Tuesday, February 11, 2014

P90X3: Pilates X Review

Mid-way through the transition week, it was time for the final new program of block 1, Pilates X. My Beachbody coach and aerobics instructor, Rosalie, had done Pilates X before me and mentioned it was a hard one, though she said she was sure I could handle it. Let me say as a bit of a disclaimer that when I did Pilates X yesterday it had been more or less my first time doing pilates since college when I was kind of obsessed with it. Basically, I hadn't done pilates in around seven or eight years. And, yes, Pilates X was hard. I would call it a very advanced pilates workout, even compared with the workouts I did when in college; some of which said the word "advanced" on the DVD case.

The workout started with Tony talking a bit about the breathing style in pilates. I am far from an expert and hats off to you if you can master the pilates breathing style. I sound like I am in distress when I do it and end up making funny huffing noises. Either way, I tried my best as we started through the moves.

Here's a list of what we did in the Pilates X workout. Explanations are inspired by the P90X3 fitness guide. My comments, where I have them, follow in parenthesis.
  • Hundreds: On your back, curl your chin up and extend you legs outward and at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Extend arms towards hips and pump them towards the floor while breathing. (This is a classic pilates move, and I remembered it as the starting move for all my college workouts.)
  • Single Leg Stretch: On your back, pull your knees into your chest and curl you chin up. Reach your right hand to the left knee and your left hand to the left ankle. Extend the other leg out at a 45-degree angle. Pull on your leg twice then switch.
  • Double Leg Stretch: Like the Single Leg Stretch, except instead of pulling your knees to your chest, you do this with both legs straight. (I remember this move being called Scissors. I think it's the same thing.)
  • Peter's Bridge: On your back, have your legs straight. Extend your legs towards the floor being sure to keep your lower back down. Only lower your legs until you feel your lower back move. Lift legs and repeat. (We do this move in aerobics a lot. It's a great one for the lower abs. At this point in the workout I was still feeling fairly comfortable and pretty good about my performance. I was familiar with the moves thus far and doing great.)
  • Teaser: Start on your back with legs straight up to the ceiling. Extend arms overhead and legs down to 45-degrees as you begin to lift into Boat. Lower and repeat. (This is always a challenging move for me. I don't have very flexible hamstrings and always find I have to bend my legs a little bit. One of the men in the DVD had his legs bent a little bit too, which made me feel better.)
  • V Rocker: In Plow, grab both ankles and rock forward to balance on your tailbone. Rock back and forth, repeating. (V Rocker left me flailing all over the place. I could not do this move unmodified on the first time through. More practice is definitely required if I want to do it without aid from my hands on the roll up.)
  • Bridge Lifts: On your back with knees bent, press your hips to the ceiling and extend on leg up. Lower the straight leg down and back up lifting the hips. Repeat. (It's a bit tricky getting the hang of this balance at first, but the move is definitely do-able and certainly easier than Teaser or V Rocker. You can have your leg at 45-degrees instead of to the ceiling if flexibility is an issue like it is for me.)
  • Scissor Ball: Seated on your tailbone, hold the outside of your ankles and rock to your shoulders. Next, rock forward to balance on your tailbone again bringing on leg straight upward and the other straight and hovering off the floor. Curl back into a ball and rock back extending the legs in opposite directions. (Yikes! I think I am seriously challenged by these rolling moves like Scissor Ball and V Rocker. I need to find a way to make myself rounder when I roll or something.)
  • Bicycle: Start seated with knees bent and wide elbows behind the head. Extend one leg out at 45-degrees, keeping the other bent. Turn your elbows towards the bent knees. Switch legs and rotate your elbows so you are always having your elbow go towards the bent knee. (This version of Bicycle was interesting to me. I am used to doing this move on my back, so doing it seated was very interesting. I liked the modification for a change of pace, though the move seemed to work more or less the same muscles seated as on your back.)
  • Hip Circles: Lying on your back, extend on leg straight up. Circle that leg out, around, and up. Switch directions after five reps. Then switch sides and do the other side five times in each direction. (I have always liked this move. It's a nice challenge trying to keep the hips stable as you rotate the leg. You can have the leg do bigger or smaller circles depending on the level of challenge you desire.)
  • Floating Cobra: On your stomach with core engaged, lift your chest and shoulders off the ground without using your hands. Hold and then lower. Repeat. (I remember this as more of a yoga move than a pilates one. It's great for increasing strength in the lower back.)
  • The Swimmer / The Flutter / The Bad Attitude: On your stomach, extend your arms overhead in front of you. Kick your legs and alternate your arms for The Swimmer. For The Flutter, bring your arms behind you and try tapping them together over your body. Have your legs crisscross above and below each other. For The Bad Attitude, bend both knees and bring your heels together behind your glutes. Place you head on the floor and push the heels towards the ceiling. (I liked doing these moves in sequence. I've done variations on The Swimmer before, and they are always great. I had also done The Bad Attitude before, not knowing what it's called. I definitely feel like it's hard to keep my heels together while doing the glute work, but that's part of the fun!)
  • Saw: On your back with legs wide, curl up off the gloor and reach straight forward. Come into a seated position and reach your arm to the opposite foot, then lower back to the floor. On the next time up, switch sides so you're reaching the other arm to the other foot. (In the past when I have done this move, it's been just from a seated position without the curl up.)
  • Alphabet Soup: Lying on your back with your hands flat underneath you, lower your legs to 45-degrees. Spell the alphabet in the air. (This was basically the last move that I felt good about. The last half dozen in the workout were crazy!)
  • Scissor Side Plank: On your side with your forearm on the ground in a low t-stand, lift your top leg and kick it forward and then sweep it back. (It's very hard to balance in this position for the ten reps. I had to really engage my core to keep from tumbling forward or backward.)
  • Sphinx Flag: In forearm plank, lift one foot behind you. Pulse it twice in the air and then bring it out to the side, tap the floor twice. Repeat switching sides each time. (The participants in the DVD all got their legs very far out. I could barely get mind to the side much at all. What a struggle!)
  • Clam Killer: In side arm plank, bring your top foot to your knee, rotate up and back, and then bring it back to your ankle. Kick that leg up to the ceiling and repeat. Do the move on both sides, doing one side completely and then the other. (I've read time and time again that Clam is good for preventing a lot of running injuries, so I was glad to do the move here. Adding in the element of doing Clam in plank definitely adds a level of difficulty since, like with Scissor Side Plank, keeping balanced requires a lot of work. Plus at this point with three exercises in some version of plank in a row, my shoulders were getting quite tired.)
  • T's T: In side plank, lift your top foot to the ceiling and then tap the floor in front of you. Bring the leg back up and tap the floor behind.
  • Scissor Roller: One your back with legs and arms extended, curl your torso off the ground and reach your hands past your toes. Next, lift your torso and your right straight leg. Release both down to starting position. (What!?! Just crazy. I had the same problem with this as with the other ball and rolling moves, but kind of worse since I also find it hard to get my leg straight in positions like this. There was an option to modify and put one foot on the ground when you came up, which I definitely took advantage of.)
  • The Pretzel: Seated, with your right foot crossed over your left and your weight on your left hand, lift your right leg up and around until it bend behind you. Pulse and then return to crossed position. On the last rep, pulse for double the time to the back, side, and front. Do this on both sides, completing on and then the other. (Getting to watch Tony struggle through this move made me feel better about this. This move gets me in a lot of places where I am tight, which is great, but it is hard to get the leg back there.)

The Pilates X workout ended up being quite a hard one. I can't say it was my favorite sort of challenge, since I've kind of lost my interest in pilates. I will say I definitely preferred this workout to Isometrix but didn't like it as much as X3 Yoga or Dynamix. I list all these reviews together because I consider them the same class of workout -- non-strength or cardio workouts that focus on flexibility, mobility, balance, and having good range of motion.

I certainly see the benefit of Pilates X in working the core and providing a sort of strengthening that's different than traditional weight work. I can see this being a workout that won't be my favorite, but it might be one that grows on me in time. For my needs, I think doing Dynamix is probably best from the set of four workouts I've encountered so far of this sort. However, it's always nice to have a pilates workout to pull out for a day when I don't want high impact activity.

Pilates X is the last of the new workouts for the transition week, as I mentioned before. On Monday, I'll be moving on to block 2 of the P90X3 classic calendar where I will get to encounter five new workouts. More to come next week!

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