My health club has 16 new MVE chair machines and twice a week, I’ve been taking classes to learn how to use them. As most club classes go, each session is filled with new, curious people which is a good thing although now that I’ve been on this chair for a few months, I’m wanting to go to the next level.
The chair is actually a Pilates apparatus – made by Pilates for either small group or private classes. The instructors at my club run double duty by trying to rotate the more than 16 people in class between mats and chairs. Of course, most of us who’ve been teaching for many years know that class size is the one constant we all complain about so some things don’t change no matter where you teach.
The movable springs that control the pedal can be tightened or loosened depending on your strength, flexibility and balance much like other Pilates machines. Some exercises are done sitting on the bench moving one leg or two, some lying on the bench (mainly core work), some exercises are done with the body in a plank pose on the floor while moving the pedal with one arm, sometimes you stand to the side with one leg moving the pedal, and even stepping w both feet on the pedal and hoisting the upper body into a handstand position- the possibilities seem endless.
So unlike other activities I’ve tried lately, except for yoga on the paddle board, I am really feeling a difference along all sides of my spine. Now we tend to think of the ‘core’ as being fairly broad in many respects- ya know, that large 3 dimensional X between shoulders and hips that includes the pelvic floor. Or should we think of it as a large beach ball on account of it’s summer. In any case, I’m becoming more aware of the smaller stabilizing muscles of the spine, the multifidious and the erector spinea (see diagram on left) and their important role. Forget all those silly crunches we’ve come to think of as core muscles because without these smaller babies turned on, those more superficial muscles aren’t working for you anyway.
There’s also the sling muscles – the pelvic floor muscles. Never mind their names. And guys, listen up! You have them too and ALL OF US want control of these muscles, right? So you have to work them – use them or lose them – pretty simple concept. Well, again, working the chair with one leg while balancing on the other forces you to keep the trunk stable, the focus closer to your center of gravity, and thus use those really deep muscles with funny names.
Give this a try if you’re into keeping your workout working for you. And remember my #1 rule of staying with any fitness routine and why all those dancers don’t leave studios that clearly aren’t teaching them anything – find a work out buddy. Really, it works!