Tag Archives: pilates

Pilates Arm Exercise: How to Hug a Tree for Toned Upper Arms and Shoulders

Pilates Hug a Tree Arm Exercise for Toned Arms and Shoulders as Demonstrated by Chicago Women’s Weight Loss Coach Stephanie Mansour and Jenny Milkowski of Fox 32.

Pilates arm exercise hug a tree

As women age or gain weight, they tend to lose muscle tone in their upper arms. Some of this can be blamed on the natural aging process, but generally, lack of tone in your arms comes from lack of exercise. So let’s get moving!

In my work as a women’s weight loss coach, many of the women I work with in my private weight loss coaching programs are over the age of 40 or 50. I always let them know that sculpted toned arms are still well within reach. And there’s no need to add bulk by lifting heavy weights in order to get toned arms.

Pilates arm exercises can work and tone arms for long and lean muscles. When doing Pilates arm exercises at home, the idea is not to lift heavy weights for a low number of repetitions. Instead, opt for lower weights and aim for a higher number of repetitions.

The Step It Up With Steph Signature Slimdown DVD includes a quick core-strengthening Pilates workout!

When done properly, Pilates arm exercises engage the upper body as well as the core. So keep in mind as you do your Pilates arm exercises, that you want to concentrate on your movements and your posture, bringing awareness to your breath, the alignment of your spine, and the torso.

Focus on your movements, not the worries of the outside world. And remember that the benefits of Pilates (and all exercise) goes beyond muscle tone and weight loss; so enjoy the stress reduction and enhancement of your overall wellbeing.

Watch this quick video as Jenny and I demonstrate a Pilates arm exercise called Hug a Tree to work the biceps, triceps, upper back, and shoulders.

Here’s how to do Pilates Hug a Tree arm exercises at home:

  • Pick weights to suit your fitness level. If you’re a beginner, select 1-3 pound weights. Jenny and I used 5-pound weights in our video demonstration.
  • Start by sitting with your legs crossed in a lotus position.
  • With a dumbbell weight in each hand, open your arms wide, extending them out to each side at chest height, as if you are going to give someone (or a tree!) a hug.
  • Lengthen your spine and open your chest. Inhale.
  • Contract your chest muscles as you exhale and bring the weights together in front of you, maintaining chest height. Keep your elbows slightly bent.
  • Focus on keeping the muscles around your spine engaged. You can also choose to round your spine as you exhale.
  • Pause, breathe, and then slowly return to your starting position.
  • Stay focused. Go slow. Concentrate on your breath and movements.

Repeat 20 times until you feel the burn. Increase the number of repetitions as you advance.

Try it and let us know what you think!

For a quick easy-to-follow Pilates routine, grab a copy of the Step It Up with Steph Signature Slimdown DVD.

 

Pilates Roll Over: Advanced Core-Strengthening Exercise for Flatter Abs

Pilates Roll Over for Flatter Abs and Core Strength Demonstrated by Chicago Women’s Weight Loss Coach Stephanie Mansour and Jenny Milkowski of Fox 32.

Pilates Roll Over Demonstration

Pilates is one of the best ways to build core strength, develop and flatten your abs, and strengthen your back. Core strength workouts are exercises that focus on the center of the body, which includes deep abdominal muscles, the muscles closest to your spine, especially the lower back, and the hips and buttocks

Core strengthening workouts will help you to improve your overall fitness, your ability to perform daily activities, and sports performance.  Because of the slow and controlled moves of Pilates,  a Pilates workout is easy on the body with minimal impact on the joints, which makes it a great option to ease into fitness if you are overweight or out of shape.

Many of the women I work with in my private weight loss coaching programs choose to practice Pilates because it helps them gain long lean muscles, increases their flexibility, and they are able to a enjoy a well-balanced and conditioned body with improved overall feelings of well-being. I also recommend Pilates because when you do it regularly, it can help you prevent injuries and even alleviate chronic back pain.

The Step It Up With Steph Signature Slimdown DVD includes a quick core-strengthening Pilates workout!

In addition to the physical benefits of Pilates, I believe every woman should incorporate some Pilates into her workout routine, whenever possible, because it also helps improve your mental state. Pilates requires concentration and forces you to focus on your body movements and your breath, rather than the distractions of outside stress. Research has also found that Pilates boosts brain power and improves cognitive function.

I teamed up with my favorite workout and Pilates partner, Jenny Milkowski, to demonstrate an advanced Pilates core-strengthening exercise. Watch the video below:

If you’re ready to try an advanced core-strengthening exercise for flatter abs, here’s how to do a Pilates roll over:

  • Start by laying flat on your back with your legs together and your arms at your sides, palms facing down.
  • Make sure your neck is long and your chest is open as you inhale.
  • Keeping your legs together, extend them straight up toward the ceiling until you reach a 90-degree angle.
  • Exhale while using your abdominal muscles to draw your hips and legs over your body until your legs are parallel to your chest. You will be releasing the lower back and lifting your butt off the ground with your abs.
  • Roll back onto the wide part of the shoulders. Feet should be flexed and toes should be toward the ground behind your head. Use your arms to balance you but lift primarily with your abdominal muscles.
  • Inhale and lengthen the back of your legs through your heels and flex your feet. Widen your legs to shoulder-width apart in a V formation.
  • Exhale and use core control to allow your legs to lower toward your chest while slowly lengthening your spine, rolling down, placing each vertebrae one-at-a-time on the mat, until your legs are again at a 90-degree angle — feet flexed and stretch through the heels.
  • Keeping your legs together, lower them slowly.
  • Begin the exercise again and repeat the process.

Try it and let us know what you think! Again, remember, this is an advanced core-strengthening exercise. For a quick easy-to-follow Pilates routine, grab a copy of the Step It Up with Steph Signature Slimdown DVD.

Pilates Open-Leg Rocker: Intermediate Core Strengthening Exercise for Flatter Abs

Pilates Open-Leg Rocker Exercise for Core Strength and Flat Abs Demonstrated by Chicago Women’s Weight Loss Coach Stephanie Mansour and Jenny Milkowski of Fox 32.

open leg rocker pilates

As a weight loss coach for women, I often recommend Pilates to my private weight loss coaching clients. Pilates workouts put minimal impact on the joints and the exercises, in general, are easy on the body.  

In particular, Pilates is one of the best types of exercise to build your core strength. Doing Pilates core strength exercises consistently will help you slim down, create long toned muscles, and improve your overall fitness and conditioning.

Yes, Pilates core strengthening exercises can help flatten your abs–something we all want– but it’s also important to note that core strengthening exercises help to improve your posture and overall well-being as well.

What you may not realize is having good posture and strong abs is important for good health. Standing up or sitting up straight and tucking in your tummy is not just something to do to make you appear more confident and attractive–lengthening your spine and engaging your deep ab muscles is good for your spine health, helps you to avoid injuries and alleviate chronic pain, improves blood flow and oxygen, and protects your organs.

When doing Pilates exercises, be sure to concentrate on your breath as well as slow and controlled movements.

The Step It Up With Steph Signature Slimdown DVD includes a quick core-strengthening Pilates workout!

I teamed up with my favorite workout and Pilates partner, Jenny Milkowski, to demonstrate an intermediate Pilates core-strengthening exercise — the open-leg rocker. Watch the video below:

Here’s how to do the Pilates open-leg rocker:

  • Begin by sitting up tall on our sit bones, spine lengthened, abs activated.
  • Bend your knees and grab your ankles.
  • Next, balance your body between your tailbone and sit bones.
  • Lift and extend one leg and then the other, shoulder-width apart, by engaging your abdominals.
  • Inhale and roll back onto your shoulders, maintaining a c-curve in your back and keeping your head and neck elevated off the mat. Be sure to engage your abs to propel the movement.
  • Pause and hold briefly.
  • Exhale and bring your body back to an upright balanced position. Maintain the curve in your back and use your ab muscles to activate the movement.
  • Concentrate on your breath, engaging your core, and using slow controlled movements.
  • Repeat the exercise 5-10 times.

Keep in mind, the Pilates open-leg rocker is an intermediate core-strengthening exercise. For a quick easy-to-follow Pilates routine, grab a copy of the Step It Up with Steph Signature Slimdown DVD.

 

Weight Loss Coach Tips: Ab Workout While Lounging At The Pool

poolside workout with weight loss coach stephanie mansourLearn how to get in a good workout poolside with Stephanie Mansour, weight loss coach for women.

Have you ever been in such intense pain that you didn’t know if you would every find relieve?

A little over 10 years ago, I thought that I was going to have to deal with back pain for the rest of my life. I was routinely on the floor, unable to move because I was in so much pain. The pain would shoot down my low back, into my butt, and then down the side of one of my legs. I saw a chiropractor weekly, tried massages, and kept exercising in the hopes that I’d get some relief.

I had sciatica, and it was miserable. It wasn’t until I discovered my core that I was able to find sustainable relief.

After taking a few Pilates classes, I started finding some relief that lasted more than a day or two. And, not only did the regimented 45 minute class help me, but I found myself able to engage my abs and core throughout my everyday life.

Today’s video may seem silly – can you really do ab exercises while relaxing at the pool?

The answer is YES, and on a serious note, I personally NEED to do ab exercises while I’m lounging in a chair. I have to keep my core in mind throughout the day in order to use the front of my body (abs) to take pressure off of the back of my body (where the low back pain starts).

As a weight loss coach, I encourage all of my clients to be mindful and self-aware.

One of my weight loss coaching clients was NOT seeing results with kickboxing in the way that she had in her 20s. So now, in her 50s, we needed to try something new. Yoga & Pilates worked for her instead!

She was so over-tired and stressed that the last thing she needed to be doing was an intense workout. Once we reduced the cortisol levels and got her body (and mind) to a more relaxed state, she was able to shed the pounds.

On the other hand, one of my private weight loss coaching clients responded best to spinning classes.

We figure these things out through a combination of my clients getting in tune and letting me know what they feel is best for themselves, and then my analysis and expertise in what they should be doing to lose weight on any given week, based on the eating plan and their activity level for that week.

As women, weight loss can be much more complex than it is for men. And, what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa.

The key is to integrating as much self-awareness and mindfulness as possible into your daily life so that you’re in tune and working WITH your body (a la ab exercises at the pool!) rather than against your body.


 

How to Help Your Mom Work Out on Mother’s Day

Does your mom enjoy working out, or do you wish she’d spend more time at the gym for her own health? Here are some fun workout tips for Mother’s Day:

-Invite your mom to a fitness class or just take her to the gym with you. Introduce her to the equipment, help her learn new moves, or even hire a personal trainer to give her a session or two.

-Buy your mom a workout DVD and follow along with her – working out together may remind her how working out can be fun!

-Buy your mom a cute workout top, then teach her workouts she can do at home in the comfort of her living room, such as yoga poses or Pilates moves.

-Hire an in-home yoga instructor to come see your mom and give her a completely customized and personal yoga class.

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Do You Work Out on Vacation in Chicago?

Find out what random visitors to Chicago do while here – do they work out and look forward to running along Lake Michigan? Or do they have a totally different mindset about health & fitness while they’re away from home?

[lightbox small=”http://stepitupwithsteph.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/blog003.jpg” full=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04dMHdMW9tM” title=”Glow Gluten Free Cookies: Taste Test on Michigan Ave!”]

How To Make Moving a Workout

I’m Stepping It Up and moving to a new luxurious apartment downtown! If you’ve ever moved before, you know that moving can cause many injuries and back pain. But in this video, I’m going to show you how random Chicagoans are turning moving into a workout!

What Does Chicago Eat For Lunch?

Watch as I Take It To the Streets to see what random Chicagoans are eating for lunch on Fridays! They’ve all got one thing on common – it’s considered a “cheat” day…

You know how much I despise labeling days like this! So make sure that just because it’s Friday, you are still making your food choices independent of each other, and totally dependent upon what you want and how your food will make you feel! 🙂

Elevator Stretches

Elevator Stretches

What happens when a good-looking guy walks into my elevator? I start to show him some elevator stretches! Watch this quick video to see what stretches you can do next time you’re in an elevator, without anyone even noticing!

The Taxi Cab Crunch

Check out how a random taxi cab driver and truck driver do the Taxi Cab Crunch with me. And, I even speak to drivers in two languages!