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Pilates and Sport | Tempo Pilates Blog

Welcome to the July edition of our Pilates blog. Summer has truly arrived and we’re all still riding high on Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory; strawberries and Pimm’s have never tasted so good! And, as well as Andy Murray attributing his recovery from back surgery in 2013 to Reformer Pilates, many of world’s top tennis players, including Serena Williams, Pat Cash and Martina Navratilova have all credited Pilates with transforming their game.

In fact tennis players at every level are embracing Reformer Pilates, for everything from injury prevention, to rectifying muscle imbalance, improving flexibility and strengthening the core muscles.

If Pilates is good enough for the worlds top tennis players its good enough for us – and it can help you, whatever level you’re at.


So how can Pilates help you improve your game?
Racket sports are one-sided by nature. Most players repeatedly use the same hand and arm to hit the ball, generally in the same direction, with the head and neck adopting the same position. Such pronounced left- or right-sided movements load stress on the body, resulting in a physique that is out of balance and liable to over-use injuries.

Further problems can result from the fact that few tennis players have a bio-mechanically perfect serve. Repetitive, inefficient patterns of movement give rise to problems in the shoulder joints. ‘Tennis elbow’ or inflammation of the muscle tissue and ligaments at the base of the elbow is caused by chronic twisting of the arm, plus repeated shocks to the small bony ridge on the outer elbow.


Reformer Pilates to the rescue
Whether you’re a social player or a budding pro, machine Pilates can not only help reduce the number of tennis related injuries you pick up, it can also improve your range of motion, flexibility and power in your game.

And it’s all to do with core strength.

Most people associate Pilates with the core. This describes not only the abdominal muscles, but all the muscles that support the spine. They help you maintain alignment, which is key for precise body mechanics in ground movement and stroke execution in tennis.


Mental strength
Tennis is as much about mental strength as physical strength and the mind-body connection that Pilates employs is so complete that it contributes to mental discipline on the court. Being able to control the breath and mindfully move the body is crucial in situations requiring mental toughness. And it’s this mental toughness that will give you the edge in any performance situation.

While even the best Pilates instructor may not help you serve like Serena Williams or Roger Federer, a programme of specific Reformer Pilates exercises will work your body more uniformly to prevent overdevelopment of one side, while also strengthening the deep abdominal muscles needed for a stable base from which to hit that winning serve. Addressing flexibility through the shoulders and upper back while lengthening the tighter front muscles of the torso will boost your power and range of motion – and make it easier to reach for that drop shot at the net.


Exercise of the month: Plank
So we’ve established that a strong core will help you improve your tennis game. One of the best Reformer exercises to achieve this is the Plank. It’s a great full-body exercise (working the core, arms, legs and back) and doesn’t require a lot of flexion.

Here’s how it’s done:



With the plank, technique is everything. If you don’t get it right, it will prevent you from getting the most out of the exercise. But it can also feed into other muscle imbalances that may be hurting your posture and performance.

To get the most out of the plank, let’s look at a few of the most common flaws in technique and how to fix them.

Arching your back
The problem: If your abdominals aren’t engaged, your arms will tire from supporting the majority of your bodyweight. When that happens, your first inclination is to arch your back, which puts undue pressure on your spine.

The Fix: Make sure your shoulders are depressed (wide) and that your palms are also wide on the floor. By broadening your shoulders, you will take weight off of your upper body and engage those core muscles that need to be working.

Reaching your butt to the sky
The problem: You shouldn’t look like you are doing a downward dog while planking. You won’t necessarily cause yourself any damage, but you aren’t going to benefit from the exercise either.

The Fix: Get ‘long’ – meaning create some distance between your elbows and your feet. Make sure you are squeezing your glutes and keeping tension in your abs.

Lowering your hips
The problem: When your abdominal and arm muscles start to fatigue, it’s likely your hips will begin to sink. The downside to letting it all hang down is that your core muscles will be less challenged in this position, and you’ll be putting strain on your lower back.

The Fix: Keep your hips raised by tucking your butt in and squeezing your glutes. You can also walk your feet out from each other a bit to give yourself a more stable and solid base. Take deep breaths as you contract and engage your abdominal muscles. Still not sure if you’re doing it right? Balance a bar or a roller along the length of your back as an alignment check.

Looking straight ahead or up
The problem: Another common mistake is cranking your head too far back looking up at the ceiling or straight ahead. This can put a strain on your neck, and as a result, the rest of your form will fall apart.

The Fix: Keep your eyes looking down at so your head and neck are in alignment with the rest of your body. Also think about drawing your chin in towards you — especially when you hit that 60-second mark.

If you need some inspiration for your planks, take some from Mao Weidong – a Chinese policeman, who broke the world record for holding a plank position in May, for an eye-watering eight hours, one minute and one second.


‘Ask the Expert’
Here’s the part of the blog where we answer your burning questions about Pilates. So if you’re wondering which Reformer exercise will best target your glutes, or why your abs shake while you’re holding your plank, post them below, Tweet us, or send us a message on Facebook.

Q: At my Reformer class last week, I heard someone talking about how fun the jumpboard was. What is it?




A: The jumpboard is an attachment that converts a reformer into a horizontal jumping machine. It fixes to the front of the reformer where the footbar is.

While lying with your back on the carriage you can adjust the spring tension and jump on the board as if it were the floor. The spring tension takes gravity out of the equation, so it feels like you’re jumping on the moon.

The jumpboard provides an excellent and non-weight bearing method to increase heart rate, and as a bonus, a jumpboard workout is safe and much easier on the joints than running, as there is no jarring of the knee joints.


Q: I have really tight hip flexors. What’s the best stretch to do on the Reformer to loosen them?

A: All forms of cardiovascular exercise that work the leg muscles involve hip and leg flexion and extension. Over time your hip flexors can become very tight, causing imbalances in the lower body that may affect the spine, knees, ankles and feet. Floor stretches are effective, but exercises on the Pilates Reformer can also safely stretch the hip flexors and correct muscle imbalances in the body. Watch this video demo to find out how:



Q: How can I improve my balance on the Reformer?

 A: Standing work on the reformer offers a perfect way to improve overall balance and posture.

When standing, we use our levers (arms, legs and torso) in a lengthened position, naturally improving our overall balance. And since the reformer carriage is anywhere from 5 to 30 inches off the ground, just getting onto the equipment provides a new perspective and challenges our proprioception and balance.


Standing Side Splits

The Standing Side Split is a great exercise for improving your balance, while strengthening the hip adductors.

Step onto the standing platform, with one foot on the headrest and the other on the moving part of the carriage. Hold the arms in a rounded position out in front of your shoulders.


Step 1:  Inhale and press the carriage out, keeping the legs straight and the weight balanced evenly on both feet. Control the movement with your inner thigh muscles. Pause with the carriage at its widest point.
Step 3:  Exhale and draw the carriage back to the starting position.


Hope enjoyed the blog, until next time.


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Benefits of Pilates | Tempo Pilates Blog

When it comes to Pilates, people are generally die-hard enthusiasts or they’ve never stepped foot in a Pilates studio. If you’re in the latter group but are curious to know what all the fuss is about, you’ve come to the right place.

In this blog, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about Pilates – the why, when and how – including monthly video tutorials of exercises that will help strengthen and lengthen your muscles – the Pilates way.

We’ll also offer you advice on diet, nutrition, fitness and dealing with injuries.

So let’s start at the beginning.

What is Pilates?
Devised by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900’s, Pilates is a series of slow, controlled body conditioning exercises that target the deep abdominal and postural muscles – (the core muscles).

Every Pilates movement applies the six Pilates Principles of centring, concentration, control, precision, breathing and flow to help you establish a strong body – from the inside out.

Pilates is also great for the mind. Each exercise requires mental focus – to perform the exercises correctly, while maintaining your posture and remembering to breathe. It’s also a great way to escape life’s little dramas for an hour.

How long before you’ll start to see results?
Joseph Pilates said that with his method of exercise ‘in 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body.’ Our clients report back that after a few sessions, they’re noticing a difference in the way they hold themselves and how their clothes fit.

What is Reformer Pilates?
When most people think of Pilates, they associate it with mat work. But Joseph Pilates’ original exercise system started out on a machine – and it’s still done that way today, with the Pilates Reformer.

The Reformer can be quite an intimidating sight at first. It looks like a metal bed frame, with a sliding carriage and adjustable springs, which regulate tension and resistance. Cables, bars, straps and pulleys allow exercises to be done from a variety of positions – even standing. The resistance helps you strength train, while the alignment of the device keeps your body straight and supported.

Don’t judge the Reformer by its appearance, because after a few workouts, you’ll realise that it’s one of the most versatile and effective pieces of exercise equipment ever made – and a lot of fun to use too.

Check out this video, click here> to see the Pilates Reformer in action.

Mat v Reformer: Which is best?
The answer of course is both.

Mat work is the bread and butter of Pilates. It’s the foundation upon which everything else rests. With Mat Pilates, you use your own body for resistance, while your core muscles work hard to hold you in position while you perform the exercises.

If you’re completely new to Pilates, mat classes are a great place to start, as you’ll learn the basic moves and how to control your muscles and breathing during them.

With the Reformer, you’re working against resistance from pulleys, springs and levers, to build strength and develop flexibility.  The resistance can be increased or decreased, to adjust the intensity of your workout.

You can perform very basic to highly advanced movements in virtually any position on the reformer, and certain stretches, such as those for the hip flexor, cannot be duplicated on the mat or any other piece of equipment.

With the addition of a canny piece of kit – the Jumpboard, you can add a whole new sequence of exercises to a Pilates Reformer class that have a cardiovascular element. It’s good fun too – like being on a trampoline whilst lying down.

What is Tempo Pilates?
Tempo Pilates is an intense, high-calorie Reformer workout, set to funky music with an upbeat tempo. It’s a fresh, upbeat approach to Reformer Pilates, that’s fun, challenging and stylish.

Why music?
Exercising to music helps teachers create a tempo to teach to, and ensures that everyone is working at the same pace. This makes it easier for teachers to spot students performing movements incorrectly. Exercising to music also helps students synchronise their movements with their breath, through the traditional beats of 4/8 or 16.

Benefits of Tempo Pilates on the Reformer
There are so many benefits of Reformer Pilates – we can’t cover them all in this blog, but to give you an idea, here are a few of the most important ones:

Strong Core
The number one benefit of Reformer Pilates that has most people waiting their turn at the machine is the abdominal definition it gives you. Talk about killer abs – the Pilates reformer works the transverse abdominus, a muscle that isn’t easy to reach with any other type of exercise. This muscle lies deep within the abdominal wall and is an integral part of the body’s core. Strengthening this muscle alone on the Reformer will work the abs from deep within, and engage your spine, making that stronger, too. No crunches or sit-ups will get to this muscle as well as a Reformer will.

A Full Body Workout
With a full repertoire of upper and lower body exercises that emphasise core engagement, you’ll feel every muscle in your body working during a Tempo Pilates workout – and you’ll feel the benefits quickly. From simple changes like better posture and flexibility, to dramatic slimming, toning, lengthening and strengthening; once you feel the difference in your glutes, inner thighs, core and triceps, you’ll wonder why you didn’t try it sooner.

Workout Variety
If you’re fed up of workouts that include 4 moves repeated 50 times to exhaust your muscles, you should definitely try Tempo Pilates. Classes take you through a whole series of workouts, repeating each movement 6-12 times. You’ll often work the same muscle group in multiple exercises, but in a different way each time.

One thing’s for sure – you won’t get bored in a Tempo Pilates class.

Tight muscles are bad news. They pull on our joints, restrict our movement and are often the root cause of injuries in our necks, back, knees and hips. If you work in an environment where you sit for long periods of the day, it’s important to keep your muscles stretched to counteract the tightness. Similarly, playing sport and working out can leave your muscles feeling tight and tender.

Reformer Pilates stretches your body in every plane, twisting and rotating you like never before. The springs provide the magic to take your flexibility to the next level. They can be adjusted to cater for whatever your base level of flexibility is. So whether your goal is to touch your toes, do the splits or perform an amazing backbend, you’ll be astounded by how much your flexibility can improve.

Exercise of the month: Targeting the Triceps
Each month we’ll be recommending Pilates exercises to tone and strengthen different parts of the body.

As we head into summer, there are several areas of our body that tend to need toning. This month, we’re going to focus on those pesky upper arms – or more specifically, the triceps, with the uber effective Cobra Push-up.

Cobra Push-Up

160602 Cobra reformerStart face down on your reformer with your toes pointed on the foot bar and palms resting on the carriage close to your shoulders. Lift your torso off the mat and keep a soft bend in your elbows. This is your starting position. Engage your gluteus and quads drawing your ribs away from the reformer and lifting your hips high. While piking up and slowly lowering down the aim is to keep the reformer completely still. Be sure to keep your elbows close to your torso as you lower – not allowing them to flare out to the sides. Keep your hands neutral with fingers pointed forward.
Aim to do 6-12 reps.
Level: Intermediate/ Advance

Talk to us!
We want this blog to be as interactive as possible, so if you read anything you’d like to know more about, or if you have a burning question about Pilates, post it below or Tweet us and we’ll answer it in the next blog.

Introduction Offer
As an incentive to try one of our Tempo Pilates classes, we’re running a introduction offer for anyone new to Tempo Pilates. Instead of £26, if you visit our Sign-up page and create an online account click here> your first class £13 option will appear when you make a booking.

Why not experience the many benefits of Tempo Pilates for yourself? We have three studios – in Hackney, Shoreditch and Covent Garden – each offering a range of classes to suit every level of fitness. So book your class today!

Until next time,

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