The most often used quote, when I teach is: “If the resistance applied to the extremities, is greater than your ability to maintain proper breathing and alignment, the resistance is too heavy.” Yes, I said it! It’s not about strength, its about balanced and coordinated movement. In addition to lifting functional loads, one of most overlooked aspects of strength is flexibility. Like a rubber band, if a rubber band is inflexible and cannot be fully stretched, it will not have the force to generate power. Athletic Pilates is similar to other forms of strength training however, it is devoid of excessive and compressive spine loading. The most notable difference is that the emphasis is on core control, breathing and alignment, and sharing the vertical and horizontal loads. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to gain muscle mass, if that is your goal. Although, I want you to do it well. I also want you to develop balanced muscle mass while adhering to the basic principles Joseph Pilates set out to teach in the 20’s.
Weightlifting has been a part of my life starting at age 18, and has contributed to many injuries, including damage to my spine and shoulders. The dilemma with traditional weightlifting is that, anytime you load the spine while standing upright (vertical loading), you essentially compress the spine. When a load is constantly held or placed above the hips, slowly, over time, this compresses the spine and in my case caused damage. Most all traditional gym exercises are vertical loaded, and place excessive pressure on the entire body, including the spine. This pressure is further compounded with improper body mechanics, poor posture, lack flexibility and simply; lifting more than your body can handle. I often speak of functional training, with regards to daily life and the required loads placed on your body. Weight lifting is no longer functional when you lift more than required in your every day activities. As I discovered, lifting for years, and loading more and more over the years, my spine finally said enough is enough. After two shoulder injuries, three disc herniations and chronic knee pain, I quit! Years after learning the Pilates method and reversing much of the damage to my body, I began to discover new ways to exercise while using the Reformer without a vertical load to my spine. I also realized that this balanced approach to building muscle, restored my spine length and allowed me to rebuild my lost muscle mass. This discovery led me to introduce this athletic Pilates approach in a group class format, my workshops and soon to be published, my Reformer Athletic Pilates workbook.