The Essential Pilates

Lucy Knight, Lucy Lloyd-Barker
Year Released: 2003

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength

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I stumbled across this little-known DVD set and decided to give it a try. It features two British Pilates instructors, Lucy Lloyd-Barker and Lucy Knight, and it offers a wide variety of Pilates workouts on two discs. I consider myself to be at about an intermediate level in Pilates, and I found that these workouts moved MUCH more slowly than any other Pilates I've tried, including live classes and many videos. Given this, I found the workouts to be fairly easy, but they might be ideal for someone just learning Pilates, especially given the extraordinary amount of information on breathing and form.

The set comes with a booklet which provides a breakdown of the two discs, information on the instructors, various background information on Pilates, and a review of the eight Pilates principles. Both DVDs are well-chaptered, and you have the menu option of playing the entire workout or choosing your scene. Disc 1 is broken down in the booklet as follows (titles in paratheses are what appears on screen at the start of the actual workout): 1) Introduction, 2) Warm-ups (Level 1-On the Beach), 3) Level 2-By the Pool, 4) With a Resistance Band, 5) Matwork (Level 1-On the Beach), and 6) Level 2-By the Sea. Lucy Lloyd-Barker leads the majority of workouts on this disc, with Lucy Knight leading Workout 3 only. In the introduction, Lloyd-Barker reviews some of the basic Pilates principles. This continues into the warm-up section, where she explains proper breathing and has you practice extensively for about 9 minutes. In Chapter 3, you continue the standing breath work but add on some basic core warm-ups for a total of 11.5 minutes. The band segment consists entirely of seated and reclined stretches, with the majority of the work focused on the upper body (17.5 minutes). Next comes a 34-minute matwork section. Again, this is VERY slow-moving and gentle, with almost all of the traditional Pilates exercises performed in a modified version (eg, performing the single leg stretch without raising your head and shoulders off the floor). There continues to be a very strong emphasis on form, and plenty of information on alignment is provided. The final segment of Disc 1 is very similar to the matwork section, although the sequencing is a bit different and a few slightly more challenging exercises are offered (eg, a side plank); this workout was also slightly longer at 35 minutes.

The booklet describes the Disc 2 workouts as follows: 1) Variations (Linked Movements to Promote Inch Loss), 2) Reformer (Reformer Pilates with Resistance Band), 3) Abdominal (Abdominal Workout), 4) Upper Body Strength (Upper Body Strength with Band), and 5) Conclusion/Credit. All of the workouts on this disc are lead by Lucy Knight. The first chapter has a strong focus on back work--Knight has you repeatedly roll down from a standing position, do a push up, and roll back up again, plus you'll do other exercises from a stomach-lying position. She also spends time on a roll-up series, first just going from a seated to a leaning back position and then going from seated to reclined. She finishes with the hundred and single leg stretch but performs only one repetition of each, coming in at 22 minutes; an inset occasionally displays modified moves. In the 17-minute reformer segment, Knight has you spend most of your time lying on your back with the band under your feet; you will do MANY repetitions of leg extensions. She also incorporates the band into the roll-ups as well as some seated arms work, and she concludes with some final stretches without the band. The short (8 minutes) abdominal segment is a bit more intense; slightly more advanced versions of some of the exercises are shown, but the moves are still very basic. Here, there is a background exerciser working out with Knight who shows modifications. Finally, the upper body strengthening segment uses the band to specifically target the arms muscles, mostly from kneeling and standing postions for a total of 12 minutes.

Although I thought this DVD set was very well-done, nicely instructed, and offered good variety of Pilates techniques, I did not find the workouts to be challenging, as they were too easy for my current level. However, this set would be ideally suited to someone newer to Pilates, especially someone who is looking for plenty of form and alignment information and who would like to get a wide selection of practices from one DVD purchase.

Instructor Comments:
I thought both instructors were equally effective; the only real difference is that Knight speaks with slightly more of a cockney British accent than Lloyd-Barker.

Beth C (aka toaster)