PilatesEmpower on the Mat with Courtney Miller

Empower on the Mat with Courtney Miller

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Hi guys, Courtney here, and I am gonna be teaching you Empower today; it’s part of my Pilates with Heart On the Mat series, this is the second class in the series. In Empower we do a lot of combinations. A lot of ups and downs, you’re definitely gonna get your heart rate up, and we will work the entire body. I’ll be using two props today and they’re both optional. So I’ll be using a medium weight, mine is eight pounds, and I’ll also be using these sliding discs, or gliders, you could use a towel, you could use nothing at all, and I will definitely give you those options when the time comes.

Let’s get started; so take a seat on your mat, and separate your feet about hips width. We’re gonna start with rolling up. So tuck the tail feathers, lower back touches the mat, reach back, find a big breath, get comfortable, and then exhale as you roll up, forehead towards the knees, shoulders down, take it halfway back, and then all the way down. This series on the mat is recreating the movements in classes that I do at my studio, so you’ll find some creative flows that we’ll be doing and it might remind you of some of the Reformer work that you’ve see in my Pilates with Heart on the Reformer series. All right guys, the next time you roll up big exhale come halfway down and hold.

We’re gonna do what’s called a slow swim, so anchor the feet, one arm comes up, and alternate. The lower your spine is to the mat, the harder you’re gonna work, keep the feet anchored and keep the pelvis as still as you can. We’re warming up the upper body, coordinating breath with movement. You know, all the good stuff, last three, and two, chin is parallel to the ground. And one, take it down, and take your time coming up again.

Big and complete exhale to get you up and over. Find that C scoop again, remember the lower you choose to go the more you’re gonna work. Be honest, you wanna keep a sensation of compression in the front body. This time the arms will circle, up, open, and in. Five circles in each direction, you wanna get that exhale when the arms come in.

Up, open, and in. Reverse, out to the sides, up to the sky, exhale as the arms come down, do it again. No tension in the neck. Open, and, one more time. And take it all the way down, we’re almost there, exhale up and over we go.

Forehead to the knees, the more we do the stronger we get, we’re making those connections real time. This is a windmill, opening up that arm. I love this exercise because I can visualize my breath, so as I lift my arm and rotate, that’s the inhale, come back to center, big exhale. Inhale for those big movements, exhale as you return to center, three more each side. Two, and one.

Make sure you feel even out, and then exhale, roll yourself back. All right, the last exercise is like a little mini-boomerang so cross your ankles, open the knees like a diamond, and exhale roll up, and over the thighs, finding that C scoop, don’t collapse on the legs, lift up and over. You’re gonna roll back, and as you do prepare to lift those legs up, hands come down, hips come up, crisscross, take it down, and you’re up, and over. Roll back, the legs come with you, weight onto the shoulders, and roll down. Arms come over head, let’s do it again.

This class should feel fun, it’s playful, finding your edge. Roll back, crisscross, and roll down. One more, let’s even it out. I love starting with this series, because it really tells me how well my spine is moving, or maybe not, and how I can get deeper into, for me particular the movement in my lower back. Okay, so here comes the weight now, so our next exercise using a weight optional.

Roll down for a bridge. Feet underneath the hips, I’m gonna take that weight, one weight into both hands, hips come up, arms come up, I’m gonna leave my arms up pressing right over my chest, shoulders down and back, sending my hips down, and exhale hinging up. Inhale down, exhale up. So I love to bridge, I love it ’cause you get to wake up that back body, but at the same time, you’re lengthening the sides, you’re opening the front, so in preparation for all the work we’re gonna do. The core work, the planks, the lunges, such a great exercise.

The next time the hips come up, hold, press down into the feet. I’m gonna roll my spine down as I reach back, so I’m trying to coordinate those two movements. That’s about as far as I can go with my arms while keeping my ribs down, and then contracting the abdominals, lifting the hips back up, weight comes overhead. So check it out, two things are happening, I’m rolling down, I’m finding that articulation as the weight reaches back overhead. Neutral in the pelvis when I find my maximum arm position, then pull my shoulders down, find that scoop, and back up I go.

Two more times; first the upper spine, weights moving back in opposition. Finding that neutral, contracting the front body, arms moving with those legs, roll it down. And lift it up. Nice, from here guys, hold the weight up, let’s practice taking a march. This is another exercise I love, it teaches you anticipation, to anticipate a weight transfer, or a load transfer.

So we have to stabilize using all those deep muscles in my back, and hips, before the leg comes up. Four more here, pressing my arms up in opposition. And this is a challenge ’cause I don’t have my hands down on the mat to help me stabilize, so just holding my arms up here, tons of work. The next time you lift a leg, hold. All right guys, check it out, we’re gonna incorporate those arms again.

So, I’ll bend my elbows, what I’m trying to do is make a 90 degree at my elbow and 90 degree at my knee. So those two joints, they kind of match. And then on an exhale extend them both straight up. So keep the hips lifted, bend and kick. Eight times; inhale bend, exhale kick, holding my hips lifted, and level, four, three, two, and one, leave the arms, place the foot, take a second, take a breath, find it, opposite leg comes up.

Find those 90 degree bends in the elbow, and in the knee, hips lifted and level, kick it up eight times, one, when I kick my leg up I’m trying to lift just a little higher in my hips because I’m anticipating that my hips might drop a little bit as they get tired. So I’m finding that lift with each kick, four, three, two, and one, leave the arms. Plant the foot, and roll the spine down. Nice job guys, bring that weight in towards your body, draw your knees in towards your chest, we’re gonna roll up, we’re gonna go into a rolling to standing exercise. The weight is actually gonna help you a lot in this.

So if you aren’t using one, you’re working harder. All right you guys, remember we’re not gonna roll onto our head or our neck, so find that scoop, find that balance, rock back, as you rock up plant the feet, reach forward, and that’ll help you in that lift. Then I bring the weight into my chest, find that little squat, take it back, and up I go, okay, so you own the tempo, we’re gonna do about 10 of these. Take it in, small little ball, there’s a little momentum in here, that’s okay. Massaging the spine.

Take it down, roll it back. I’m gonna do three more. It feels good, this mat is extra cushy, two, one more. And we’re up; fun. Okay, we’re gonna keep using our single weight.

I prefer to stand in front of my mat for this next exercise, I’m in a wide stance position parallel, I have one weight, I’m gonna go down into a low squat position. As I rise up, the weight will rise, so I’m gonna do this overhead press, and the opposite leg to weight is gonna shoot out, look like this. So I’m finding that stability on the hip. As I come home, switch the weight to the other hand, and go right into the other arm, and other leg. Let’s do it, about 20.

Inhale down, exhale up. I told you your heart rate’s gonna get up. So the way that we really feel that increased cardio output is getting down low, all the way up. Making the shapes small, big lift, down and up. We’re halfway there.

Low squat, big lift. And an exhale lift, five more guys. Five, four, three, awesome, two, one more each side, make sure you feel even, well done. So this kind of work is really good for agility training, finding that balance challenge within the movement. Speaking of which this is a super fun one.

So we’re gonna do a single leg deadlift with a weight drop. Let me tell you what I mean by that. If you’re not using a weight you can still do the whole exercise. So I keep my spine pretty straight, lean or hinge, as I do that I place the weight down onto the ground. I rise up with nothing in my hand, find the balance, take it back into that T position, grab the weight, I have to activate through my whole core system, my back, my sides, and my front, to find the stability.

And you get to pick the pace. So you might choose to do this quick, you might choose to do it slow. If you don’t have a weight nearby, try anything, you could even just pick up a pillow, water bottle, this is really intelligent programming where it takes a lot of in the moment thinking. Flat back, hinge, lift, let’s do two more. When I’m here there’s a softness in my knee, then I stand up.

One more; let’s try the other side. So plant the foot, think of your body very stiff, one shape, the movement is happening from the hip, that’s what takes me down, grab the weight, find my balance. Hinge, take it down and up. We’re never the same left to right. So each side of our body is kind of like its own body.

So, don’t set expectations on how the left side will feel based on how the right side was. They’re just not the same. Hinge, lift; another thing in this exercise guys that really helps me with balance, is I’ll just pause here for a sec, I think about the left and right side of my abdominals pulling together. So it’s like I’m doing core work, standing up. Five more, five, four, three, feeling that burn yet?

I am; two, and one, you’ll need the weight for the next exercise. How we doing? This time feet together, parallel, zipped up, take the weight overhead. Bend the elbows, meet me in a low squat, shift your weight towards your heels, elbows hug in, this is a long neutral diagonal line with the spine, I rise up, and extend the arms. Kind of like what we did in the tricep and bridge series, just a second ago, down and up.

Down, up, if you’re wanting a little bit of intensity, up to the toes. Down, up, so a lot like your shaving exercise on the Reformer, inhale down, exhale up, keep those elbows high, and neck long. Five, four, three, two, one, and bring it on in, good, okay, so we’re gonna put the weight down, and we’ll definitely see that weight pop up again so don’t get rid of it. Come back down to your mat, lay down for the hundred. If you have a favorite way to do the hundred, you do you.

Arms overhead, here’s where we can think about those ribs closing again. So the sides left and right of the torso coming in and down, I’m pretending like I have my hands in the straps on the Reformer, pulling my arms down, finding that chest lift, finding the height of the legs that works for you, pumping. So for this exercise guys, in this variation, just take a big breath. And a big exhale. Instead of counting, I want you to think about really finding a complete breath pattern.

So inhaling until you can’t anymore, exhaling until you feel like you’re empty. Even if that takes more than five pumps of the arms, inhale, and, all that air out, we’re about halfway through. If there’s an opportunity to intensify, do it, if your body’s telling you to modify, do it. Sometimes I do the hundred with one leg up. Switch those legs.

I always try to finish like a badass, so I hold it, curl a little higher. And take it down. Meet me in a C curve. So what I mean by that is put your elbows down on the mat right underneath your shoulders, turn your palms up, contract your obliques, so your spine is back into that C shape that it was earlier during our half roll back, and float your legs up. We’re going into toe taps here, guys.

I like being up in this position for two reasons. I don’t get any neck tension, and I can really see what’s happening with my legs. Toe tapping for five, four, three, two, and one. Now I’m gonna extend one leg out, I like to flex my feet, you can do what works better for you, switch. I’m thinking of a bow and arrow, so one foot pushes the opposite knee pulls into my chest, into my chest.

The lower you’re gonna kick that leg, the harder you’re gonna work. I’m reminding myself to keep my shoulders down away from my ears, five, four, three, two, and then freeze. Whichever leg is straight, keep it straight. That leg is gonna go low, big exhale to pull that leg up, let’s do five with a flexed foot. Five, with a pointed.

Now pick your poison, which one did you like more? Hover that other leg, give me five, four, three, two, one, switch legs. So send the leg low, square off those hips, five with a flexed foot. It’s okay to kick, you can move with power and still move really well. Point your toe.

Bone is set, pick the ankle position you like, float the other leg up, five, four, three, two, one, and stretch those legs long, great job guys. Take it all the way down. Let’s do five roll ups, flex your feet, press your big toes, exhale up and over, reach past your toes, drop the shoulders. If it feels better on your body, go ahead and bend those knees again. Take it down, and up.

Relax, relax. One more time. And all the way up; all right guys, nice job, we’re moving on from here. For the next flow we’ll be using a glider. If you don’t have one of these you can use a towel or I’ll give you options if you don’t wanna use anything at all.

So come on up. So for this exercise, I’m just using the one. I’m gonna stand one foot on it, other foot on the floor, stand tall, finding those ribs closed, almost like that (speaking foreign language) that we did in our Renew class, if you haven’t taken that one yet make sure you do. Bending my stabilizing leg, shooting that glider back, and finding a low lunge position. Now just pause here.

Your back leg is very straight, lifted, and engaged. Front knee over that mid foot, hips square, close the ribs, and shoot the arms forward, so find that really active position, then swing the arms down, and pull yourself all the way up, using the glute on that standing leg. Keep going guys. Slide, and exhale, rise. So I definitely have more weight in my front leg, powering down through that heel.

When I reach my arms forward I’m reminding myself to keep the ribs knitted and closed. But at the same time I really wanna get some shoulder mobility here, and rise. Inhale, slide it back, exhale. The direction for this exercise really is back. I’m focusing on pushing through my back heel, getting low, then in opposition sending those arms forward.

Last three; and two, and one, holding here. Bring the back knee in, scoop the abdominals as you do, pull those elbows in, and slide it back, 10 times. If you’re not using the glider, you’re stepping back, five, four, three, holding that squat, two, one, and rise to come up. We will do the other side, but not yet. So from here keep that foot on, reach those arms up, dive down, press out, cross the ankles.

Find your plank position, pushing your chest out, pulling the navel in, drawing the knees into the chest, finding that scoop as you do. Press, pull, if you’re not using the glider just pull one knee in, mountain climber style. We’re doing 10 in total guys. Keep the chest bone pressing up. Four to go.

Three, two, and one, rise. Stretch, now it’s time to do it again. So switch to the other side. So you got one standing leg, the other foot could be on a towel, a glider, if you don’t have anything, step it back. All right guys, let’s find that low lunge position.

So pressing my heel back, leaning the chest forward, zipping it up, making my arms active and part of the exercise. Rise, about 10 here. Glide, and rise. So this is mimicking the lunging that we do on the back of the machines at my studio, big range of motion, slow and controlled. Slow and painful, some may say.

Rising up, inhale, exhale, keep the arch of that front foot really lifted, so the knee tracks right where it should be. Three, two, and one more. Good, hold it low, pull it in, or step it in, find that scoop, elbows into the sides, active arms, push, pull, push, pull. Stay low, five, four, three, two, one, rise. You ready for it?

Knee tucks; reach up, dive down, send the leg back, cross your ankles, scoop, stretch. Try to keep a little bit more weight on that upper body, like your legs are light. Almost there; four more. Four, I think about powering in precision out, three, two, one, rebuild, and arise, whew. Lots of work, having fun yet?

Glider can go forward, have that weight handy, let’s go into some side body work. You’ll be using the weight for this, so have it close by. One foot’s gonna shoot out, anchor that foot down into the mat, reach your hands overhead, connect your thumbs, big side bend, exhale, come on up. Inhale, exhale, so this is like our side bends on the short box, or the back platform, inhale down, exhale up, maximize the lateral flexion in the spine, go as low as you can, cinch to come up, inhale down, and up, five, shoulders are stacked, four, three, neck is long, two, and one. Take it down, hand to the mat, leg comes up.

I like hand to the head, bend the knee in and down, kick up and back. In and down, up and back. Side booty, everyone’s favorite muscle group, kick, closing the ribs, kick. Almost there, five, kick up, four, three, two, and one. Take it into a side plank.

Come down onto your forearm, cross your ankles or stack your feet, and feel free to play with it, ’cause one way may feel better than the other. Have that weight handy if you’re gonna use it, and prop yourself up into a side plank. Before we get fancy make sure that stabilizing shoulder is down and back, the opposite movement would be up and forward. So find that down and back, press up. From here guys, pull the elbow up, extend the arm, bend the elbow, drop it.

Almost think of your Zorro on the Reformer. So we’re really hitting that elbow up, and then extending it. Four more; four, nice, three, lots of stability challenge here. Two, one more, and take it down, flip, to come into a plank, from here guys I like to have my feet wide. You have the weight in one hand, we’re gonna do a single arm row.

You kind of roll it to alternate. Kind of push it off to one side. Elbow tucks into the body. I’m trying my best not to wriggle too much, you could also do this with your knees down. One more; and take a break.

Whew wee, let’s do it again on the other side, we’ll start with our side bending. So if you are doing this series on the Reformer as well, think about those side bends on the short box. Okay, big movements, lots of lateral flexion, inhale down, exhale up. Down, up, your arms are just framing your face the whole time, working that side body to lift you up. Five more, about 10 I think is a good number, down and up.

Inhale low, exhale up. Two more, we got those side kicks. Last time; hand comes down right under the shoulder. I always like to take a second to find those setups, build a good foundation, ’cause you know you’re gonna be here for a while. I like hand here, drop the knee, kick up, kick up and out.

In kick, in kick, in, I try to be a little bit light on my supporting hand. We have a side plank coming up in four, and three, two, one, foot comes down, take it down. So let’s find that shoulder alignment again. Up and forward, new, down and back, way more stable, grab the weight, choose the position that works for your lower body, try a few different ones, pull the elbow up, extend, so it’s straight up over my head, or my shoulder, bend with control, tap it down. Up, reach, bend, down.

Up, and down. Five, really feeling the backs of my shoulders here guys, I hope you are too, four, three, almost, two, try to make your last one your best, (grunting) then take it down. Flip it into your plank. So these could be done on your knees or up and onto your hands, good to have options. I like wide legs though, you could go even wider than your mat, you’ll probably be more stable in the hips if you do.

Row, take it to the other side. Other side, roll it. These quicker movements really forcing those deep stabilizers to fire, five, four, three, two, one, we made it. Whew, let’s put the weight down, we’ll put it away if that makes you feel better. Out of sight, out of mind.

Cruising back over to your sliders, or using your towels. So I’m gonna have both of them for this next one. Lying prone, I like my legs to be hips width, externally rotated, it helps me to find my pubic bone into the mat, and my glutes. Okay, and then take your hands onto those sliders, reach out to a T. The arms will come forward as the chest lifts up, and then lengthen out.

I’m gonna scooch forward ’cause I want a little bit more extension in my spine. Alrighty, yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Stretching the abdominals, keeping the shoulders down and back. In the studio we always do our best to work the spine in all the different planes, so extension, rotation, lateral flexion, flexion, and combinations of those movements. Three more; don’t get too excited, there’s some hard stuff coming up too.

Two, and one. All right, leave those arms forward, press down into the discs or towels, find that lift, and find that swimming pattern with the legs. Check in with your body, are your legs straight? Are you bending your knees? How’s the hips?

Open the arms, pull them forward, open the arms, pull them forward, keeping the chest lifted, open the arms, this is coordination, open the arms, pull them forward, three more. Two, one, and rest, I love a little flexion after an extension series, it feels so good. Okay guys, we’re coming back up again and for this next one we’re gonna be using both of these guys. So come on up, if you have anything in your way just kind of move it to the side, because you are gonna need a little bit of room for the next one. You’ll stand on the sliders, reach your arms up to the sky, come down into a low squat, shifting your weight into your heels, sort of like our chair pose.

Hinging and placing the hands under the shoulders. Press out, find a plank. Draw your knees in, see if you can come back to that chair pose or squat before rising back up. You got it? Send it down, if you don’t have the gliders, step back instead of slide, so meet me here.

If you don’t have the gliders, step or jump forward, meet me here, and rise. Two more like this. Find it, up, one more like this. Adding on, we’re gonna add on an open and close of the legs, so it starts off the same. Nice and low, hinge it down, find or step into your plank.

Slide or step open, bring it back in, find that low squat, rise to come up. Send it down, hands under shoulders, plank, open close, knees in, come up; you can pick up the tempo if you want. Down, up. Down, up; three more. Find that squat.

Two, one more. Whew, I missed the squat on the last one, but nonetheless we made it. Mountain climbers guys, come back to that squat, sending your hips back, hands under the shoulders, press it out, one knee in, switch. Whenever I teach mountain climbers I teach three speeds; you can walk, you can jog, you can run. So you pick your speed, 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

Oh, that was a lot of work. Let’s leave these guys here. Tricep dips on the mat. Take a seat, hands go back. Let’s talk about options.

One, keep the hips down, bend and extend. Two, send the hips up, bend and extend. Three, take a wider stance, bend, reach your foot up. Pick, let’s go. Down and up.

Down and up. Opposite arm to leg. Tapping, tapping. Five, four, three, two, one, whew, flip it into a plank, meet me there. On the forearms, make a number 11 with your arms, draw your legs together, start with your knees down.

Avoid that shift forward, tuck the hips, lift up, rock forward and back. Drawing the navel up, closing the ribs, feeling the left and right sides of those abdominals closing, five, four, three, two, one, taking it down, taking a break. We haven’t done a single pushup yet that I can remember, I don’t think we did, so let’s do them. Spread the fingers, I’m gonna keep my knees down, I do better pushups with my knees down, you pick. We’re gonna focus on pushing the chest up, we’re gonna focus on pushing up versus going down.

Okay, push up, slow it down, push up, slow it down, up and slow. And slow, push up. And take it down, four more. Four, three, two, one, well done guys, meet me in a downward dog to finish. Sending those heels down, a little recovery pose, that was a fun workout.

One leg high to the sky, take it through, flex the foot, find your glute stretch, you know you wanna. If there’s a better stretch, a different stretch you wanna do, go for it. Legs are opened before taking it forward. Oh, glutes are tight. Press it back up.

Into that three legged dog, other leg, that was great. So, if you didn’t get a chance to use the weights, but you really want to, do the class again. Grab a set of weights, well you only need one. Bring your arms forward, there’s so much you can do with those little glider pads, so if you wanna play more, get a set. And bring it in.

Guys, that was awesome, told you we were gonna work everything, up, down, around, around, lots of combos, before you know it, you’re done. Remember that this is a series of five classes so I will see you for the next one; bye.

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