10 Minute Solution: Pilates Perfect BodySuzanne Bowen
Year Released: 2008
Categories: Pilates/Core Strength
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This DVD is led by Suzanne Bowen, previously of Lotte Berk fame (under the name Suzanne Cook, she led the Lotte Berk Method Hip Hugger Abs workout). Like all of the offerings in the 10 Minute Solution series, it features five 10-minute routines. It also has a nice programmable option which allows you to "Play All" or to custom-create your own workout by mixing and matching 1-5 different segments.
In the introduction, Bowen states that these workouts fuse traditional Pilates with some ballet dance moves as well as hatha yoga for stretch and flexibility benefits. I have provided a brief overview of each segment below.
PILATES PERFECT BELLY
Here Bowen begins with a brief overview of Pilates breathing. She then introduces the mermaid legs, and keeping the legs in this position, she performs the Pilates 100, alternating the legs every breath series. She continues with the legs in mermaid for the chest pull, adding a rock on the second set. Next comes criss-cross with a 3-2-1-hold pattern, adding a leg raise. She performs corkscrew with the ankles crossed, doing a set with the head down, then with the head up. She does the same for the crossing straight leg stretch--i.e., head down for the first set, up for the second. Coming onto hands and knees, Bowen moves through a brief plank/up dog, child's pose flow, repeating just a few times. She concludes on the stomach with the Pilates grasshopper, crossing her bent legs behind her.
PILATES PERFECT BUNS & THIGHS
Bowen starts this routine on her side for some of the classic Pilates side series moves, including the up/down, passe, and 3-point. Moving to bent legs, she performs leg raises, hamstring pulls, and circles; she then switches to an inner thigh focus with lifts and circles before repeating the entire series on the other side. Moving to her back, Bowen does one legged pelvic lifts. She then comes to her knees for what she calls "deep knee bends"--in the Lotte Berk videos, they called this "thigh dancing." Bowen finishes with a quad stretch.
PILATES PERFECT ARMS
For the first part of this routine, Bowen suggests using 1-3 lb. weights. Starting in Pilates stance, she performs shoulder rolls, side raises, hug-a-tree, scissors, chest expansion, and several different positions of small circles, both slow and fast--because of this, I found this segment to be overly hard on the shoulders. Bending forward, she also performs triceps push backs, bug, side bicep curls, and lateral lifts. For the last four minutes of the workout, Bowen goes down to the floor for what she calls the "plank series." She starts in a traditional plank position for push-up variations. Next, she moves into a side plank position for sort of a star with a leg raise (this felt more like leg work than arms work to me!). She concludes with reverse plank work.
PILATES PERFECT SILHOUETTE
Bowen states that this workout combines Pilates with ballet moves. She begins standing in plie position for a standing version of the spine twist, then moves into plie with hug-a-tree. Next comes front leg lifts with the thigh pointed forward and then out. This is followed by the standing see-saw. Bowen then goes to the floor for the Pilates push-up, doing a one-leg version. Next comes reverse plank with a side passe and reverse push-ups. She concludes with a half roll-down with a twist and then full roll-ups.
PILATES PERFECT STRETCH
Bowen begins on her knees here, moving into a stretch similar to gate pose in yoga. Next comes saw and then seated hamstring stretch to either side. This is followed by seated spine twist, moving into a hip stretch (a.k.a. firelog pose). Bowen then performs a seated thigh stretch. She transitions from child's pose into cat/cow stretches. Next comes a series with down dog, 3-legged down dog, and low lunge with a hip flexor stretch (repeat on other side). Bowen concludes the stretch segment with thread the needle, twisting child's pose, and a wide-legged seated forward bend. This was quite a nice stretch series overall, BUT Bowen goes just a bit too fast for my liking; I really wish she had maybe included a few less exercises and held the moves for a little longer.
I found this DVD to be a pleasant surprise, as I enjoyed the routines more than I thought I would. I particularly liked the Belly, Buns & Thighs, and Stretch segments; the Arms felt more unbalanced, with its over-emphasis on the shoulders, and the Silhouette lacked focus. Thanks to the DVD's programmable feature, however, I can just focus on the segments I like and skip the ones I don't. I would say that this DVD is probably most appropriate for Pilates practitioners at the low intermediate and above level. Other than briefly reviewing breathing at the start of the Belly workout, Bowen gives very little instruction about Pilates basics, and many of the exercises are definitely beyond beginner level.
So, if you are an experienced Pilates practitioner who enjoys adding interesting twists to traditional Pilates exercises, I would recommend this DVD.
I definitely liked Suzanne better here than I did in her Lotte Berk offering (I think that they must make them read from a script for Lotte Berk--they sound so rote!). I thought that she cued well, mostly going at a reasonable pace, although there were a few times when I felt like I had to scramble to catch up. (In particular, as noted above, I definitely would have enjoyed holding the stretches longer in the Stretch segment.)
I’m reviewing this workout after doing it once in its entirety.
General workout breakdown: This 50-min. Pilates workout also contains some elements drawn from dance (i.e. barre-type workouts), and yoga. As with all 10 Minute Solution DVDs, this contains five 10-min. segments, each with a different focus; like the other 10 Minute Solutions Pilates DVDs, the chapters are abs, lower body, upper body, total body, and stretch.
*Pilates Perfect Belly not only focuses on the abs and lower back but also includes some brief discussion of Pilates principles, paricularly breathing. Exercises include Pilates breathing while on back, C-curve with mermaid legs (knees together, feet apart, on toes), hundred with 1 leg extended at a time, chest pull w/ mermaid legs, chest pull w/ rock, criss cross w/ hold & leg lift, corkscrew w/ crossed legs, crossing (double) straight leg stretch, full plank – upward-facing dog – child’s pose, and grasshopper.
*Pilates Perfect Buns & Thighs begins with a side-lying leg series (up & down, passé, 3 point, bent leg lift, hamstring pull, small circles w/ leg high, inner thigh lift, and inner thigh small circles) before rolling onto the back for bridge (lift & lower w/ 1 leg extended, hold w/ leg lift & lower, pulse w/ leg extended), and then coming up to the knees for deep knee bend (w/ circle; I think this is also called knee dancing).
*Pilates Perfect Arms begins standing in Pilates stance for shoulder rolls, side raises, small circles w/ arms to side, hug a tree, scissors, small circles w/ arms in front, chest expansion, and small circles w/ arms behind; you then alter your standing position slightly for triceps press backs, bug, biceps curls, lat lifts. The plank series includes triceps presses or half push-ups, (modified) side plank with arm & leg reach, and reverse plank w/ triceps dips.
*Pilates Perfect Silhouette has these exercises: slight plie in 2nd position w/ spinal twist, plies w/ hug a tree, leg lifts from 1st position, see saw, child’s pose, push-up w/ 1 knee down, reverse plank w/ passé, reverse push-ups (triceps dips) w/ 1 leg extended, half roll-down w/ twist, and roll-ups.
*Pilates Perfect Stretch begins with a kneeling side stretch (kind of like the gate series from yoga), saw, 1-legged saw (i.e. head to knee pose from yoga), spinal twist w/ knee crossed over opposite leg, triangle stretch (sometimes called double pigeon or firelog), seated quadriceps stretch, child’s pose, cat & cow on all fours, plank - down dog - 1-legged down dog (w/ hip rotation) - kneeling lunge w/ chest stretch, thread the needle (shoulder stretch) on all fours, child’s pose w/ reach across, and straddle w/ forward bend.
As you might expect from a Pilates workout, the focus is on quality over quantity, so most exercises have between 3 and 8 reps. The exercises are done at a brisk but not breakneck pace. There’s usually a short pause between directions, sides, and exercises, but after the Belly segment you’re not left hanging while Suzanne instructs. Suzanne emphasizes fluid, economical transitions between movements, and most of the corework is really about stabilization.
Level: I’d recommend this to at least intermediate exercisers with some flexibility and strength under their belt plus a solid working knowledge of Pilates as well as barre, yoga, and/or similar or fusion styles. Suzanne provides only a small amount of form instruction, and her few tips and modifications are nowhere near enough if you’ve never done Pilates before. This is probably best suited for those practicing Pilates at the low to mid-intermediate level. I’m at a high intermediate level of Pilates, and this gave me some good abs DOMS, although most of it wasn’t particularly challenging for me. That said, if I were to give it a few more tries and really focus on employing perfect form (using a lot of tips from my mental memory bank) I would probably find this more difficult, and I expect barre fans will easily find ways to make it appropriately challenging for them.
Class: Suzanne alone, who instructs live.
Music: instrumental music. It’s fine, nothing special.
Set: bright interior space with wood floor and exercise equipment and other accessories along back wall.
Production: super crisp picture, clear sound. The instructor’s voice is louder than the music. The camera angles are helpful rather than distracting.
Equipment: mat (or equivalent). You’ll also need a pair of light dumbbells (1-3 lbs.) for the Arms segment.
Space Requirements: enough room to move your arms and legs around while standing and lying down.
DVD Notes: Suzanne’s introduction can be skipped. As with all of the 10 Minute Solutions, you can play all of the segments in the order they appear, choose one, or create a personalized workout by picking and choosing between the five segments.
Comments: This is the 10 Minute Solution Pilates I personally like least (minus the Ball and Prenatal ones, which I haven’t tried), but the reasons I don’t love it are the reasons others will: This isn’t so much straight up Pilates as it is Pilates meets the barre and yoga mat. (Since there’s a limited repertoire of mat Pilates exercises, each successive 10 Minute Solution Pilates has a new twist: incorporating apparatus moves adapted to the mat in Rapid Results, using the stability ball in On the Ball, modifying for pregnancy in Prenatal, working with a resistance band in Slim & Sculpt, and now mixing in barre and yoga in Perfect Body.) The fusing different of elements is nicely done here, and those who enjoy these methods will no doubt find this a great, enjoyable workout. But for whatever reason I turn out to be not so much a fusion gal as a Pilates purist.
In comparison to the other 10 Minute Solution Pilates, I would rank this more challenging than the original with Lara Hudson. Personally I found Slim & Sculpt more difficult than Perfect Body thanks to the added resistance from the band, but those who execute Perfect Pilates with precise attention to form, particularly the barre exercises, may beg to differ. However, Rapid Results has more fully intermediate and advanced moves (e.g. starfish, which isn’t usually taught until the advanced series), so that remains the most challenging of them for me.
This is best for those with healthy wrists, elbows, and probably also shoulders. If your knees are iffy, Suzanne suggests putting a towel or blanket under them for kneeling exercises.
The talk of the “Pilates perfect body” is mostly limited to the introduction (where Suzanne announces she’s adding dance moves since so many dancers took Pilates that we associate the Pilates body with dancers’ bodies – although, of course, she conveniently skips over the fact that many schools and companies select dancers based on the bodies they have from genetics… but that’s another rant for another time) and a quick sound bite at the beginning and end of each segment, although there’s a little more in the last segment.
Suzanne has a pleasant on screen personality and engages with the camera very well (although I missed a little of the warmth she had in her previous 10 Minute Solution Pilates, since here she feels kind of rushed or something to me). She spends time breaking down the Pilates breath, but after that you’re up and running with just cues to indicate the next move plus some form tips and the occasional suggested modification. She mirror cues.