Total Toning Pilates

Ana Caban
Year Released: 2008

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength

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NOTE: I received a free copy of this workout kit to review for the site Metapsychology Online Reviews (

This workout set is an offering from lifestyle company Gaiam and certified Pilates instructor Ana Cabán. Cabán has been a mainstay of Pilates media for almost a decade now, but she is constantly adding new and varied challenges to her workouts. Here she includes 2-lb. hand weights fashioned into a unique “S” shape to increase the intensity of the program. The DVD offers three different 15-minute workouts, each of which incorporates the weights and yet are still based on the traditional exercises first introduced by Pilates founder, Joseph Pilates. As she notes in her brief Introduction, Cabán even adapts some of the Pilates equipment moves, such as those designed for the Cadillac. Cabán works out alone in an outdoor setting; her purple mat is featured on a raised platform against a mountainous background. The music is generally pleasant and unobtrusive.

The Main Menu of the DVD offers options to select the Introduction, Mat Series, Equipment Series, or Standing Series. If you choose to start with the Mat Series as Cabán recommends, you can easily continue to complete the entire 54 minute workout, as there is only a brief pause between each section. The Mat Series begins lying down for a few simple warm-ups such as rolling the neck from side-to-side and up-down. Cabán first uses the weights to move the arms from over the head to down towards her sides. Still holding the weights, Cabán does the Pilates Hundred move, keeping the weights still at her sides rather than pumping the arms as is customary. She continues with a classical Pilates matwork sequencing of movements, sometimes holding just one weight—for example, she performs Rolling Like a Ball holding one weight with both hands in front of the calves. All five exercises of the Series of Five are performed, using both weights for the first three exercises and just one weight for the last two. Cabán concludes the Mat Series in a seated position for the Spine Stretch forward (holding one weight behind the head) and the Spinal Twist (holding one weight straight out in front of the body).

The Equipment Series is also performed entirely on the mat. Cabán again begins lying face-up with one weight in each hand for a move called Coordination. She then continues on to the Rowing series, a sequence of several different classic Pilates exercises which challenge both the arms and the entire torso from a seated position. Other exercises performed seated include Shaving the Head and Hugging a Tree. Still holding both weights, Cabán then moves to a prone (face-down) position for the Long Box series, which involves reaching the arms up and back as well as up and out to the sides. Next are several movements completed while on the back or seated, including a Back Stroke (again coordinating the movements of the arms and legs), a Teaser variation (holding the Teaser position while pumping the arms with the weights; repeat several times), and Short Box variations. After a brief side stretch, Cabán comes to a kneeling position, still using both weights for Chest Expansion, Thigh Stretch, Arm Circles, Bicep Curls, and Rolling In and Out. Cabán concludes this segment with the Mermaid, incorporating one weight at a time to increase the side stretch.

The final segment is the Standing Series. Here Cabán beings in a standing position for Running in Place and Rolling through the Feet, adding in arm movements (holding both weights) to each of these exercises. These moves serve to pre-fatigue the upper body for a traditional series of Pilates arms work, including Bicep Curls, Tricep Extensions, Zip Ups, The Bug, Little Circles, and Boxing. For many of these exercises, Cabán begins with the heels grounded but then rises onto the toes as she repeats the exercise. She continues to hold both weights for all of the remaining moves, which include Lunges, Side Bend, “Hide Your Hands,” Pick a Flower, Wall series, Arm Lifts, Arm Circles, and finally, Roll-Downs.

Overall, I was very impressed with this workout kit. I am someone who exercises exclusively at home 6-7 days per week, and I am generally reluctant to add new exercise gadgets to my collection. However, I found the S-shaped weights included with this set to be truly worthwhile. The design of these weights seemed very ergonomic in nature, as they were extremely comfortable to use, and they were very easily incorporated into the flow of the workouts. I have used light dumbbells for Pilates before, but these weights truly felt different, perhaps because their unique shape offered a more even distribution of the weight. Given this, I actually felt the exercises more intensely than I ever have before. I consider myself to be an a perennial intermediate level in Pilates; although I have always enjoyed Pilates matwork, I have never gotten much out of the other Pilates exercises—e.g., the Rowing series, the Pilates Arms work, etc.—in the past. But Cabán’s distinctive method of putting these movement together along with the S-weights truly made a difference.

I think that each of these three of these routines provides a challenging, full-body workout, although the Equipment and Standing Series both concentrate quite a bit on the arms, a rarely-seen benefit of most Pilates DVDs. Cabán does not mirror-cue, but she has an excellent, easygoing instruction style; she does assume some pre-existing familiarity with basic Pilates moves here. In summary, I would highly recommend this workout set, particularly for intermediate level and above Pilates practitioners.

Instructor Comments:
Ana is my favorite Pilates instructor! I definitely appreciate her straight-forward style. I also like that she teaches classical Pilates based on the original work by Joseph Pilates, yet she still manages to make her routines fresh and interesting.

Beth C (aka toaster)


Total Toning Pilates
Instructor Ana Caban
Mat Series (There are three 15 minute chapters, this is the first. The second is Equipment, and the third is Standing.)

Warm up:
*Lie on back, knees bent
*Roll head from right to left
Repeat while breathing in and out with each movement
*Roll chin up to ceiling then toward chest
Repeat while breathing in and out with each movement.
*Lift arms to ceiling while holding weights, then stretch hands back
Repeat while breathing in and out with each movement

Mat work:
*Hundred-arms remain still while holding weights
Half way through, criss-cross feet, performing heel taps with each breath, arms remain still
*Leg circles with weights under thighs, trying to keep contact with weight and leg on floor
Switch legs
*Rolling like a ball, holding one weight in both hands (gave a more challenging balance response!)

Series of 5:
*Single leg stretch, holding arms out in front, weight in each hand, no arm movement
Half way through set, reach and hold arms up overhead
*Double leg stretch, begin with arms stretched out in front, weights in hands, half way through set, reach and hold arms up overhead
*Single straight leg stretch, begin with arms in front, weights in hand, half way through set, reach and hold arms up overhead
*Double straight leg stretch, hold one weight with 2 hands behind head
*Criss cross, hold one weight in both hands, arch weighted over knees to opposite sides while twisting waist and moving legs (really felt my obliques with this)

*Spine stretch forward with one weight in both hands behind head
*Spine twist with one weight in both hands, held in front of body (really forced me to be conscious of twisting as far as I can with good form, straight back).

I really enjoyed this workout, and it may become my new favorite Caban. Not only were the weights used creatively, they were used in a way that added both intensity and drew more attention to the core and good form. I did not feel that weights at any point were a frivolous gimmick to promote a new piece of equipment.

The weights themselves are almost S-shaped, with center bar being horizontal. This allowed the weights to be held easily and securely with one hand or two hands.

Because this is a nice short, but efficient workout, I can see myself using it as an add-on.

Equipment Series
I don’t know if had already fatigued my body by doing Shred, first, but I really felt some challenge in this segment, especially the upper body.

The exercises in this segment are adaptations of Pilates Reformer exercises.

*Coordination, 1 weight in each hand
*Rowing, 1 weight in each hand (Sit upright, legs out front, flat on the floor. Lean back, curving spine, hands out in front. Pull hands into chest, then press arms out the side. Lean forward and pull arms back. Then circle arms to the front and roll up-3 sets).
*90 Degrees, 1 weight in each hand (Sitting up with legs in front, hold arms at 90 degree angles in front of you. Lean back, then curl forward and pull arms behind. Sweep arms to the front, then roll up-3 sets).
*Rowing variation, 1 weight in each hand (Sit up right, legs in front. Lean forward slightly and hold hands at chest. Press hands out front and up, diagonally. Bring hand with extended arms down to meet the floor. Lift arms up to the front, diagonally again, then pull down arms slowly, out to the side-3sets))
*Spine stretch variation, 1 weight in each hand (Sit up with legs in front, arms extended in front. Curl over and stretch out weights past toes. Curl back up, keeping arms extended, and pull arms up overhead, and down, out to the side.-3 sets)
*Shave the head, 1 weight in each hand
*Hug a tree, 1 weight in each hand
*Long box pulling straps, 1 weight in each hand (lie on stomach, arms down by hips. Lift back and reach arms up toward feet)
*Long box T-row, pulling straps 2, 1 weight in each hand (stay on stomach and hold arms out to the sides, palms to the floor. Lift back and pull arms back toward toes)
*Child’s pose stretch
*Back stroke, 1 weight in each hand (lie on back, pull knees in to 90 degrees and hold hands by forehead. Lengthen arms and legs straight up. Open arms and legs to shoulder and hip width. Circle arms and legs down to form a 45 degree angle from the floor. First sets, open & close legs 5 times. Subsequent sets, open & close legs and arms 5 times.)
*Teaser, 1 weight in each hand (holding position, pump arms at sides 5 times-I found this CHALLENGING)
*Short box, 2 hands on 1 weight at tummy (in this version, Ana rolls all the way down to the floor, then rolls completely back up)
*Straight back, 2 hands on weight behind head
*Side to Side, 2 hands on weight held straight over head
*Chest expansion, 1 weight in each hand
*Thigh stretch, 1 weight in each hand
*Arms circles, 1 weight in each hand (remain kneeling and scoop arms out front and circle up overhead. Reverse)
*Bicep curls, 1 weight in each hand (Remain kneeling)
*Rolling in and out, 1 weight in each hand (Remain kneeling. Hold arms out front, roll down forward toward floor, putting weights on floor in front of knees. Slide weights toward body, then curl up, skimming body with weights. Reverse)
*Mermaid, 1 weight in each hand, 1 at a time

Comments: Once again, the added weights did not seem frivolous or gimmicky. They added intensity to the workout. At some parts, my arms were a little shaky (but remember, I had done this right after doing 30 Day Shred). If it seems like a lot of exercises for 15 minutes, that’s because this segment was closer to 20 minutes. Once again, this will be a great add-on, but I could see using this segment as a stand-alone as well.

Standing Series
This portion of the DVD contains Pilates exercises that are done standing, with one weight in each hand, the entire segment.

*Running with weights held in front of chest, then held to side at right angles, and finally held straight out to the side (lift heals up one at time while standing in place, resembles the running series on the reformer.)
*Foot rolls, weights to the chest, then to the side at right angles, and finally held straight out to the sides. (Bend knees, roll up on to balls of the feet, stand up straight, then lower heels. After series is completed, perform in reverse.)
*Pilates Bicep curls, arms out in front (one set in Pilates stance, one set on the toes)
*Pilates Bicep curls, arms out to the sides (one set in Pilates stance, one set on the toes)
*Tricep kick backs
*Pilates zip up, Pilates stance, then on toes
*Dead Bug
*Small arm circles, in Pilates stance then on toes (arms in front, moving in small circles , while upward. Reverse to move arms back down.)
*Lunges, alternating legs (slow lunge one leg, lift arms up above head, diagonally from the floor
*Side bends, alternating sides
*Hide your hands (hold arms out to sides, then press behind back, raise arms higher for each rep.)
*Pick a flower (arms out to sides, bend over, scoop arms in front, roll up with hands out front, palms up with slight backbend)
*Wall series (squat with arms raised in front, press heels down and squeeze buttocks to rise)
*Arm lifts (lift up one arm overhead, then switch arms like scissors)
*Big arm circles, Pilates stance and on toes (open arms out to the sides, up overhead, come down the front, and then reverse)
*Roll down (roll down to the point that arms dangle in front. Make small arm circles with dangling arms, then switch direction of circles.)

Comments: I could see the arm movement in this series, done with flexing and good form, could work to shape the arms. The core is engaged mostly through balance in this segment. However, Ana does constantly remind us to hold in our tummies and squeeze our glutes. The weight used throughout, added attention to detail and some intensity.

Although the DVD is chaptered to easily move to a specific segment, it also flows as one long, uninterrupted workout, which might provide a thorough pilates experience and perhaps greater challenge.The scenery is absolutely beautiful, in a mountainous setting.

Odd observation: Twice now, I’ve tried to view the DVD in my lap top computer, and both times my computer froze and shut down due to fatal errors. The first time, I thought I had merely overloaded my lap top’s memory. After trying a different DVD with no problems, I’ve come to conclude that the DVD may have some sort of new anti-piracy program in it, which may prevent it from played on any type of computer.

Instructor Comments:
Ana’s form is excellent as always, and she gives some different form pointers that caused me to really focus on my form. Ana’s instruction and detail on form is very good, as she often gives reminders of what body parts should be working in addition to those that are moving.