By Kathy Corey
We live in a lopsided world. The way we carry our bags, our babies and our briefcases creates a dominant side and muscle imbalance. Add to that almost any sports activity—golf, tennis, baseball, even dance—and we are intensifying these imbalances. If you think you don’t have a dominant side, try carrying your bag on your other side and see how awkward it feels. Or put on your pants starting out with the foot you don’t lift first.
Always ahead of his time, Joseph Pilates invented the Pedipole to address these imbalances. Nowadays, with all of us hunching over our computers, cell phones and steering wheels, we’re more misaligned than ever. His simple but ingenious invention is a great tool to help point out how uneven we really are.
When I first started Pilates, almost 30 years ago, my back was in bad shape. I was completely asymmetrical due to scoliosis. One side of my back was overdeveloped and tight while the other was hyper-flexible. When I’d roll down the Pedipole vertebra by vertebra, I had to shift my body to the right to find it, then shift to the left because my spine was S-shaped. By rolling my spine up and down while placing each vertebra on the pole, I was taught to balance my back. Using this ingenious device began a process of correcting my imbalances and improving my posture.
There are two versions of the Pedipole. One has a square base and is free standing; the other has a kidney-shaped base and is attached to a wall. The difference between the two is that the wall version is a bit easier to work on since it can’t tip. But, since it has an external stabilizer, it offers more versatility to the exercise program. The freestanding version uses deep core muscles in an active way to stabilize the pole and provides more of a challenge. Without full core stabilization, the pole can topple over. Each piece works well for different reasons and suits different clients. I have both in my studio and use them with every client as a warm-up for the spine and as an alignment exercise at the end of the session. My aim is to have my clients leave the studio aligned, with good posture and feeling tall. The Pedipole roll-up accomplishes all of that.
This simple and inexpensive original piece adds value to every program and everybody at all fitness levels. The program of exercises includes upper body work, spinal articulation, deep abdominal work, and leg and footwork. Since theses exercises are done standing, they improve balance and agility as well as strength and flexibility.
To prepare for these exercises, stand on the base first, then grasp the handles. If you pay close attention, you’ll get immediate feedback from the pole about your alignment.
STANCE FOR THE EXERCISES
Stand on the base of the pedipole with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands in the handles, shoulders drawn down, arms straight but not locked. Your head and neck should be relaxed.
the full inhalation and long exhalation increases lung capacity.
muscles targeted: arms, shoulder girdle, neck
Inhale and extend your arms in front of you, hands and arms aligned with your shoulders, which are drawn down.
Exhale and lower your arms, fingers pointed toward the floor. Continue to exhale and turn your head to the right, to the left and center. All movements are done on one long exhale with your spine aligned on the pole. Inhale and slowly raise arms back up. Repeat 4 times.
The closer your feet are to the pole, the more difficult the exercise.
you may discover that one side is easier than the other in this asymmetrical exercise due to our favoring one side.
muscles targeted: arms, shoulder girdle, upper back, chest
Inhale and extend both arms forward to shoulder level. Press shoulders back and down.
Exhale and bring your right arm out to your right then your left arm to your right, as you turn your head to the right while keeping your spine aligned on the pole. Both arms should be straight at shoulder level.. Lift your left arm a bit higher. Flutter your arms 10 times with 2 inhales and 2 exhales.
Bring your left arm to the other side, followed by your head and right arm. Both arms should be straight, at shoulder level. Lift your right arm a bit higher. Flutter 10 times. Repeat sequence 4 times on each side.
THE ROLL UP
this teaches imprinting, so important in many of the mat work exercises.
muscles targeted: abdominals and spine
Stand with your feet together slightly away from the pole. Extend both arms down in front of you. Inhale and lift your arms over your head. Lean forward with your back flat and your tailbone pressed against the pole.
Exhale, round your back and roll down, one vertebra at a time as far as you can go, keeping your fingers extended and back rounded.
Then, roll up one vertebra at a time, placing each vertebra on the pole to imprint your spine. Keep your fingers extended and pull your abdominals into your spine. Breathe deeply, using 3 – 5 breaths to roll up. Repeat 3 times.
If you can maintain neutral pelvis, bring your heels to the pole.
notice how the pole indicates how we shift our weight instead of maintaining our center point.
muscles targeted: full range of movement for the entire body
Inhale, bend your left knee, even with hip level and extend both arms out to the sides slightly above shoulder level for balance.
Exhale and extend your leg in front of you, toes pointed.
With control, inhale and slowly circle your leg behind you, resting on your toes with arms outstretched overhead, slightly in front of you. Then raise your leg behind you at hip level, toes pointed, and exhale as you stretch your torso forward into the pose.
Inhale and with control, slowly lift your torso. Exhale as you return your knee in front of you at hip level. Repeat three times and switch legs.
DEMI SQUAT WITH LATERAL PULL
This exercise is a great strengthening workout for skiers, tennis players or just to help climbing up stairs.
muscles targeted: thighs, calves, upper arms
Grasp the handles with your wrists facing inward. Bend your elbows and bring your wrists even with your shoulders.
Bend both knees, lift your heels and rise up on your toes, inhaling.
Exhale and slide down the pole as far as you can, but don’t let your hips sink below your knees. Inhale and align your torso to the pole. Exhale as you pull your elbows to your waist. Inhale to lift them back to shoulder level. Repeat 10 times. Lower your heels and slowly rise to standing. Repeat 3 times.
STANCE FOR THE EXERCISES
Stand facing the pole. Place your left foot on the base, keeping your right foot on the floor. Place your hands in the handles, shoulders drawn down, arms straight but not locked. Your head and neck should be relaxed.
PUNCHER WITH FOOT ROLLS
test your coordination with this one
muscles targeted: a total body challenge
Extend both arms out straight and slightly higher than shoulder level. Lift your left heel and rise to your toes, knees slightly bent.
Inhale and pull your right elbow back; exhale and extend your left arm out in front of you. Switch arms and punch with control 5 times.
Roll through your right foot onto your toes, then place your left heel down as you switch arms. Punch, switching arms and feet, with control, 5 times. Lower your left heel. Step your right foot back on the base, change feet and repeat.
great for upper body strength and accessing hard-to-reach chest and back muscles
muscles targeted: upper arms, chest, back
Extend both arms out straight and slightly higher than shoulder level. Keep both heels down.
Bend your elbows and bring your wrists toward your chest at shoulder level, inhaling. Circle your arms out to the sides of your body and return to start position with a full exhalation.
Circle 5 times, then reverse the circle and repeat 5 times. Change foot positions and repeat.