Rael Pilates System 17

Rael Isacowitz
Year Released: 2004

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength

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General workout breakdown: The exercises include breathing, scapula isolation (i.e. with arms extended up raise and lower them using the shoulders; then extend arms to the side and draw them back up), pelvic tilt followed by pelvic curl (i.e. half bridge), lying spine twist with both bent knees, chest lift (i.e. basic crunch), chest lift with rotation, roll up, leg circle, single leg stretch (with hands on knees, then with hands behind the head), shoulder bridge with leg lifts, spine stretch (forward), sitting spine twist, side leg lifts, basic swan, single leg kicks, cat stretch, front support (i.e. raising and lowering legs into plank), back support (i.e. tabletop, or prep for reverse plank), basic teaser, and seated relaxation. The focus is on the ďcore,Ē mainly the abdominals with some back work. There is a little lower and upper body work.
Rael repeats each exercise up to 10 times at a slow and deliberate pace, so the 17 moves (plus a little bit of a warm up and the relaxation at the end) take you 35 minutes to complete. You arenít left hanging around waiting for Rael to set up the extra move much. Almost every move is shown in a modified form, with Rael inserting brief clips of himself performing the more advanced version. These inserts sometimes interrupt the cuing; at other times they are seamlessly integrated into the workout. They arenít shown until after the basic level is set up, so you have to remind yourself if youíre going to start with the more advanced version. While this is touted as Pilates, it doesnít have many of the distinctly Pilates moves (e.g. the 100), and there was a little bit of yoga in there, too, such as the downward facing dog that appeared between two exercises.

Level: Iíd recommend this to someone who is making the transition from beginner to intermediate; with this video youíll get yourself ready for intermediate Pilates videos. I consider myself a low intermediate. I have about two years of Pilates experience but still have limited strength and flexibility. I found this workout appropriate with regards to my limits, particularly my lack of flexibility, although I didnít feel as worked out as I do with more challenging Pilates videos.

Class: 3 women who are fellow Pilates instructors. Rael walks around instructing and corrects their form or points out when they demonstrate the exercises well. (ďAnd Lisa demonstrates such exceptional work of the oblique muscles.Ē)

Music / Set / Other Production Notes: The instrumental music is bland, upbeat, and not too loud. (Think Weather Channel or mall elevator.) The three women are on raised wooden platforms in a curved room with orangey walls. The workout is in letterbox, and the picture and sound are crisp and clear.

Equipment: mat (optional). All participants are barefoot.

Comments: This video is great for those who donít believe you can get a decent workout while only doing 3-5 repetitions of each movement. Youíll get your repetitions here!
Also, this workout is great for people who donít like the rolling exercises, as there is no rolling like a ball, open leg rocker, or seal. I personally like those a lot (whee!), so I was a little sad not to see any of them.
Rael Pilates System reminds me a lot of Stott Pilates, in that there's a warm up and lots of instruction as the teacher walks around and points out or corrects students.

DVD Notes: The DVD begins with a sweeping overview of Raelís qualifications as a teacher, etc. You can skip this and go straight to the menu. Each of the 17 poses is chaptered. There is a short interview with Rael, too.

Conclusion: Iím keeping this for now. This is a "broccoli" Pilates tape for me: good for me, and Iíll do it because of that. But it wonít be the first thing Iíll reach for, especially if I approach the bookshelf thinking, ďIíll treat myself to some Pilates now.Ē (Ana Caban would be my example of my ďcherry on topĒ Pilates instructor. And, yes, it is lunchtime as soon as I finish writing this!) I suspect that this workout done regularly will help me improve in my more fun Pilates videos because the slower pace allows for focus on form, the large number of repetitions help increase strength and endurance, and the choice of exercises helps prepare me for more advanced moves (good plank, reverse plank, and swan preps, for example). Iím not sure Iíll be doing it more than once a week, though, because it gets a little dull. I like rollup, but I lose interest in them after about 6. And there aren't a lot of the old favorites, just a lot of prep work.
I also ordered Rael 27, and Iím curious what that is like. Iíll compare the two once I have that one.

Instructor Comments:
According to the back cover, Rael is a ďPilates MasterĒ who can do every single Pilates move. In the introduction heís shown smiling and playing on the beach with his son. In the workout, however, heís focused and down to business. I like that he usually mentions the purpose of each exercise. His cuing is good, although uneven. For example, he doesnít cue the pelvic tilt at all, but then heíll cue almost every single breath and repetition of the leg circles. Sometimes he focuses on the breath with his cuing, sometimes he focuses on form, sometimes he focuses on when to do each movement. Sometimes he cues right and left, and sometimes he doesnít. His form pointers are good. I canít place Raelís accent (vaguely British), but it is very easy to understand. In fact, heís quite articulate, which is good because he most of the time he is giving verbal instruction.

KL (KathAL79)


This morning I did Rael Pilates System 17. Wow! What a great instructor. He cues thoroughly, including just about every breath, which is the kind of cueing I need. I would classify my favorite Pilates workouts into two categories:

1) Fun - anything by Michelle Dozois & Tracy York, as a team
2) Bland but very instructional - Moira Stott

Rael falls somewhere in between the two. System 17 is a 37 minute intermediate workout and I bought it as a set with System 27 which is intermediate to advanced. I still cheated somewhat on my roll ups but I think I'm understanding the concept better. Rael's cueing really helped me to concentrate throughout each move. A thorough, intermediate workout.

Breakdown of exercises:

- Breathing
- Pelvic Curl
- Lying Spine Twist
- Chest Lift (crunch)
- Chest Lift with Rotation (oblique crunch)
- Leg Circles
- Single Leg Stretch
- Shoulder Bridge
- Spine Stretch
- Sitting Spine Twist
- Side Leg Lifts
- Basic Swan
- Single Leg Kick
- Cat Stretching
- Back Support (planks)
- Front Support (reverse planks, tabletop position, chest up)
- Basic Teaser
- Relaxation

Instructor Comments:
Passionate, precise and thorough.

Helen K


I started Pilates as a way of strengthening my core. Over time, I have gravitated more to ring and fusion workouts over pure Pilates mat workouts. I had heard enough about this workout, though, that I was curious, so I tried it.

Rael moves through 17 different moves Ė mostly Pilates, but a few seemed to be more stretching that Pilates to me. However, the moves flowed from one to another and built on each other. He talks and moves among the exercisers. He gives frequent, sometimes non-stop, form pointers and stops and points out what the exercisers are doing right while explaining how to do the moves. Modifications are shown, many times part way through the move and those modifications are on the screen briefly. The pace is very slow and controlled.

The workout is beautifully filmed and very well done. I enjoyed doing it once. Then, I thought, ďWill I do this workout on a regular, or even regular periodic, basis? The answer was no. The pace was just too slow for me. But, then, I am an action-oriented, impatient person, so you might enjoy it where I just wouldnít have the desire or patience.

Instructor Comments:
He has a very calm, encouraging manner. He is constantly explaining the moves.

Laura S.