Pilates Resources
Pilates Style - April 2007

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Jillian Hessel Pilates Exercise
Call 310-246-0082 in Los Angeles California Pilates Video

studio@jillianhessel.com

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Pilates Style magazine

April 2007, pp. 67-70

Do You Believe in Magic?

Model Kit Matthews in Prana tank and shorts with Mari Winsor Magic Circle

Given everything the Circle can do to enhance your Pilates routine, it's no wonder they call it Magic


WORKOUT BY JILLIAN HESSEL

Who could help falling in love with a fitness tool called the Magic Circle? It's inexpensive, versatile, can enhance pretty much any routine — and it fits in your carry-on luggage. More important, it's magical because it's a three-dimensional representation of the Powerhouse. Hold it vertically in front of your body and squeeze it from top to bottom, and it represents the connection between your pelvic floor and abs. Next, step into the Circle, bring one handle to the outside of each hip, and press outwards to visualize the dynamic interplay of the inner and outer thighs, as well as the deep hip rotators. Finally, still standing inside the Circle, raise it slightly higher and rotate it so one handle is in front of your navel and the other is behind you. Imagine squeezing in this dimension and you'll see what it's like to press your navel toward your spine.

Added to a workout, the Circle enhances almost any exercise. It can be held between the ankles or thighs during the Hundred to give an inner-thigh and pelvic floor component while deepening the abdominal work. You can use it instead of the bar in your Roll-ups to add an isometric arm exercise. The Circle can be used on its own for countless isometric toning exercises for both the upper and lower body.

I learned a great routine from Michael Podwal and Diane Severino, co-owners of Ron Fletcher's Studio for Body Contrology, while I taught there from 1987 to 1988. I've added onto it through the years, but the basic structure remains the same. The routine presented here focuses on the upper body, but I've also developed a lower body set, which appears in the March Pilates Style e-newsletter. (Editor's note: If you haven't already signed up for our free monthly e-newsletter, do so at www.pilatesstyle.com).

Begin seated, with the spine in good vertical alignment. This warms the body up quickly as the arms begin to reach overhead. Use a mirror if you can to check on your posture throughout this opening sequence.

This routine is performed with Ron's Percussive Breathing Technique. Ron teaches rhythmic breathing as a way to integrate the body with the motion of the exercise. Since these exercises use short and fast movements, we'll use a breathing practice that reflects that. I have nicknamed this pattern the "sniff-sniff/blow-blow." It begins with two quick, deep inhales, followed by two quick, complete exhales through pursed lips. The emphasis is on moving the maximum volume of air in and out of the body with each breath cycle. The ribs should expand to the back and sides on the inhale, and the powerhouse pulls up and in to expel as much air as possible on the exhale. In the case of the Magic Circle isometric routines, one "sniff-sniff/blow-blow" cycle represents one exercise set, which corresponds with four squeezes in or pushes out against the Circle. Before beginning each exercise, exhale all the air out of your lungs through your mouth. In this way, each exercise set will begin with "sniff-sniff" and end with "blow-blow."

Correct hand and finger position for Magic Circle Exercises

While performing all of the exercises, keep your body well aligned, focus your mind, move fluidly from one exercise to another and breathe properly. Generally, I like to perform at least 8 to 12 sets of each exercise.

Note: The number of reps for each exercise is recommendation only — a lot will depend on the manufacturer, weight and resistance level of the Circle, and also your fitness level. Use your best discretion when performing this workout, and always listen to your body.



Steering Wheel

Muscles Worked:
pectorals and biceps in isometric, plus triceps in movement

Start Position: Sit cross-legged on a mat with the spine erect. (Sit on a pillow if your hips are tight.) Hold the Magic Circle with arms extended straight out in front of you at chest height. Do your best to hold your Circle with open palms and extended fingers.

1
Begin by exhaling all the air out of your lungs. Squeeze the Circle twice by pressing hands together as you take 2 quick, deep breaths in (sniff/sniff) and twice as you let 2 quick, full breaths out (blow/blow). Perform 10 sets.
2
Continue two sets rhythmic breathing as you bend your elbows out to the side, drawing the Circle in toward the chest. Continue with 2 more sets of breathing as you extend the elbows back to the start position. Perform this move 5 times. Lower the arms and Circle to rest.
Pilates Steering Wheel Position 1 Pilates Steering Wheel Position 2

Halo

Muscles Worked:
upper trapezius, middle deltoids, pectorals in isometric, plus biceps, lats and triceps in movement

Start Position: As above, but hold Circle with arms extended overhead without hiking the shoulders.

1
Begin by exhaling all the air out of your lungs. Squeeze the Circle twice as you inhale and twice as you exhale (sniff/sniff, blow/blow). Perform 10 sets.
2
Continue 2 sets rhythmic breathing as you bend your elbows out to the sides, drawing the Circle down over your head as if "crowning" yourself. Bring the Circle down as far as is comfortable. Continue with 2 more sets of breathing as you extend the elbows back to the start position. Perform this move 5 times. Lower the arms and Circle to rest.
Pilates Halo 1 Pilates Halo Position 2

Front Press Down

Muscles Worked:
front deltoids, triceps, obliques and lats

Start Position: Place the Magic Circle diagonally in front of you to the left at arm's length. Place your left palm, fingers oustretched, on top of the handle. Rest your right hand on your right knee. Be sure to maintain the "box" of the body completely square (no torso rotation or side shifting of the ribs off the hips).

Begin by exhaling all the air out of your lungs. Press down on the Circle twice as you inhale and twice as you exhale (sniff/sniff, blow/blow). Perform 10 sets. Switch sides and repeat.
Pilates Front Press Down Position

Back Press Down

Muscles Worked:
rear deltoids, triceps, obliques and lats

Start Position: As above, but place the Circle diagonally behind you on the floor, at arm's length.

Begin by exhaling all the air out of your lungs. Press down on the Circle twice as you inhale and twice as you exhale. Perform 10 sets. Switch sides and repeat.
tip:
When working with your arm behind you, it's easy to come out of alignment. Take care to keep your shoulders down, back and level, with the shoulder blades flat against the back of the rib cage and dropped down as though you're tucking them into the back pocket of your pants.
Pilates Back Press Down Position

Biceps

Muscles Worked:
deltoids and biceps

Start Position: Place the Circle upright on your left shoulder and hold it there with your left palm on the top handle, fingers outstretched, elbow out to the side.

Begin by exhaling all the air out of your lungs. Press down on the Circle twice as you inhale and twice as you exhale. Perform 10 sets. Switch sides and repeat.
tip:
Be sure shoulders remain level. It's easy to hike one shoulder in this exercise, but it's important to keep both shoulders at the same height throughout.
Pilates Biceps Position

Triceps

Muscles Worked:
rhomboids, middle trapezius and triceps

Start Position: Hold the Circle behind you with one hand on the outside of each handle, elbows relaxed. You may rest it on the floor at first, and round the torso into a small contraction. Later on, you may wish to increase difficulty by lifting the Circle off the floor and sitting up tall.

Begin by exhaling all the air out of your lungs. Squeeze the Circle twice as you inhale and twice as you exhale. Perform 10 sets. Place the Circle to one side on the floor, and roll up to an erect spine to finish.
Pilates Triceps Position

© 2007 Pilates Style magazine

 

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Jillian Hessel Pilates

Los Angeles, California
Phone 310.246.0082
studio@jillianhessel.com

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