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by Ana Cabán
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Dec 29th 2009
This workout set is an offering from lifestyle company Gaiam and certified Pilates instructor Ana Cabán. Cabán has been a mainstay of Pilates media for almost a decade now, but she is constantly adding new and varied challenges to her workouts. Here she includes 2-lb. hand weights fashioned into a unique "S" shape to increase the intensity of the program. The DVD offers three different 15-minute workouts, each of which incorporates the weights and yet are still based on the traditional exercises first introduced by Pilates founder, Joseph Pilates. As she notes in her brief Introduction, Cabán even adapts some of the Pilates equipment moves, such as those designed for the Cadillac. Cabán works out alone in an outdoor setting; her purple mat is featured on a raised platform against a mountainous background. The music is generally pleasant and unobtrusive.
The Main Menu of the DVD offers options to select the Introduction, Mat Series, Equipment Series, or Standing Series. If you choose to start with the Mat Series as Cabán recommends, you can easily continue to complete the entire 54 minute workout, as there is only a brief pause between each section. The Mat Series begins lying down for a few simple warm-ups such as rolling the neck from side-to-side and up-down. Cabán first uses the weights to move the arms from over the head to down towards her sides. Still holding the weights, Cabán does the Pilates Hundred move, keeping the weights still at her sides rather than pumping the arms as is customary. She continues with a classical Pilates matwork sequencing of movements, sometimes holding just one weight--for example, she performs Rolling Like a Ball holding one weight with both hands in front of the calves. All five exercises of the Series of Five are performed, using both weights for the first three exercises and just one weight for the last two. Cabán concludes the Mat Series in a seated position for the Spine Stretch forward (holding one weight behind the head) and the Spinal Twist (holding one weight straight out in front of the body).
The Equipment Series is also performed entirely on the mat. Cabán again begins lying face-up with one weight in each hand for a move called Coordination. She then continues on to the Rowing series, a sequence of several different classic Pilates exercises which challenge both the arms and the entire torso from a seated position. Other exercises performed seated include Shaving the Head and Hugging a Tree. Still holding both weights, Cabán then moves to a prone (face-down) position for the Long Box series, which involves reaching the arms up and back as well as up and out to the sides. Next are several movements completed while on the back or seated, including a Back Stroke (again coordinating the movements of the arms and legs), a Teaser variation (holding the Teaser position while pumping the arms with the weights; repeat several times), and Short Box variations. After a brief side stretch, Cabán comes to a kneeling position, still using both weights for Chest Expansion, Thigh Stretch, Arm Circles, Bicep Curls, and Rolling In and Out. Cabán concludes this segment with the Mermaid, incorporating one weight at a time to increase the side stretch.
The final segment is the Standing Series. Here Cabán beings in a standing position for Running in Place and Rolling through the Feet, adding in arm movements (holding both weights) to each of these exercises. These moves serve to pre-fatigue the upper body for a traditional series of Pilates arms work, including Bicep Curls, Tricep Extensions, Zip Ups, The Bug, Little Circles, and Boxing. For many of these exercises, Cabán begins with the heels grounded but then rises onto the toes as she repeats the exercise. She continues to hold both weights for all of the remaining moves, which include Lunges, Side Bend, "Hide Your Hands," Pick a Flower, Wall series, Arm Lifts, Arm Circles, and finally, Roll-Downs.
Overall, I was very impressed with this workout kit. I am someone who exercises exclusively at home 6-7 days per week, and I am generally reluctant to add new exercise gadgets to my collection. However, I found the S-shaped weights included with this set to be genuinely worthwhile. The design of these weights seemed very ergonomic in nature, as they were extremely comfortable to use, and they were very easily incorporated into the flow of the workouts. I have used light dumbbells for Pilates before, but these weights truly felt different, perhaps because their unique shape offered a more even distribution of the weight. Given this, I actually felt the exercises more intensely than I ever have before. I consider myself to be an a perennial intermediate level in Pilates; although I have always enjoyed Pilates matwork, I have never gotten much out of the other Pilates exercises--e.g., the Rowing series, the Pilates Arms work, etc.--in the past. But Cabán's distinctive method of putting these moves together along with the S-weights really helped me to get the intended benefit from the full program.
I think that each of these three of these routines provides a challenging, full-body workout, although the Equipment and Standing Series both concentrate quite a bit on the arms, a rarely-seen benefit of most Pilates DVDs. Cabán does not mirror-cue, but she has an excellent, easygoing instruction style; she does assume some pre-existing familiarity with basic Pilates moves here. In summary, I would highly recommend this workout set, particularly for intermediate level and above Pilates practitioners.
© 2009 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students