Element Pilates Weight Loss for BeginnersBrooke Siler
Year Released: 2008
Categories: Pilates/Core Strength
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This DVD is the first by Brooke Siler, one of the "second generation" Pilates instructors (i.e., she was taught by Romana Kryzanowska, an instructor who learned directly from Joseph Pilates himself). Siler is featured alone in the same ocean-side garden setting used for the other Element workout DVDs, and she instructs via voice.
The Main Menu offers the following options:
*Play Pilates-Conscious Cardio
*Play Pilates Prep & Matwork Section
*Play Complete Program
The first segment, Pilates-Conscious Cardio (18.5 minutes), is perhaps better described as an extended warm-up stretch. Siler begins standing with a review of Pilates breathing and then moves into shoulder rolls, one-arm circles, side stretch, windmills, standing twist, standing saw, and standing swing. She also does what she calls a "squat series," actually a series of plies adding in a windmill and a twist. This is followed by a set of lunges plus a lunging hip flexor/hamstring stretch. Siler concludes with a brief set of push-ups (on knees), star (side plank variation), and finally, swan prep.
The Pilates Prep & Matwork Section is 29 minutes long. Here Siler begins with half roll back and pelvic lifts to prep for a partial roll up. She then moves into what she describes as a beginner's matwork series. This includes the hundred, full roll-up, single leg circles, rolling like a ball, series of five, spine stretch forward, hip circles, saw, heel kicks, side kick series (up/down, circles, hot potato), teaser prep, one-leg teaser, seal, and full push-ups.
Siler performs all of the exercises in a flow, moving almost seamlessly from one to the next. Although she provides excellent information on form, those who are brand-new to Pilates may find that this video does not provide quite enough instruction. (In this case, I would suggest Siler's first book, The Pilates Body, as an excellent accompaniment.) However, this DVD might be more ideally suited to those who are experienced exercises yet new to the practice of Pilates.
Personally, although I have been practicing Pilates on and off for over ten years and consider myself to be at a more intermediate level, I appreciated the pace of this program, and I found Siler's instruction to be an excellent refresher.
I enjoyed Siler as an instructor. Surprisingly, however, I didn't think her personality was quite as engaging on film as she seemed through her books.
I’m reviewing this workout after doing it once in its entirety.
General workout breakdown: This Pilates DVD contains two sections: a segment mixing standing Pilates moves with more common strength moves incorporating Pilates principles and a Pilates matwork routine, for a total of 47.5 minutes of workout.
*Pilates-conscious cardio (18.5 min.) isn’t just or even mainly cardio; it contains both standing Pilates moves and more standard strength moves that might get your heartrate up some. I haven’t seen this method of introducing or reviewing Pilates principles in action elsewhere; those who learn best by doing or by being shown will find this particularly helpful. It begins standing with Pilates breathing, shoulder rolls, arm circles, side (upper body) bends, windmill, twist w/ hands behind head, standing saw, standing sweeps (a dynamic forward bend), (plie) squat series (with a few arm & tempo variations), (plie) squat – windmill (2 variations), (plie) squat – twist w/ arms wide, (static) lunges (2 variations), active long low lunge – half split / hamstring active stretch series, Pilates push-ups (knees bent, elbows narrow), star (side plank variation, bottom knee to floor), elephant press (an elbow plank – push-up series; cf. dolphin push-ups in yoga), swan dive prep, and counterstretch (aka shell stretch or little piece of heaven or child’s pose).
This would be a nice post-work practice, since it has some great stretches, especially for the shoulders and legs, plus some invigorating exercises. Or it could serve as a good warm-up to a workout session or pick-me-up in the morning. Well, any time of the day, really.
*Pilates prep & matwork (29 min.) is a fairly standard classical-style Pilates matwork sequence. It begins seated with (half) roll backs, pelvic lift, head lift (what Stott calls “ab prep”; this is a crunch-like motion focusing on coming up w/o tensing the neck), modified roll-up (knees bent), hundred, roll-up, hamsting stretch, single leg circles (bottom knee bent), rolling like a ball, single leg stretch, double leg stretch, single straight leg stretch (sometimes called scissor), double straight leg stretch, criss cross (modified), spine stretch forward, corkscrew, saw, single leg kicks, side kicks (up & down, small circles, hot potato), heel beats & hamstring curls (as a transition between sides), teaser preps (2 variations), seal (first w/o clapping, then w/), full Pilates push-ups (elbows narrow), and ending with standing forward bend.
The emphasis is on quality over quantity; exercises are repeated 3-8 times. The pace is deliberate and just slow enough to allow focus on form, so there’s never a feeling of being rushed. That said, the pace isn’t too slow, and there’s little down time between poses or hang time as you wait for Brooke to finish explaining how to do something, which as Renee pointed out is a refreshing change from many “beginner” Pilates videos.
Level: I’d recommend this to experienced exercisers; while this is suitable for those new to Pilates, I think it would be too much for someone who’s never exercised before or at least in a long time. Those without much Pilates experience may find it helpful to supplement this video with Brooke’s The Pilates Body, which explains the exercises in more detail, and/or also consult Alycea Ungaro’s Pilates Body in Motion, although taking a well taught live class would as always be ideal, too.
That said, I completely agree with Renee that this video is definitely not just for beginners. The matwork segment is fairly standard for those at the beginner / intermediate level, and those at the intermediate level, if they execute the full moves rather than the modifications, will find this at the perfect level for them. I’ve been practicing Pilates since 2002 and currently consider myself at the intermediate / advanced level. I still found this video, particularly the full practice, provided me with a decent challenge, since the pace allowed me to focus carefully on form. That’s one of the great – and, yes, sometimes frustrating – things about Pilates: just when you think you’ve mastered a pose, you can always take it to the next level by correcting your form, doing the full pose or a more challenging variation, etc.
Class: Brooke alone, with instruction via voiceover.
Music: upbeat instrumental (pleasant, but on the elevatorish side of exercise video music). I’ve heard a few tunes in other videos, including some by Shape.
Set: platform in the middle of a manicured lawn and landscaped garden, with a pool and a view of the ocean. It’s a bright sunny day.
Production: clear picture and sound, with Brooke’s voice clearly audible over the music. The camera angles are helpful, showing all of Brooke almost all of the time.
Equipment: mat (or equivalent). Brooke is barefoot.
Space Requirements: enough space to lie down with arms and legs extended.
DVD Notes: The main menu offers you these options: Play Pilates-conscious cardio section, Play Pilates prep & matwork section, and Play complete program. While the two segments are chaptered separately, there are no chapters within the segments themselves.
Comments: Other than a few comments like involving more muscles burns more calories, the weight loss theme isn’t a major part of the workout itself.
If you like Brooke, you may also like Ana Caban, another one out of the Romana K school, or perhaps also Hilary Burnett, who also uses imagery in her instruction.
If you like the cardio portion, you may want to check out Brooke’s Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge book, which discusses how to bring Pilates principles and awareness to other activities. Like Renee, however, I wasn’t as fond of that book as I am of Brooke’s The Pilates Body and this DVD.
Brooke has a very pleasant, positive personality and is so natural sounding you almost forget she’s doing voiceover instead of live instruction. Brooke manages to balance cuing, introducing / reviewing Pilates concepts, introducing / reviewing form, and motivating. Some of her most helpful form tips come via imagery, such as telling you to imagine there’s a $100 bill between your upper thighs to help you focus on engaging your inner thighs. Brooke mirror cues (that is, when she says “right,” she means the viewer’s right).
I rarely write reviews anymore, but I'm too excited about this one not to talk about it!
Anyway, Brooke recently teamed up with Andrea Ambandos (whom I worked with on the Slim Series Express -- she's produced most of the exercise videos on the market over the past 15+ years) and made a 51 minute Pilates dvd. My only hesitation when I saw this at Collage was that it says it's for Beginners (the title is even Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners). It makes me wonder if any of the Collage staff has done this video (or if they've done others and can compare).
Generally, Pilates videos for beginners spend time setting up each move and often take them slowly. This one doesn't do that at all. The only thing I saw that seemed more beginner-ish than intermediate was the leg circles (she did them with a bent knee on the floor instead of a straight leg), the teasers (we did teaser preps, but never full teasers -- but even the teaser preps were tough), and when we did the push-up preps, we had bent knees instead of a plank position- - but later I realized this was because it's a prep -- she did full planks at the end.
So I just have to get that out of the way. It's a solid Intermediate Pilates workout. The first 1/2 is done standing. On the menu, it says "Cardio" but it's nothing like Ana Caban's Cardio Pilates or Energizer Pilates. You're not doing jumping jacks or knee ups or anything like that. It's more like Ellen Barrett's style of standing Pilates. But it's different. It's more precise than flowing. It does flow, but you don't feel like you're doing Ballet moves -- you feel like you're doing Pilates moves while standing. From the very start (warm up moves), I felt completely conscientious of what each part of my body was doing -- even in shoulder circles. Brooke's just very precise and good at giving imagery for what to do and does her moves with precision so you can see what to do.
The menu gives you the option to do just the Cardio (standing work) or just the Mat work -- or both. I chose to do the complete program, which is unusual for me. I can do yoga for an hour or even an hour and a half, but I usually want to stop doing Pilates after about 1/2 hour. I had hopes though that Brooke would keep my interest. I was right.
The second 1/2 is on the mat and it's mostly traditional Pilates moves. I was interested to see her form because she was trained by Romana Kryzanowska (who was trained by Joseph Pilates -- I'm sure most of you know that). Anyway, it was interesting because on the seal exercise -- Brooke doesn't clap her feet together so her soles meet -- they are still in Pilates position -- so she's clapping the inner edges of her feet. (Brooke has VERY long feet, btw :)).
I've always loved Brooke's voice (from hearing it on her CDs). It was just a pleasure to hear her voiceover throughout. She has amazingly helpful cues -- like when we were preparing to sit up straight for roll over -- she said to pretend that the mat had hot coals and you were lifting your bottom up as much as you could (I'm butchering how eloquently she said it, but you get the general idea). Another one I liked was in a side series move (I think it was leg circles) -- she said to imagine you're brushing crumbs off the lower leg as you circle around.
It was really wonderful to do Pilates with Brooke. It's really obvious that she's spent her life studying (and teaching) Pilates. It's much different than doing some of the videos that are by less experienced fitness instructors who decided to get Pilates training along the way. The production (scenery, music, sound) was just perfect. For $9.10 (free shipping, even) at DeepDiscount, it's a steal.
I hope Brooke continues to make more Pilates dvds. But for now, I'm plenty happy to do this one a few times each week.
I just finished Brooke Siler's new Pilates dvd from the Element series, Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners -- First of all, Yay for Brooke finally making a dvd! I bought her first book, The Pilates Body, long ago and loved using it at night when I didn't feel like doing a dvd -- it's packed full of moves and information. Then I bought her Pilates Body Kit and have used those cards (and the Intermediate CD -- photo down much lower - not enough room here) many, many times. (Her newer book, Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge, didn't thrill me as much -- I liked the exercises in it, but there was much dedicated to Pilates form in activities like Golf that didn't really interest me). I've also enjoyed seeing Brooke sharing Pilates on TV shows from time to time, and she's been a contributer to Pilates Style Magazine. (I especially the September/October 2007 issue with her on the cover -- with a 6 week Pilates ball regime by Brooke inside. She also talked about having to get her own body back into pre-pregnancy shape after training so many others to do the same -- how she saw it in a new light being the one whose body went through the changes).