kneeling position. Do 4 reps.
Get into the swing of things: Maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your hips to your knees until you get to Child’s Pose—avoid arching your back. During the Plank phase, if you’re unable to avoid flexing at the hip joint, then you have gone too far forward; only go to the point where you can maintain proper alignment. Feel your arms and core work to stabilize your body
Side Plank with Adduction
Purpose: strengthens the core and inner thighs; enhances strength and stability in the shoulders and lower body
Setup: Get into a Side Forearm Plank with your top ankle in the strap. Reach your top arm toward the ceiling.
1. Lift your bottom leg to hip level, and hold as you take an inhale.
2. Exhale as you lift your bottom leg a few inches.
3. Inhale as you return your leg to hip level. Do 2 sets of 5 reps on both sides, resting between sets.
Get into the swing of things: Make sure your spine is neutral and your elbow is directly under your shoulder throughout. Focus on keeping your hips stacked and lengthening through your thoracic spine (rib cage). Pay attention to your ankle alignment—don’t allow your joints to buckle. Actively extend your bottom leg from your midline.
Modifications: Instead of moving your leg, just lift and hold for 5 seconds. Feel free to use a fuzzy cover for the strap to make things more comfortable.
Leaning Tricep Press
Purpose: targets the core and triceps while working on pelvic stability and neutral spine
Setup: Facing away from the swing, kneel with your knees sit bone–width apart. Hold onto the strap with your arms extended overhead. Pitch your body forward at an angle—you should be able to draw a straight line from your knees to your hips and to your shoulders.
1. Inhale as you hinge forward from your knees and bend your elbows while keeping your abdominals engaged.
2. Exhale as you straighten your arms into a tricep press to return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 10 reps.
Get into the swing of things: Stabilize your core and maintain length in your torso throughout—you should only be moving at your elbow joint. Engage your lats by widening your shoulders and pulling your abdominals in and up.
Modification: Decrease your range of motion.
Advanced: Do the exercise with one arm in the strap; extend your other arm in front of you at shoulder height. Do 10 reps per arm.
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