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It's now late November and in a few weeks we'll all succumb to the over-eating and over-drinking associated with Xmas. Once Xmas is gone we'll all be left feeling a bit flat but with a few extra pounds and it's that time of year some of us will be tempted by books such as this one that promise "a new body in 4 weeks". I bought this book a while ago, purely for the pilates element as I have back problems and I thought it might contain some exercises I haven't come across before.
The book is written by Lynne Robinson, who has written many pilates books, and Gordon Thomson who I have never heard of before. It has a picture of a woman in a bikini on the front to tempt us all and is mostly blue with yellow and white writing and has a picture of the authors in exercise clothes on the front too.
The book promises, amongst other things, that over the next few weeks you can expect dramatic changes to your body shape. It does state you need cardiovascular work too for heart and lung health and weight loss.
The first chapter is "How To Use This Book". In here it tells you to establish which body shape you are, they give options in the next section. Then work out your Body Mass Index as they assure you it will change, then read through the general guideines for aerobic activity and the principles of pilates and finally practise the basic exercises until you can do them easily before commencing the section that relates to your body shape.
It then tells us about who Joseph Pilates was, I won't bore you with that I'm sure you're all just thinking "does it work???", and how body control pilates was developed based on his theories. Onto the "Before You Begin" section where it explains you need peace and quiet to concentrate and not to exercise if you feel unwell or tired, have just eaten, have been drinking alcohol, are in pain or feeling nauseous. I have constant pain so I was disappointed to see that I wasn't supposed to exercise according to the authors, but I took the advice of my physio instead which is to do what I can manage.
Onto determining your body shape. The point of this section is to establish which areas need working as some body shapes have typical weak areas. The shapes offered are pear, apple, rectangular and pencil. It does say you may not neatly fit into a shape. I don't as I'm an hourglass but my problems are hypermobile joints which is listed under the pencil shape so it's far from foolproof! If you don't fit one of their body shapes it tells you to go to the body area sections you feel you need instead.
The book explains very briefly what types of exercise are aerobic and how to work out your BMI then explains the moves; flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion which it's not necessary to know. The principles of pilates are relaxation, concentration, alignment, breathing, centring, co-ordination, flowing movements and stamina. These are explained over the next few pages but the terms speak for themselves really.
The basics involve finding alignment, this can be difficult as most of us are not aligned so you just have to get as aligned as you possibly can to begin with. Then finding neutral tilt of the pelvis which is a case of eliminating any anterior (forwards) or posterior (backwards) tilt of the pelvis.
Breathing pilates style is lateral breathing, that means it involves only using the ribcage and allowing it to expand fully so you can maintain the core contraction as you breathe through the exercises. It's actually quite hard to do, especially if you have any faulty substitution patterns where the outer muscles are gripping or if you have performed the core contraction wrong.
The section about the core contraction just really involves telling us how to lift the pelvic floor for basic movements and how to add more lower abdominal effort for harder movements. It doesn't take into account many of the problems people have while learning the core contraction so if in doubt you should probably get it checked by a pilates instructor. Once you are contracting the core you need to add the lateral breathing you learnt earlier while maintaining this contraction.
Then we move onto basic arm and leg movements to ensure you can move the limbs without pelvic movement and breathe through the exercises. You need to be very proficient at this stage before you move onto the main exercises.
Finally the main exercises! Firstly there are posture exercises to help you get used to good alignment, most of us move and stand with bad posture so these feel odd to begin with.
After the posture section we move onto body areas. I think most people would buy the book and flick straight through to these sections but the breathing, core contraction practice and basic arm and leg movements are vital before you start the exercises.
Firstly we have buttocks, inner and outer thighs and calves. I found the gluteal exercises in this book to be quite lacking in description. Most people have underactive glutes and this book doesn't really explain the methods used to make sure they work rather than the other muscles that usually step in for them. The exercises are very standard and range from simple to extremely hard but it's not really explained which are which either! I suspect the majority of people will mindlessly go through these exercises, through no fault of their own, and perform them with the wrong muscles. There is no detail about what to watch for.
The abdominals and waist section is strangely thin! There is a couple of exercises for the Obliques but in my experience not great ones and a few for the Rectus abs (six pack) which again are nothing new and that's really it! I think if you were after seriously strong abdominals you would be very disappointed with this section.
The upper back section comes next and this is quite good, plenty of good exercises here. Then the shoulders which involves stretching and strengthening and again this section is quite good too.
At the very back of the book are sample workouts so once you've got to the stage where you can perform the exercises you can choose a combination of several for a daily workout.
Overall I was disappointed with a few aspects of this book, I think the promise of "a new body in 4 weeks" is probably a bit optimistic and many exercises lack sufficient information to ensure someone is performing them correctly. This is a problem with most exercise books though, without someone watching you or you watching someone else first there are a whole host of mistakes to be made. Also the exercises jump about with regards level of difficulty, there's no organisation to the chapters as to which exercises will be hard and which are easy and if you attempt something too hard you will do it with the wrong muscles or hurt yourself.
I think those without back problems could improve their bodies within 4 weeks but not to the extent the authors promise.
What I'm saying is if you do buy anything to get rid of the Xmas podge get a DVD so you can see the movements and don't expect a new body in 4 weeks!
If I haven't saved you from yourself this book is available fro Amazon Marketplace for £6.14.