How I beat Back Pain with Pilates: The Final Countdown


Mat Class

  • Ribcage focus. Still difficult. Between upper and mid-abdominal muscles. ‘Ribcage arms’ is the exercises I need to focus on.
  •  Ab series got a burn on! The criss-cross is a core destroyer!
  •  Glutes burning on the shoulder bridge.
  •  Rolldowns just an inch from the wall. Really difficult! The photos below show how to do it with your back against the wall. Now try moving away and not letting your butt touch it!


Didn’t feel like I had a great class. Nothing really wrong, per se, but all the new connections I have found within the last few weeks (lats, inner thighs, glutes) have no stamina when working together! Gave my all for the 100, feeling fried afterwards – only ten minutes into the class! Bollocks! Check the video below. I don’t look too gassed, but believe me, I was struggling!

There’s a large part of me that likes to hold back my output so that I’ve always got something left in the tank. But when you reserve yourself in Pilates, you’re not doing the exercise with perfect form! Ah!

Every new connection you come across, or muscle-group you learn to activate, has hardly any stamina in the beginning. Get used to it. This is the epitome of the Pilates journey; the painter’s house is never painted.

 Exercise for the week

Lie on your front, forehead on the mat, in a crucifix-position. Squeeze glutes together. Then squeeze the knees together activating inner-thighs, making sure knees don’t rotate outwards. Draw abs and core deeply in. Now raise the arms from the lats and lower-shoulder muscles. Upper-traps and chest should be relaxed, shoulders down in the body, not hunched-up. Hold position for time. Progress to holding weights in hands.

Doing this exercise after Pull Straps 1 and 2 felt really hard. My muscles were spent. It’s really frustrating for me to be tired on an exercise that I know I can do!

I need to work on the stamina of my latissimus dorsi muscles. When my lats get tired, I take the strain in to my upper arms and traps. It’s normal for other muscle-groups to take over when the initial group gets tired but at this point you are losing form. You may still be able to perform the motions of the exercise, but the specific benefits of the movement will be lost with the form. To maintain form, the initial group of muscles must have enough stamina to last for the whole rep, then set, then entire workout.

I could perform each of the exercises in my Reformer class, individually and with sufficient rest, of course. Link them together in a workout and suddenly I’m spent!

However, it is better to exhaust the muscles from execution with perfect form, than it is to perform the movement with the wrong muscles and not get tired.

Stamina needed for inner-thighs and hamstrings! And the glutes.

Check out my homework video below. Just playing around with Teasers, trying to make the perfect, and the shoulder bridge to really feel into my glutes and fire them up properly. The final clip of the shoulder bridge variation is a great exercise to test your pelvic stability.


Mat class

Focus is a workout in itself.

Third class this week. That’s an improvement in stamina if nothing else.  Woke up with a really weird twang in my left teres-minor this morning, but it had loosened up after class. I still think it’s my breathing technique that is letting me down. Because breath affects every movement you do, if your method isn’t correct, you will lose a connection or two which will compromise the movement’s effectiveness.
So I checked out some breathing technique help online:

Flexed Over Hugging Knees. Exhale: try to pull your belly away from legs. Inhale: try to feel the breath go into your back, expanding and stretching the back rib cage.

Face Down. Lie prone (face down) with hands under head, nose hovering above mat. Inhale into your back. Exhale: pull naval away from floor, about the size of a marble. Pretend you are pulling a marble up off the floor with your belly button. Do not use your bottom or your back, just your abs.

Scoop it Out. Lie on your back with your legs bent, feet on the floor. Place your hands just below your belly button. As you exhale try to move our abs away from you hands. Inhale into your ribs and back, try to keep the belly from rising, instead pull the belly button in and up, feel the ribs stretch your diaphragm out like a hammock stretching further and further from each end.

Pull-up Progress

Close Grip Pull-Ups
1 min rest between sets

  • Sets 1-4  10

Wide Grip Chins
1 min rest between

  • Sets 1-4  3

Regular Grip Chins
1 min rest between

  • Sets 1-4  3

Squeezer Push ups (on fists, 3×3 cadence)
1 min rest between

  • Set 1  10 dropset 5
  • Set 2  10 dropset 4
  • Set 3   5 dropset 3
  • Set 4   6 dropset 2

60 degree, wide arm push-ups (on raised platform, 3×3 cadence, squeezers)
30 seconds rest between

  • Set 1-4  5


The Final Countdown
So my back pain chapter with Classical Pilates has come to an end. It has been a very insightful journey, learning a lot about my body, mind and just how much of a genius Joseph Pilates really was.

Classical Pilates, in my opinion, is a complete foundational conditioning system for the human body, regardless what your lifestyle is. I am only a beginner, but I would go as far as saying that advanced Pilates would serve as more than a foundation for preparing the body for life and get you in really good shape.

It was hard work, and I spent my savings on lessons to fix my back injury. I can touch my toes now; what seemed impossible just 4 months ago. My core is stronger than it ever has been, and more importantly, I now know why and how to strengthen the core properly.

Controlling the muscles with the mind was also a lot of fun and very rewarding. Learning any new motor skill is awesome when it clicks and you nail it. The beauty of Classical Pilates is that it never gets easier. Your muscles can always contract harder for longer, keeping you in shape for as long as you put effort in.
If you’ve never tried Classical Pilates, I recommend 10 classes. Do 10 with maximum effort and tell me it doesn’t work.
Enough said.

Thanks for following my How I Beat Back Pain with Pilates journey. Big thanks to Amy Kellow of Everybody Pilates in Southsea, Hampshire, UK for being an awesome teacher and pushing me to balance my body.

And for the record, I’m carrying on my own Pilates practice as often as I can.

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