Those of you who are our regular students know that we think of ALL we do here as Pilates; conscious, core crafting. Pilates classes, barre classes, TRX classes, Rip Training, and kettlebells- they all require core stability and breathing in a way to enhance and perfect the stability, strength and mobility of our bodies.

Yes sweet simplicity, whether it feels sweet or sinister, our first challenge begins with your core and hopes to enlighten all y’all who do not have the pleasure of what we have come to call, McG short bout planks. The McG stands for McGill, as in Stuart McGill, certifiably THE authority on lumbo pelvic stability and back pain relief through core conditioning- one of our gurus at Iron & Grace. He has authored books that are staples to all conscientious movement professionals. Learn more or find his books and research at Dr. Stuart M. McGill is a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON, Canada). His advice is often sought by governments, corporations, legal experts and elite athletes and teams from around the world. Difficult back cases are regularly referred to him for consultation. His research in the Spine Biomechanics Laboratory has three objectives: to understand how the low back functions; to understand how it becomes injured; and, knowing this, formulate and investigate hypotheses related to prevention of injury and optimal rehabilitation of the injured back, and ultimate performance of the athletic back. This work has been recognized with many awards including the R. Tait McKenzie Award 2005, the Canadian Society for Biomechanics Career Award 2004, the Stow visiting lectureship from the Ohio State University College of Medicine 2002, the Steven Rose Lectureship from the Washington University School of Medicine 2001, to name a few.

The evidence based protocol for our first challenge using a 2:1 work to rest ratio-12 seconds of work, 6 seconds of rest. Start with as many as you can do FULLY ENGAGED. The plank is a full body exercise. Wrap your muscles around your bones, use your deep corset to keep the abdominal wall intact, reach through your heels, keep your neck long, and use your midback. THIS IS ACCESSIBLE TO ALL FITNESS LEVELS. You may be starting at 2 or 12 planks but your goal is make it to 20 someday. This is why we pose it as a challenge.

THE TASK: a beautiful plank up to 20 rounds of 12 seconds of work and 6 seconds of rest.  Do as many as you can maintain the standards, criteria and conditions below.

THE STANDARD: There should be no pain, an engaged abdominal wall from the inside out, ears, shoulders, hips and heels making a straight line.

THE CRITERIA: Quality position and focus

THE CONDITIONS: Choose a plank position that honors your current fitness level

Please check out our accompanying video to get some pointers on how to progress from the ground up.

Need expert eyes on your plank? Give us a jingle or email!


Why foundations before kettlebell classes?

I’m an impassioned scientist at my core, but maybe the flighty nutty professor type…. Those of you who have taken certification courses with me know that I tend to get off on anatomical tangents and have to be reigned back in or even in training sessions, I might start talking about some current research (or my kids…) while you suffer through a 70 reps. I’ve been known to forget a whole series on one side in barre class. In those instances, I’m grateful for my diligent students who remind me! When I’m excited about something, I get ahead of myself, which is why a meditation practice keeps the “flighty-ness” (only partially) under control.

My former hippie mom has been giving me crystals and hematite all my life to help keep me grounded. I'm aware. So it is no coincidence that I believe in creating a strong foundation, to get grounded in your personal health. This is also why we have a movement pedagogy that starts with Foundations courses. We train in objectives at Iron & Grace, allowing our clients to earn their progressions and give them what is needed for proficiency, but we are steadfast to the standard of good movement. One of my favorite Pilates mentors, Brent Anderson, founder of Polestar Pilates, once said to me, a good movement practitioner is grounded in science but practices with creativity and intuition. It struck a chord with me and continues to resonate in my day to day practice. To me, it says, FIRST get your facts straight, know the whys, stay on top of research and use best practices, but second be present, be present to the person you are working with, so that you can problem solve their movement maladies on the fly; keep a broad palette of skills so that you can be creative and facilitate the beauty that is the healing art of movement.

We’ve been working on the programming for our kettlebell program. Kettlebells are tough. While we believe that it is the universal tool for weight loss and efficient strength, flexibility and power, the reality is that some people are not cut out for the process; of building skills, giving every movement your attention, the focus and hard work. Kettlebell classes here, in our Lynchburg studio, create a lot of steamy windows and there is grunting, active, audible exhales and people whose bodies have transformed. They started with foundations or one on one instruction.  They did kettlebell training.  They went through an active learning process and earned their progressions. There was no pressure or competition, just focus,  hard work, practice and patience. That is what it takes to acquire most skills worth learning, right?  This one just sometimes means you rip the skin off your hands- and THAT is a rite of passage.