Stott Pilates Dynamic Balance

P.J. O'Clair, Moira Stott Merrithew
Year Released: 2002

Categories: Balance/Medicine/Mini/Stability Ball, Pilates/Core Strength

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it once.

General workout breakdown: This 97-min. DVD has a 40-min. Pilates routine using the stability ball to adapt exercises normally done on the Pilates reformer.
The 32 exercises include a warm-up (8 min.) of breathing, transversus connection, imprint & release, scapula isolation, arm circles, and head nods. The main exercises (33 min.) are ab prep, hip release, spinal rotation, hip roll, footwork (wrap toes, heels on ball, high half toe, laterally rotated, lower & lift), second position, hamstring stretch, single leg, hundred, short spine prep, back rowing preps, side arm preps, side twist sitting, stomach massage, plow, tricep push up, elephant, mermaid, knee stretches, running, hip rolls prep, and single thigh stretch.
As always in Pilates, quality is stressed over quantity, with most exercises done in 3-10 reps. The pace of the exercises themselves are deliberate. There are some pauses between exercises as Moira and PJ explain the upcoming move and set up for it, especially during the warm-up, which also has some hang time (you know, when an instructor leaves you hanging in the middle of the move as she clarifies a form issue without indicating if you should keep going).

Level: Stott rates this a 3 out of 5 on their difficulty scale, with 5 being the most difficult. (It used to be labeled Level 2 in their stability ball series, with Core Balance as level 1, but they’ve since taken that off of the cover.) I’d recommend this to somewhat experienced exercisers who have some Pilates background, probably at the beg. / int. crossover point through int. level of Pilates. You needn’t have much stability ball experience, however. If you’re much beyond the intermediate level of exercise and Pilates and/or have lots of stability ball experience you may be better off with the more advanced version of this one, Superior Balance (formerly known as Ultimate Balance).
I consider myself at the int. / adv. level of Pilates, comfortable with the all but the most advanced matwork exercises and somewhat limited in strength and/or flexibility in a few spots. I am a relative novice at stability ball workout, however. I am kicking myself for not acquiring this video sooner, but I’m glad to have it now and will be able to get some use out of it for a little while longer since I still weeble wobble a lot while on the ball. I found the warm-up too elementary for me at this point, since it covers very basic Pilates principles, although it was worth running through it once to see how Stott would apply them to the stability ball and to get those hamstrings fired up. In the future I’ll start right in with the ab prep.

Class: When Moira is instructing, PJ is demonstrating as the “student,” and vice versa. Moira adds a few peanut gallery comments (“Yes, it is hard!” I do find it odd that PJ keeps commenting on how well Moira is doing the moves – um, Moira is one of the founders of this particular Pilates method!); PJ is much quieter when playing the student.

Music: soft but very repetitive piano-based instrumental music. (If you have other Stotts you’ve heard this before.)

Set: a brightly lit white room with windows on both walls, with a few stability balls and a potted plant or two arranged around the perimeter.

Production: crisp picture and sound. The camera angles are very helpful, with the zoom-ins always relevant, clear, and at appropriate times.

Equipment: mat and stability ball (or Swiss ball or whatever you want to call it). Moira, who’s around 5’4”, uses a 55 cm ball, while PJ, who’s 5’8 ˝”, uses a 65 cm. I’m about 5’8” (no ˝), and I used a 65 cm, which was maybe a hair big in the stomach massage. Moira and PJ are both barefoot.

Space Requirements: enough space to sweep your limbs around plus space length-wise to walk forward over your ball. I used an extra foot or two beyond each end of my mat, for example, and made sure I could stick my arms out to the side.

DVD Notes: Please note that this has been rereleased at least once. I’m reviewing what I think is the repackaged edition, although I don’t know of any significant difference other than the cover and maybe the initial warnings / agreements.
The main menu options are Getting Started (What You’ll Need, DVD Tips, Warnings / Cautions), Audio Options (Instruction On, Instruction Off), Workout Principles (Breathing, Pelvic Placement, Rib Cage Placement, Scapular Movement & Stabilization, Head & Cervical Placement), The Workout, Chapter Selection (The DVD is meticulously chaptered by exercise), and Special Features (Bonus – Try the next level!, which here is 3-D Balance; Stott Pilates equipment, Meet the instructor, Get in touch, Stott Pilates education, Other Stott Pilates video titles).
Two annoying things about using this DVD: you have to push “I agree” to the disclaimers before it starts, and then it plays a Stott series introduction that I’ve yet to figure out how to skip.

Comments: A day later I do feel this in my hamstrings, inner thighs, and glutes, as I expected, since that footwork series in particularly works them well. I also feel my obliques quite a bit, which is surprising since there aren’t tons of obviously obliques-intensive exercises, but I find Stott workouts are sneaky about engaging those obliques, especially since Moira is very good at pointing out that the obliques are responsible for the imprint position. This workout’s theme might be more stabilization than anything else, which I like since that’s never a bad thing for the low back. I do like having the stretches sprinkled throughout the workout, too, which lowered the intensity some but helped me feel energized and worked out and feeling tall, not tired and worn out and scrunched up with tension, afterwards.
There is some work on the wrists, although the ball can help take some weight off of them.

I’ve never had the pleasure of working on a reformer, so I can’t say how this compares to actual reformer work. I did like the slightly different series of exercises, however, and appreciate the variety the adaptations of apparatus work can bring to the same ol’ matwork, expanding a poor at home exerciser’s options greatly. Most of the moves seemed to work pretty well on the ball, although that single leg series kind of lost me when we raised a leg and rolled back and forth while seated on the ball (one of those “I’m supposed to feel this where?” moments), the stomach massage with feet on either side of the ball felt awkward (maybe because I’m so inflexible), and the single thigh stretch threatened to venture into circus act territory (although I was very happy to have a hip flexor stretch included here). And I felt a little more could have been done to distinguish between the prep and full elephant series. That said, it was nice to have something to push against during the footwork portion; I could actually feel the muscles in my feet getting worked for once. The rowing series felt more like rowing with the controlled rolling of the ball back and forth, also, and this version required less hamstring flexibility, which kept my low back happier throughout the sequence, since I was able to sit up properly.
If you like the idea of reformer (or other apparatus) work adapted to the mat, you might also like Sarah Picot’s More than Mat series, Ana Caban’s Pilates Core Challenge, Mari Winsor’s Maximum Burn Super Sculpting & Body Slimming, and perhaps also Jodi Brennan’s P3 Pilates Plus Power Workout, Vol. 1. You can also find some reformer exercises in Ana Caban’s Energy Boost Pilates 1, Lara Hudson’s 10 Minute Solution Rapid Results Pilates, and Liz Gillies’ Progressive Pilates for Weight Loss (most of which are also on the bonus section on her Target Tone video). Lara Hudson’s 10 Minute Solution Pilates on the Ball shares a few exercises with this one; actually, I just like that DVD and am always happy to recommend it where relevant.

Instructor Comments:
Moira and PJ switch off instructing, with Moira taking the beginning and end while PJ does the middle. Both instruct and cue very well, focusing on cuing the moves, providing instruction on form and alignment, reminding you of the Pilates principles, and pointing out the purpose of the exercise (I like knowing what I’m working). Needless to say, there’s no extraneous chatter, as they don’t have any breath for it! PJ hasn’t made that much of an impression on me before, but I liked her more in this DVD, for whatever reason. Moira is her usual self (although she manages to tell the same story twice in a row – oops!). Neither has a super enthusiastic or warm or exciting personality, but both bring knowledge and experience to their teaching, so if you’re OK with not having barrels of fun you’ll find top notch teachers.
Neither Moira nor PJ really specify directional cues; there’s a lot more “lift one leg” and “now do the opposite side” rather than “right” and “left.”