The Complete Guide to Joseph H. Pilates' Techniques of Physical Conditioning: With Special Help for Back Pain and Sports Training / Edition 2

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Pilates is enjoying a surge in popularity as more people discover the way it improves strength, muscle tone, flexibility, and stamina; relieves joint and back pain; and reduces stress. The method, created by Joseph Pilates, is based on strengthening core muscles while increasing the flexibility of the supporting muscle groups. This book details Pilates' original floor program, with newly revised descriptions and step-by-step photos of the exercises.

This new edition contains information on daily living patterns that can disrupt the body's biomechanics; back-strengthening routines for sports like golf, tennis, and racquetball; exercises for computer users - upper back, neck, and shoulder routines; more advanced versions of the original exercises; and the stamina stretch, to increase breathing capacity and support abdominals before each exercise. In addition, the book offers an introduction to the history and philosophy of the Pilates system, information specifically for athletes, a chapter addressing pain relief, and helpful illustrations and worksheets.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780897934381
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 4/9/2004
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 808,056
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.02 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Read an Excerpt


With Special Help for Back Pain and Sports Training
By Allan Menezes

Hunter House Inc., Publishers

Copyright © 2004 Allan S. Menezes
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-89793-438-1

Chapter One

Why Our Bodies Need a Regular Fitness Program

Man should bear in mind and ponder over the Greek admonition-not too much, not too little. - J. Pilates


Have you ever wished for more mental and physical stamina to aid you in playing longer with the children or grandchildren, completing the daily household chores, or even playing that extra game of tennis without becoming overfatigued? Have you ever wished to have more energy at the end of each day, rather than feeling drained? Have you ever wondered why so many people accept the back pain with which they live?

Why do we act and move the way we do? Why do we sometimes feel the same aches and pains as our parents did? Why do we develop new ones that our parents did not have? Will we acquire the same maladies that afflict the elderly people we know?

To a great extent, the answer to many suchquestions can be found in our current lifestyle: the fast pace of modern life, our eating habits, the effects of the greenhouse gases, and so on. Over many years, such a lifestyle can lead to mental and physical stress, which in turn causes the body to break down. This breakdown can manifest itself in several forms, ranging from mild allergies to severe and chronic aches and pains, to various types of injuries, or even to the breakdown of our personal relationships.

Such stresses can have a lasting effect on our lives. That is why we feel the urge to "get away from it all"-to escape to the mountains or the coast, to a quieter, more tranquil environment where we can "be ourselves." But at the end of our getaway we have to face it all over again. How are we supposed to cope with the pressures of life? How do we control our bodies so that they do not give way on us? Ultimately, how do we live longer, happier, healthier lives?

We can usually do very little about our inherited conditions. We cannot change the color of our eyes or the tone of our skin. And other, noninherited factors affect us as well. As we develop, we learn from those around us-our parents, our teachers, our peers, and others with whom we come in contact. Whether these experiences are good or bad, we tend to use them as reference points in our lives. We develop a mindset about what our abilities and capabilities are, formed in part by what we are told we can and cannot do.

We are affected by the choices we make in these formative years. Consider how as schoolchildren, many of us carried a heavy bag full of books, usually slinging it over one shoulder. One possible effect of this behavior is the development of scoliosis of the spine, a condition that can lead to back pain later in life if left untreated and if the contributing behavior continues throughout our developmental years.

As adults, we attempt to achieve more and to improve ourselves, usually by working long hours. As we try to accomplish higher goals, whether in the workplace or in our personal relationships, our physical and mental selves bear the brunt of our efforts at self-improvement. In order to handle difficult situations on a day-to-day basis and to sustain the changes we undertake, we require our bodies to provide us with increased mental and physical support and energy. The adage of "healthy body, healthy mind" is as true today as it has ever been. Even truer still is one of Joe Pilates' favorite quotes, from the German philosopher Frederich von Schiller: "It is the mind which controls the body." It is certainly of more benefit to be in control of your body rather than at its mercy!


Our workplace environment has become more sedentary, and our leisure time has followed suit. Children now spend more time in front of television and computer than ever before. These habits tend to follow them into adulthood. The era of the "couch potato" is upon us, and we have failed to notice that fact until almost too late. In addition, when our forebears began to walk upright many millennia ago, the resulting changes in how we moved our bodies led to a restriction of movements in our joints and an unbalanced configuration in our bodies and muscles.

This means that we tend to favor one group of muscles more than the others when we perform most of our day-to-day activities. For example, each time we throw or kick a ball we tend to use the same arm or leg, women tend to hold a baby predominantly on the same hip, and we tend to hold a telephone to the same ear with the same hunched shoulder. These one-sided actions cause imbalances in the body. Even the way we walk, perhaps with an unnoticeably longer stride in one leg, can unbalance our musculoskeletal structures and can lead to back pain and even migraines.

Over time these continuous, repetitive movements become set in the memory of the muscle. These set movements, or engrams as they are known, stay with us for many years. For instance, even if we have not ridden a bicycle for many years, we are still capable of doing so without falling off. Engrams also set a neuromuscular pattern in our brain, so certain movements become habitual. These habits may not affect us for years. The problems occur when we change a habit and attempt a different movement.

Our pattern of movement, then, becomes our physical "safety zone." Even if we know we move in an ungainly way (usually because it's been pointed out to us, not because we have noticed it ourselves), we feel it is normal.

For example, walking with slight knock-knees is not a grossly distorted movement. It is, however, noticeable to others. To the person walking this way, the movement seems normal, and the gait feels just as fast and fluid in execution as anyone else's, but it is not how 90 percent of the population walks. If the gait is to be corrected, the inherent pattern of movement requires change. Even though the person who has knock-knees may experience no physical discomfort, there may be reasons to change his or her way of walking, such as to improve speed in a 100-meter race, or to walk as a model down a catwalk.

Similar muscular pulls occur in many of our everyday movements: women who wear high heels walk with a forward tilt, which they correct unconsciously by leaning backward. The result is forward tilt of the pelvis; the compensation of the backward lean tends to arch and tighten the lower back.

In most cases a realignment of the body's "abnormal" position to one that is normal requires a reeducation of the musculature, assuming there are no structural (skeletal) problems.

From the preceding case study we see that our body will align itself without our knowledge according to its own frame of reference. In this case, the frame of reference is a "squaring" of the torso when standing. Visual images of what is straight and correct alignment are imprinted in our subconscious from what we see around us. We then stand accordingly, even if this is not our "natural" position.

Another example is children who experience growth spurts and outgrow their peers, or girls who develop large breasts at an early age. These young people tend to walk with stooped shoulders to avoid bringing attention to themselves. This action tightens the pectoral group of muscles in the chest, resulting in rounded shoulders or a stooped posture that may be carried into adulthood, even though their peers have caught up in height! As a corrective measure, to avoid future problems in the neck and even the lower back, the muscles in the middle of the back, between the shoulder blades (the rhomboids), would need strengthening and the chest muscles lengthening.

In the example of the woman in high heels, the back muscles are forced to tighten into an arch in order to prevent the body from leaning forward. This can lead to a weakening of the opposing muscles-the abdominals. The weakening of the abdominals and the forward (anterior) tilt of the pelvis lead to tight thighs, or quadriceps (see Figure 3).

The situations I've described are of less concern if they do not cause discomfort. However, many years of repeating the same action can set the muscle into what becomes its normal pattern, and this can eventually lead to more noticeable problems, especially if the person fails to follow a corrective exercise program.

Tightness in one group of muscles invariably indicates a weakness in another, usually opposite, group of muscles. In the high-heel example, the weak area would be the abdominals. However, strengthening the abdominals is not the total solution to the condition. Stretching and lengthening the tight muscles (calves, thighs, psoas) is also of great importance in alleviating the problem. Control of these muscles on a continual basis is important. If the lower back is arched because of weak abdominals, then concentration is required to "pull" the abdominals in, even when standing at a bus stop. Reminding the muscles to do the right thing will eventually lead to a more comfortable, correct posture. However, people find it easier to let the body think for itself than to remind it what to do for a few seconds now and then.

Here's a simple activity that can demonstrate how we develop patterns of movement: Fold your arms across your chest, as you would normally do. Next, stretch your hands above your head, then rest them by your side, and now fold your arms the opposite way as quickly as possible. A little confusion occurs here. You may have to focus visually, as well as mentally, on what you are doing. Retraining your thinking to perform the new movement is unusual and requires focus. And tomorrow when you fold your arms, you will automatically revert to the old, set pattern. We do not want to make the extra effort necessary to relearn patterns of movement. Why should we? Everything works well enough, does it not? So leave it alone! As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke don't fix it."

Varying a set pattern, however unnatural the set pattern is, causes confusion both physically and mentally. For a new pattern to become habit takes far longer than we might anticipate. Many people assume that when pain occurs it can be fixed immediately and permanently. In many cases, if the pain is not caused by a sporting injury or an accident, it is the result of an accumulation of incorrect muscle control over a period of time. This gradual buildup of muscle imbalance can later manifest itself in one sudden occurrence: You might be doing something as simple as turning around a little farther than usual in the car seat while driving in reverse, when suddenly your back "gives out." However slight this extra, different movement is, in some cases it is capable of causing extreme pain.

We can see the effects of chronic pain in people all around us. We all know someone who endures pain of some kind, whether it be back pain, neck and shoulder pain, or another type. Pain can be a debilitating "dis-ease" that can lead us to despair of ever finding a "cure."


Weight training and certain sporting activities, such as tennis and golf, create unbalanced muscle structures purely because of the nature of the action that the muscle is required to undertake. For example, the playing forearm of a world-class squash player would be significantly larger than the nonplaying arm. In our everyday lives, the body is "loaded" by normal gravitational forces and also by unnatural forces such as the lifting of shopping bags or the lifting of weights at the gym. These activities sometimes impose a greater force than the counterforce exerted by the body to sustain a level of equilibrium, resulting in muscle strain and possible injury. For example, lifting or bench-pressing a weight greater than that which the body is capable of sustaining results in an extra strain that leads to torn muscles, because the muscles were commanded to exert a far greater effort than they were capable of adequately supporting.

Our joints endure tremendous forces when we run, climb, jump, bend, twist, arch, push, and pull. Joints affected by these movements include practically every place in the body where a bone comes into contact with another bone. For example, although we commonly think of the joints at the elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, wrist, and ankle as bearing most of the brunt of our activities, even those at the fingers, toes, and spine (the vertebrae) are affected by our patterns of motion.

As I have mentioned, gravity is a major stress on the body. As Isaac Newton said, "To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." This is true of every movement we undertake; each of our movements is a counteraction against the gravitational pull of the earth. It is when we make a movement to which the body cannot react comfortably that the weakest joint or muscle may give way, and occasionally even the strongest muscles and joints may overload and strain.

Our skeletal frame is held together by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. We feel overexertion as aching muscles, perhaps after a strenuous aerobics class or a long run. Too much stress or more loading than is comfortable affects not only the muscles but also the tendons and/or ligaments. (Tendons are the connective tissues that attach muscle to bone; ligaments attach bone to bone.) For example, sudden loading and twisting on a skier's knee can tear the cruciate ligaments in the back of the knee, causing him to feel pain in the knee joint.

The direction of the forces that are placed on the joint is also a determining factor in the resultant ache or break of the muscle or bone. In the example of the skier, he could reduce his chances of injury by maintaining flexibility in his hips, knees, and spine. In addition, strength in his thighs, buttocks, and abdominals would give him a greater sense of balance when he's in a forward, bent position. Football players need extra strength to protect their joints because of the extra forces placed on their bodies from all directions. A football player is tackled from the front, back, sides, and other angles, and by different amounts of force, depending on the weight and size and speed of the person performing the tackle.

If a football player were to ski and a skier were to play football, it is clear that further physical conditioning, strengthening, and a change of mental attitude would be required for each to perform the other's sport. Because the muscular and joint stresses of these activities are different, each athlete would ache after an initial training session in the other's sport.


"Give me a lever long enough and I will move the Earth!" - Aristotle

In order to understand the concept of stresses or loads on muscle groups, we need to understand the principle of levers and how they relate to the human body. Having this knowledge will help us be aware of how to reduce the strain on certain muscles by physically (and mentally) applying effort from a stronger muscle in order to protect weaker muscles and joints. (Portions of the following discussion of levers and the human body have been adapted from Fitness Theory and Practice, 2nd ed. See References.)

Levers are rigid rods that move about a fulcrum (also called an axis or pivot point). Two different types of forces act on the lever: resistance (or load) and effort. In the human body, the lever is the bone, the fulcrum is the joint, the effort force comes from the muscle, and the resistance force comes from gravity. Resistance may be increased by adding weight or using elastic bands.


Excerpted from THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO JOSEPH H. PILATES' TECHNIQUES OF PHYSICAL CONDITIONING by Allan Menezes Copyright © 2004 by Allan S. Menezes. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

About the Author ix
Foreword x
Preface xi
Acknowledgements xii
Introduction 1
1 Why Our Bodies Need a Regular Fitness Program
The Effects of Lifestyle and Stress on the Body 6
How We Establish Faulty Patterns of Movement 6
Loading the Body 9
The Importance of Levers 10
You Can Do It! 12
2 Mental Control over Physical Movement
The Inevitable Aging Process 16
Find Your Focus 17
Developing a "Thinking Body" 17
The Eight Principles of the Pilates Method 21
1. Concentration 21
2. Centering 22
3. Breathing 24
4. Control 28
5. Precision 29
6. Flowing Movement 29
7. Isolation 30
8. Routine 30
3 The Importance of Posture
Body Types 34
Factors Influencing Posture 34
What Is Correct Posture? 34
The Tripod Position 34
Postural Assessment 35
Bad Posture and Lower-Back Pain 36
Muscle Imbalances 37
Identifying and Avoiding Pain 38
Listening to Your Body for Greater Results: The Stretch Scale and the Work Scale 41
Body Positioning for Better Exercising 43
The Exercise Formula 43
Body Awareness and Posture 47
The Perfect Torso Posture (PTP) 48
Establishing Correct Posture 48
4 Making Your Pilates Workout Effective and Safe
Warm-Up and Stretching Before Your Workout 56
Pointers for Safe Exercising 58
The Structure of the Exercise Program 58
5 The Warm-Up
Exercise 1 Resting Position (Baby Pose) 62
Exercise 2-1 Standing Roll Down 63
Exercise 2-2 Stamina Stretch 64
Exercises 3 through 6a The Start Stretches 65
Exercise 7 Spiral Stretch 67
Exercise 8-1 Calf Stretch 68
Exercise 8-2 Alternating Calf Stretches 69
Exercise 9-1 Hamstring Stretch: Basic 70
Exercise 9-2 Hamstring Stretch 2 71
Exercise 10 Hamstring Stretch 3 72
Exercise 11 Thigh Stretch 1: Prone 73
Exercise 12 Thigh Stretch 2: Standing 74
Exercise 13 Thigh Stretch 3: Kneeling 75
6 The Routine for Lower-Back Pain and Weak Aboominals
Exercise 14 One-Leg Lifts: Supine 78
Exercise 15 Sliding Leg 79
Rest Position with Knees to Chest for Exercises Done while Lying on the Back 80
Position for All Exercises with Cushion 80
Exercise 16 Preparation with Cushions 81
7 The Basic Routine
Exercise 17 Preparation for the Hundreds 84
Exercise 18 The Hundreds: Basic 85
Exercise 19-1 The Hundreds: Intermediate 86
Exercise 19-2 Percussion Breathing 87
Exercise 20 Single Leg Stretch 88
Exercise 21 Double Leg Stretch: Basic 89
Exercise 22 Single Leg Circles 1 91
Exercise 23 Side to Side 92
Exercise 24 Stomach Stretch 93
Exercise 25 The Perfect Abdominal Curl (PAC) 94
Exercise 26-1 Ankle Weights: Outer Thigh (Abductor) 96
Exercise 26-2 Ankle Weights: Inner Thigh (Adductor) 97
Exercise 26-3 Ankle Weights: Outer Thigh Flexion (Abductor) 98
Exercise 27 Back of the Thigh: Hamstring/Buttocks 99
Exercise 28-1 Arm Weights: Position for All Supine Routines 100
Exercise 28-2 Opening Arms 101
Exercise 28-3 Alternating Arms 102
Exercise 28-4 Double Overhead Arms 103
Exercise 28-5 Arm Circles 104
Exercise 29-1 Arm Swings: Alternating 105
Exercise 29-2 Arm Swings: Chest Expansion 106
Exercise 30 The Pole 107
8 The Intermediate Routine
Exercise 31 The Hundreds: Alternating Legs 110
Exercise 32 Coordination 111
Exercise 33 The Roll-Up 112
Exercise 34 The Roll-Over 114
Exercise 35 Single Leg Circles 116
Exercise 36 Double Leg Stretch 2: Lowering and Raising 117
Exercise 37 Rolling Like a Ball 119
Exercise 38 Crisscross 120
Exercise 39 Stomach Stretch: Alternating Arms and Legs 121
Exercise 40 Single Leg Kick 122
Exercise 41 Double Leg Kick 123
Exercise 42-1 Swan Dive 1 124
Exercise 42-2 Swan Dive 2 125
Exercise 43 Swimming 126
Exercise 44 Spine Rotation 127
Exercise 45 Spine Stretch 129
Exercise 46 Open Leg Rocker 131
Exercise 47-1 Corkscrew: Basic 133
Exercise 47-2 Corkscrew 1: Intermediate 134
Exercise 47-3 Corkscrew 2: Advanced 135
Exercise 48 The Saw 137
Exercise 49 Side Kick 1 139
Exercise 50 Side Leg Lifts 141
Exercise 51 Pelvic Curl 142
Exercise 52 Pelvic Lift 143
Exercise 53-1 Teaser 1: Basic 144
Exercise 53-2 Teaser 2 146
Exercise 53-3 Teaser 3 147
Exercise 54 Leg Pull Prone 148
Exercise 55 Leg Pull Supine 149
Exercise 56 Side Kick 2 150
Exercise 57 Boomerang 151
Exercise 58 Seal 153
Exercise 59 Control Balance 154
9 The Aovanced Routine
Exercise 60 The Hundreds: Lower and Raise 156
Exercise 61 Roll-Over: Bent Legs 157
Exercise 62 Pendulum 158
Exercise 63 Neck Curl 159
Exercise 64 Helicopter Hundreds 161
Exercise 65 Jackknife 162
Exercise 66 Scissors 164
Exercise 67 Bicycle 165
Exercise 68 Shoulder Bridge 166
Exercise 69-1 Can-Can 167
Exercise 69-2 Can-Can Extension 168
Exercise 70 Hip Circles 169
Exercise 71 Lying Torso Stretch 170
Exercise 72 Stamina Stretch: Advanced 171
Exercise 73 Lumbar Stretch 172
Exercise 74 Rocking 173
Exercise 75-1 Twist 1 174
Exercise 75-2 Twist 2 175
10 More Chrllenging Exercises
Exercise 76 Oblique Curls 178
Exercise 77 Wrist and Forearm Strengthener 179
Exercise 78 Neck Stretches 180
Exercise 79 Seated Spine Rotation 181
Exercise 80 Cushion Squeeze 182
11 Theraband Routines
Exercise TB 1 Pointing the Foot (Plantar Flexion) 184
Exercise TB 2 Pointing the Toes 184
Exercise TB 3 Dorsiflexion of the Ankle 184
Exercise TB 4 Eversion of the Ankle 185
Exercise TB 5 Inversion of the Metatarsal Joint 185
Exercise TB 6 Adduction of the Inner Thigh 185
Exercise TB 7 Flexion and Extension of the Leg while Using Outward Rotation of the Hip Joints 186
Exercise TB 8 Hyperextension to Extension 186
Exercise TB 9 Flexion to Extension on the Back 186
Exercise TB 10 Prone Hyperextension to Extension 186
Exercise TB 11 Biceps 187
Exercise TB 12 Triceps 187
Exercise TB 13 Pectorals 187
Exercise TB 14 Pectorals and Deltoids 187
Exercise TB 15 Latissimus Dorsi 188
Exercise TB 16 Back 188
Exercise TB 17 Overhead 188
Exercise TB 18 Side Stretch 188
12 Move Yourself Out of Pain
Specific Conditions and the Exercises That Help to Relieve Them 192
Increasing the Challenge: A Plan for Progressing Through the Exercises 195
Studio-Based Pilates Programs 199
Conclusion 199
References 200
Exercise Charts 201
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