By Rael Isacowitz and Karen Clippinger
Pages: Approx. 224
Available: March 2011
CHAMPAIGN, IL—Lady Gaga, Jennifer Aniston, and even Ozzy Osbourne have touted the benefits of Pilates, an exercise that has become popular among Hollywood’s elite trend setters. But world-renowned Pilates instructor Rael Isacowitz says Pilates offers more than a fad exercise with a quick fix. “Pilates is not just an exercise, but a system that should be integrated into every facet of life,” he explains.
In his upcoming book, Pilates Anatomy (Human Kinetics, 2011), Isacowitz and coauthor Karen Clippinger take an inside look at Pilates through anatomical illustrations that break down the muscular involvement in every movement and analyze each exercise on this basis. But before an anatomical understanding can be reached, Isacowitz says practitioners must develop a foundation for Pilates through six key elements that connect the body and mind.
- Breath. Breath can be described as the fuel of the powerhouse, which is the engine that drives Pilates. “It may be viewed as being of the body, of the mind, and of the spirit,” Isacowitz explains. “In this view, breath can serve as a common thread that runs through all the principles, in a sense sewing them together.”
- Concentration. Before beginning an exercise, Isacowitz advises going through a mental checklist of points to focus on. “Concentrate on the alignment of the body and on maintaining correct alignment and stabilization,” he says. “Practitioners should strive to maintain this concentration throughout the duration of each session.”
- Center. Each person is built differently and has a unique center of gravity. “Where the center of gravity lies distinctly affects how an exercise feels and how difficult or easy it is to execute,” says Isacowitz. “Therefore, it’s a mistake to assume a person lacks strength if he or she cannot execute an exercise. Lack of success may have more to do with how the person is built and the distribution of body weight.”
- Control. Refined control requires practice, which can aid in developing the necessary strength and flexibility of key muscles as well as allow for the development of more refined motor programs. “This practice can also allow these motor programs to run with less conscious attention so that a practitioner can pay attention to finer details and make minute adjustments,” Isacowitz explains.
- Precision. “Precision can be associated with both the activation of isolated muscles and the integration of the other required muscles to create movement,” says Isacowitz. Precision can be the factor determining whether a muscle is accessed and whether a goal is achieved.
- Flow. Flow requires a deep understanding of the Pilates movement and incorporates precise muscle activation and timing. “As movement proficiency develops from extensive practice, each movement and each session should flow,” Isacowitz explains.
“The way in which each person integrates these principles into the practice of Pilates and life itself is individual,” Isacowitiz explains. “The important issue is that the execution of each exercise and the practice of the system as a whole are not just a careless imitation of the exercise steps, but rather a process focused on learning how the exercises are executed and applying these six principles in accordance with your current physical and mental acuity.”
For more information, see Pilates Anatomy.
Rael Isacowitz is a world-renowned practitioner and teacher of Pilates. He has over 30 years of Pilates achievement and is a prominent lecturer and teacher at symposiums, universities, and studios around the globe.
Rael earned his bachelor of education degree from the Wingate Institute, Israel, and holds a master of arts degree in dance from the University of Surrey, England. During his career he has worked with numerous Olympians and many professional athletes and dancers.
Rael’s early Pilates teachers included Alan Herdman and thereafter several of the first-generation Pilates teachers (known as the Elders). To Kathy Grant, Ron Fletcher, Romana Kryzanowska, Eve Gentry, and Lolita San Miguel, Rael owes the inspiration and friendship that have guided his career.
Rael has mastered all levels of the Pilates repertoire and is noted for his unique athleticism and passion for teaching as well as his synthesis of body, mind, and spirit. In 1989, he founded Body Arts and Science International (BASI Pilates), which has developed into one of the foremost Pilates education organizations in the world. At present, BASI Pilates is represented in 20 countries.
Rael has authored the definitive book on Pilates (Pilates, Human Kinetics), published a series of training manuals on all the Pilates apparatus, produced DVDs, designed the revolutionary Avalon equipment, and created Pilates Interactive, the groundbreaking Pilates software. He is a regular contributor to several industry publications. Creativity and energy suffuse his work. For Rael, teaching Pilates is the ultimate gift. Isacowitz resides in Hood River, Oregon.
Karen Clippinger is a professor at California State University at Long Beach, where she teaches functional anatomy for dance, body placement, Pilates, and other dance science courses. She is also on the faculty for Body Arts and Science International (BASI Pilates), where she teaches Pilates certification programs. Furthermore, she teaches continuing education courses for BASI Pilates and other prominent organizations.
Ms. Clippinger holds a master’s degree in exercise science. Her lifelong passion is to make anatomical and biomechanical principles accessible so that people can better understand their bodies, improve technique, and prevent injuries. Her textbook, Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology, exemplifies this mission; reviewers have lauded the book for its combination of scientific comprehensiveness and practical wisdom.
Before joining academia, Clippinger worked as a clinical kinesiologist for 22 years at Loma Linda University Medical Center and several sports medicine clinics in Seattle. She has worked with hundreds of professional dancers and elite athletes and consulted for the U.S. Weightlifting Federation, U.S. race walking team, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. During that time she was drawn to Pilates because of its tremendous versatility and profound benefits for people of varying abilities and aspirations.
Clippinger is a renowned presenter in Pilates, dance, anatomy, and biomechanics. She has given more than 375 presentations throughout the United States and in Australia, Canada, England, Japan, New Zealand, and South Africa. Clippinger was also an exercise columnist for Shape magazine for four years. She resides in Long Beach, California.
Chapter 1. Six Key Principles of Pilates
Chapter 2. Spine, Core, and Body Alignment
Chapter 3. Muscles, Movement Analysis, and Mat Work
Chapter 4. Foundation for a Mat Session
Chapter 5. Abdominal Work for Movement and Stabilization
Chapter 6. Fine Articulation for a Flexible Spine
Chapter 7. Bridging for a Functional Spine
Chapter 8. Side Exercises for an Effective Core
Chapter 9. Extensions for a Strong Back
Chapter 10. Customizing Your Pilates Program
- Pilates has seen an increase in popularity. Why do you think more people are practicing the exercise form?
- What are the key benefits of Pilates?
- Why is Pilates such an adaptable exercise?
- Why is it helpful to have an anatomical basis when practicing Pilates?
- How can Pilates be used for rehabilitation?
- Explain the principles of Pilates.
- Why does breath play such a vital role in many mind–body exercises, including Pilates?
- How does Pilates improve posture and flexibility?
- People often confuse Pilates with yoga. How do they differ?
- How can practicing Pilates help improve other forms of exercise?
- Many people don’t have access to a full repertoire of Pilates apparatus. How can they still get a full Pilates workout?
- Pilates is known for strengthening the core. What are some of the best exercises for the abdominal muscles?
- Pilates is one of the fastest-growing forms of exercise in the world. Pilates has seen a growth from approximately 5,000 active participants in the early 1990s to approximately 12 million participants in the United States alone and around 25 million worldwide. (Pilates Anatomy)
- In a comparison of basic crunches with mat-based Pilates abdominal exercises, Pilates exercises proved more effective at challenging muscles. The Teaser was 39 percent more effective than crunches at targeting the rectus abdominis and 266 percent more effective at targeting the external obliques. The Roll-Up was 38 percent more effective at targeting the rectus abdominis and 245 percent more effective at targeting the external obliques. The Criss-Cross exercise was 9 percent more effective at targeting the rectus abdominis and 310 percent more effective at targeting the external obliques. (IDEA)
- Research has shown that Pilates is effective for rehabilitation. According to studies, a dancer who sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury in one knee was able to increase the strength in her knee joint muscles and increase her knee stability after a Pilates reformer and cadillac training program. (Journal of Dance Medicine)
- In a study reported by Fitness Management, Pilates proved to be as effective as other more traditional fitness programs. After the eight-week program, parametric and independent samples revealed statistically significant gains and improvements in VO2 (17 percent), anaerobic threshold (25 percent), lean mass (5 percent), lower-back and hamstring flexibility (202 percent), combined hip flexion (8 percent), and combined torso rotation (23 percent). They found significant decreases in body fat (15 percent), fat weight (17 percent), and overall stress (73 percent). Overall strength and endurance improved (28 percent) as well as performance on the chest press (24 percent), row (22 percent), knee extension (14 percent), knee flexion (12 percent), shoulder press (33 percent), lat pull-down (28 percent), abdominal crunch (33 percent), and back extension (57 percent). Overall strength and endurance to body-weight ratio improved (30 percent). (Fitness Management)
- Studies investigated the effects of Pilates training on dancers’ posture and performance of a grand plié. The 14-week study compared five dancers and a control group using spatial motion analysis recording technique. The results indicated a significant reduction in body sway and an improvement in body alignment during the performance of a grand plié after Pilates training compared to control conditions. (Journal of Dance Medicine)
"Karen and Rael are two of the most respected names in the Pilates field, and Pilates Anatomy brings together their clarity and passion. This book is at the top of my list."
Nora St. John
Education Program Director, Balanced Body University
"There is a wealth of information in Pilates Anatomy. The Pilates world is fortunate to have this resource."
Cofounder of IDEA Health and Fitness Association and Inner IDEA