Total Core PilatesJules Benson
Year Released: 2008
Categories: Abs/Core , Pilates/Core Strength
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On this DVD, instructor Jules Benson offers a routine in which she puts a unique spin on many traditional Pilates mat exercises. The Main Main offers options for Play All, Introduction (a short overview by Benson), The Workout, Stretch, and Credits.
As Kath mentioned, the workout itself roughly breaks down into sections, as Benson moves through a warm-up, abs work, a legs series, back work, and the final stretches; although these are not specific menu chapters, I have used these breakdowns to describe each section below. Benson teaches live with two background exercisers, Kristin and Lisa, who shows some modifications.
WARM-UP (5 minutes)
For the warm-up, Benson has you started seated with the legs apart in a slight "V." She does simple stretches in this position, including side bends and variations on Pilates moves (e.g., "this is like the saw").
ABS SERIES (17 minutes)
Benson starts here with a half roll-down, adding in a twist and a reach behind. Moving very slowing, she performs simple knee-ins, adding in the arms, bridges, and toe dips. Although the pace is never rushed, Benson flows from move to move for the hundred variation, criss-cross, roll-ups, scissors, one-leg teaser, and v-sit/roll-down combo. The final moves include a reverse plank with knee in, rolling like a ball, knee drops/circles, leg pushes, rollover, and half-teaser.
LEG SERIES (15 minutes)
For the side lying work, Benson begins with leg up-down, adding in a double pulse at the top. Next comes small circles, pointing to the front, flexing to the rear, and completing three total sets. Additional moves including big circles, a version of hot potato, bicycles, and a knee dive/lift back. Next, Benson works the inner thigh with lifts, hamstring curls, and pulses; the entire series is then repeated on the second side.
BACK SERIES (16 minutes)
Benson starts this segment with plank (option of keeping the knees on the floor), adding in a side tap. Lying on the stomach, she performs alternate arm/leg raises and a superman variation. On all fours, she raises one leg, adding in a triceps push-up, and then returns to lying prone for single leg kicks. Coming back to all fours, she performs a bird-dog variation with a knee/elbow tuck. Finally, she moves to kneeling for a side stretch, side plank with scoop/twist, and kneeling side crunch.
STRETCHES (4.5 minutes)
Benson starts in s seated wide-legged position, one leg in; she starts by bending over the straight leg for a hamstring stretch, then moves into a side stretch, quad stretch, inner thigh stretch, and twist to stretch the outer hip before repeating everything on the other side. She finishes with a seated butterfly stretch.
This is a nice workout that is probably appropriate for advanced beginner to intermediate level Pilates practitioners. Although the routine starts out slow, once Benson gets going, she does NOT pause to teach the moves at all, and she really does not provide much information on HOW to do the exercises, so a good pre-existing knowledge of Pilates is essential. Otherwise, Benson is a down-to-earth, likeable instructor who cues well and is easy-to-follow. Overall, I would give this DVD 4 1/2 stars.
P.S.--The music here is very similarly to Jari Love's original Get Ripped!. The set is the same one featured in Angie Miller's Kettlebell Bootcamp, this time with purple columns in the background rather than pink.
Jules is likeable and very low-key. She speaks with a soft southern accent; perhaps because of this, she often drops the final "g" on her words (e.g., "goin'" instead of "going"). She does mirror cue to the viewer. As noted above, she offers occasional form pointers but doesn't really provide the level of instruction that would be necessary for those new to Pilates.
I’m reviewing this workout after doing it 3 times.
General workout breakdown: This ~57-min. Pilates workout is inspired by traditional Pilates exercises, but Jules makes the exercises her own and adds in additional complementary core exercises. The workout has a graceful flow, with one exercise leading smoothly into the next and little down time. The pace is never so fast that you’ll feel like you’re flailing around, but this takes might take a few run throughs before the exercises and transitions feel completely natural. As with many Pilates workouts, the emphasis is on quality over quantity, so most exercises have 3-8 reps and are done at a controlled pace.
I’ll attempt to describe the exercises here, but because Jules does things her own way my descriptions are going to be inadequate.
- The dynamic warm-up (~5 min.) includes variations on the saw and spine twist, an upper body circle, scoop & upper back opening, and a side bend.
- The abdominal-focused segment (~17 min.) works through the half roll-down (adding in a side tap and then more of a twist variation on the arms, legs lifting to tabletop & lowering, crunch w/ 1 leg into tabletop, bridge w/ single leg extensions, dipping toes into water (w/ optional crunch), hundred variation (legs alternating between table top and extended, w/ slower arm pumps), criss cross, roll-up (w/ arm variations), corkscrew (w/ optional reverse crunch), scissors, forward reach w/ knees pulled in into 1-legged teaser (option: full V sit or teaser – add roll-down & roll-up for a mini series, quick forward bend stretch, reverse plank w/ knee raise, rolling like a ball, crunch w/ heels together & knees apart, knee sway w/ circle, single- and then double-leg push / press out (a kind of single or double leg stretch w/ the hands behind the head), mini roll-up, leg(s) & body lifting 6 inches off ground, rollover into seated position, and half teaser (w/ opposite arm reaching).
- The side-lying leg series (~ 14.5 min.) runs through flexed foot up & pointed down, flexed foot high pulse, pointed foot double pulse – flexed down, pointed foot high pulse, small circles in front of & behind bottom leg (going higher each series), big circles, a hot potato variation (heel in front, raise leg high, tap pointed toe behind), bicycle, slow knee dive w/ added lift, & then a final hold; the inner thigh then works through pointed foot raise – flexed foot lower, flexed foot lift – hamstring curl, pointed foot lift w/ side bend., & tiny pulses w/ pointed foot. Jules does everything on one side before repeating the whole shebang on the second.
- The back-focused series (~16 min.) begins with a plank w/ knee tap (optional: side tap), prone upper & lower body extension (w/ arm variations), modified cobra into flight (arms & legs extended – a kind of superman), child’s pose, opposite arm & leg (a slow version of swimming; leg curl & bent arm variation, too), single-leg extension on all fours (option: add in triceps push-up), single leg kicks – adding in elbow planks in between for a short series, a breaststroke variation w/ moving legs, heel pulses / beats, opposite arm & leg on all fours – adding in knee and elbow curl, cat stretch, side bend – side plank into side plank w/ scoop / twist into side plank hold, and kneeling side crunch which then adds a twist variation (another saw-inspired exercise).
- The workout ends with some seated stretches (~ 4.5 min.): a 1-legged forward bend hamstring stretch that then lifts up onto the knee to stretch the front of the hip and chest, quadriceps stretch, inner thigh press, outer hip stretch, butterfly, and an ending seated forward bend. I like that Jules doesn’t forget the front of the thigh (hip flexor, quadriceps), as many video Pilates instructors seem to do.
Level: I’d recommend this to at least intermediate exercisers with some flexibility and strength under their belt and a solid working knowledge of Pilates. Jules’ form instruction, tips, and modifications are not enough if you’ve never done Pilates before, plus the pace requires that you know what you’re doing and/or can at least figure things out quickly. This is probably best suited for those practicing Pilates at least at an intermediate level. I’m at an int. / adv. level of Pilates (about 6 years of Pilates experience, can perform the int. series and working on the adv.), and this is suitably challenging for me.
Class: 2 women join Jules, who instructs live. One woman provides some modifications.
Music: pleasant mostly instrumental, with some vocals. It’s upbeat yet laidback, suitable to the workout and Jules’ personality, even if it’s just a step above elevator music.
Set: bright interior studio with wooden floors and white curtains alternating with purplish piers in the background.
Production: clear picture and sound, with Jules’ voice clearly audible but the music not too quiet. Most of the time the camera angles are helpful and show all of everyone, but there are a few places where lower bodies are shown while an upper body move is introduced or the modifier is shown (or not shown) with a new variation introduced.
Equipment: Pilates mat (or equivalent). All participants are barefoot.
Space Requirements: You should be able to lie down with arms & legs extended plus move your limbs around without hitting anything.
DVD Notes: The main menu options are Play All, Intro, The Workout, Stretch, and Credits. Although the DVD is decently chaptered (usually by series of exercises), there’s no way to access individual chapters from the main menu.
Comments: The consistently good press about this video on VF meant I could no longer pass it up, and I’m so glad I acquired it. Normally I prefer my Pilates straight up. But I have to say that I really enjoy this one; even though Jules tweaks things, this workout still is respectful of the goals of Pilates, working the entire core (abs, back, hips, inner thighs, and even glutes), and it doesn’t really feel like a “fusion” program. At the same time, someone who doesn’t like more classical Pilates routines but still wants to pursue Pilates might find this a great alternative because of the variations and the inclusion of some more athletic-style (for lack of a better description) exercises.
Now that I’ve found a live teacher I like at my gym, I don’t do a lot of Pilates videos, but if I can’t make it to class this is the video I now reach for as an appropriate substitute. It’s very different from my class, taught by a Stott-certified teacher and focusing on the basic Pilates matwork series, but it’s of a similar level of challenge in its own way.
This and 10 Minute Solution Pilates on the Ball are my two favorite Pilates DVDs that I acquired in 2008.
If you’re looking for a killer side-lying leg series or are a fan of floorwork, especially that which focuses on the outer hips, run, don’t walk, to any place you can get this. I don’t usually care for floorwork other than good bridge series, but Jules’ personality gets me through this one.
If you like the flowing, graceful quality of this series (the “dancing on the floor” quality, as Pat once described it), you might also like Lizbeth Garcia’s two Shape Pilates for Pink series, although Jules is a bit more challenging.
Jules, who’s very comfortable in front of the camera (it’s hard to believe this is only her second video), focuses on cuing (although she forgets to mention that she’s doing alternating legs in a place or two), throwing in some form reminders and tips, and encouraging. She mirror cues. She has a few unscripted comments (like saying that her kids like to get on her back when she’s doing triceps push-ups) that just make her even more endearing, at least to me. Jules emphasizes relaxing the neck, although she usually just reminds you to do so. I like that she usually mentions what the modifier is doing.
It bugs me to use this word in reference to a grown woman, especially one who’s a smart professional, but Jules is so gosh darn cute with her bubbly (but by no means annoying or perky) personality, down to earth presence, and Southern accent. I feel like I’m working out with the great Pilates teacher a friend found at her local studio rather than a Major Personality.
In this 57 minute workout, you'll work your midsection thoroughly with traditional pilates along with unique "twists". The workout also has a special emphasis on the hips, thighs and buns as Jules included a long side lying leg series.
The workout is chaptered as follows:
Jules offers proper form techniques ensuring safety and control. She has Lisa modify the workout throughout.
The music was soft, non obtrusive, and worked beautifully for this practice.
If you are looking for a "fun" pilates workout, look no further. Every move flows smoothly, like a dance. The warmup felt especially "rhythmic". You'll warm the torso/core to prepare for the workout in a gentle, no impact way.
Jules often offers up a combination of traditional toning exercises within the pilates movements. All levels can participate as many variations are shown during the routine. (follow Jules for a solid intermediate workout)
Jules is very fluid in performing the moves (no jerking whatsoever). You'll be surprised on how some moves appear easy but once you focus & perform the move, you'll feel it working!
You'll also perform about 8 minutes per leg of the side series. (longer than most pilates workouts) The small, precise movements really key in on the muscles of the entire hip/leg area.
You'll conclude the workout with a well deserved stretch. The whole workout has a "relaxing" feel to it, which made it more enjoyable to do. You'll finish feeling rejuvenated! (and have toned all the areas that women struggle the most with!)