Stott Pilates Advanced Matwork, 3rd edition

Moira Stott Merrithew
Year Released: 2007

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it once.

General workout breakdown: This 101-min. DVD contains one 42-min. advanced Pilates matwork sequence covering 51 exercises.
The warm-up (6 min.) runs through Breathing, Imprint & Release, Hip Release, Spinal Rotation, Hip Rolls, Scapula Isolation, Arm Circles, and Head Nods.
The workout portion (36 min.) covers Ab Prep, Breast Stroke Preps 1 & 3, Shell Stretch, Hundred, Half Roll Back, Roll Up, One Leg Circle, Spine Twist, Rolling Like a Ball, Single Leg Stretch, Obliques, Slow Double Leg Stretch, Double Leg Stretch, Scissors, Shoulder Bridge, Roll Over, One Leg Kick, Breast Stroke, Saw, Open Leg Rocker, Neck Pull, Obliques Roll Back, Jack Knife, Side Kick (forward & back, up & down, small circles), Side Leg Lift Series (staggered legs, with top leg lifting and underneath meeting, then both legs together, and finally whole body), Scissors in Air, Bicycle in Air, Double Leg Kick, Spine Stretch Forward, Teaser Series (4 variations: w/ legs in air, legs lift & lower, full body to floor & back up, figure 8s), Swan Dive, Swimming, Leg Pull Front, Leg Pull, Hip Twist, Control Balance, Corkscrew, Side Kick Kneeling (forward & back), Seal, Side Bend, Twist, Rocking, Boomerang, and Push Up.
The emphasis is on quality over quantity, with many exercises only getting 3-8 reps – with more in the 3-5 than in the 8 range – as appropriate. Moira emphasizes that at this level the moves should flow into each other, so there is little down, set up, or hang time between exercises. The pace of each exercise is just enough to get into position without feeling too rushed but also without feeling like you’re sitting around waiting.

Level: I’d recommend this to experienced exercisers who are at the very least at the intermediate / advanced stage in Pilates. You really should be fully comfortable with the basic and intermediate Pilates matwork exercises and somewhat comfortable with the advanced ones. I know this could be tempting for advanced exercisers who are new to Pilates and looking for a challenge, but honestly you’d be better off with a challenging Pilates routine that doesn’t presuppose knowledge of specific exercises until you truly are ready for this one.
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’ve been practicing Pilates since early 2000, with a few short breaks here and there. I found this appropriately challenging for my level. Ever since the Pilates teacher I liked at my gym (who passed through Stott training) stopped teaching the Pilates classes there I’ve returned to practicing Pilates exclusively at home. I began with a Stott-trained teacher, too, and I appreciate the Stott method as well as Moira’s detailed instruction, especially since I don’t have that live feedback.

Class: 1 man (a Stott Pilates instructor) demonstrates the moves as Moira instructs live. John tries to smile, sometimes smiling at Moira’s attempts at humor and sometimes smiling through the pain. Moira will manually correct or guide him, as there is some emphasis on how to instruct the moves. Several times she has him quickly demonstrate what not to do before resuming what to do.

Music: faint instrumental music. It did not register at all when I was doing the workout.

Set: bright interior studio with neutral walls, with various pieces of Pilates equipment, large and small, arranged neatly around.

Production: very clear picture and sound, with Moira’s voice much louder than the music. The camera angles are (with only a few exceptions – at the start of the second leg in the side leg lift series the foot isn’t shown, and I had forgotten whether it started pointed or flexed) very helpful and reinforce Moira’s points perfectly (for example, when Moira says to watch that the abdominals don’t push out, the camera focuses on John’s lower abs).

Equipment: a mat (or equivalent). Barefoot is the way to go here.

Space Requirements: enough room to lie down with arms and legs able to extend and sweep around plus room beyond the head of the mat for rollover, bicycle and scissors in the air, control balance, and push-up with the leg extended.

DVD Notes: When you first pop the DVD in, you have to select your language: English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, or German. Then you have to hit “agree” after reading the Health & Safety Caution. After that comes the same old Stott Pilates introduction (about 35 sec.) that you can’t skip. Now you’re at the main menu, with the options of DVD Player Tips, Audio Options (Instruction On or Off), Workout Principles (Breathing, Pelvic Placement, Rib Cage Placement, Scapular Movement & Stabilization, and Head & Cervical Placement), The Workout, Chapter Selection (as always, the workout is meticulously chaptered by exercise), and Special Features (Founders’ Message & Bios – the founders being Lindsay and Moira Merrithew, Meet the Master Instructor Trainer, Bonus! Try the Next Level – which here is about 4 min. from the warm-up of Stability Ball Challenge, Stott Pilates Equipment, Stott Pilates Education, Stott Pilates Additional Titles, and Get in Touch). The workout starts automatically in less than a minute. In other words, this is not a DVD you can pop in while you run out of the room to get more water or whatever and then start at your convenience.

Comments: It’s worth noting that this is part of Stott Pilates Pro Series, meaning that it’s more intended for instructors to reinforce their Stott training rather than at home exercisers who are looking for a workout. That said, I feel this works well for the experienced Pilates student who may or may not be interested in teaching Pilates who’s looking for challenging workouts to do at home when he/she can’t make it to a suitable class.

This is the third edition of Stott Pilates’ Advanced Matwork series and represents the latest in Stott’s thinking on how they teach form and sequence (increasingly moving away from what is commonly regarded as The Classical Mat Squence – Moira and primarily Lindsay talk about their reasons behind this, including allowing the method to evolve with changes in research and understanding of training and to be taught in a professional setting to a wider array of people, in the Message from the Founders video).
The exact moves covered and sequence has changed a little over the years, with the biggest change between the 1st and 2nd editions. You can read the moves included in the 1st edition (from 1999) in Sharon H’s review and the moves in the 2nd edition (2001) in my review here at VF. (As a side note, the first edition may be very difficult to find these days, as it has long been out of print. I believe it was only ever available on VHS. I’ve never seen it, much less tried it. The second edition is now also out of print and increasingly harder to find; it was originally only on VHS and then transfered onto DVD.)
If you have the 2nd edition, you don’t *need* the 3rd, as the sequences are nearly identical. (Those of you who already have the 2nd edition, you’re welcome for just saving you $40. I wish I had looked at Stott’s site more carefully beforehand and done this for myself…) The 3rd is a little more streamlined, with a shortened warm-up and a lack of final stretches, and only runs about 41 min., while the 2nd is 10 min. longer at 51, with some of those extra 10 minutes coming from a few extra reps of exercises and a hair slower pace. The production values are certainly better in the 3rd, but then the 2nd was originally a VHS production while this is a high tech DVD one. Perhaps the biggest difference between the 2nd and 3rd is that Moira doesn’t simultaneously demonstrate and instruct in the 3rd as she does in the 2nd; this enables her to spend more time pointing out things to consider while teaching. Many of these tips are going to be helpful to the home exerciser as well, since she mentions things to watch out for, but if you suspect you’ll find it weird to have her giving out teaching tips you might prefer the 2nd. That said, Moira offers more modifications and instructs more along the lines of what you’d expect for a home exercise video in the 2nd edition. Now, I’m widely known around these parts for my Stott affinity, but even I can’t justify having two videos with basically the same routine. If I decide to keep the 2nd edition it’ll because of Moira’s instructional style and offerings of modifications; if I decide to keep the 3rd it’ll be because of its shorter run time and more polished look and feel.

Instructor Comments:
As always Moira provides detailed instruction, although here she does not go into as meticulous detail with form and certainly doesn’t cue every move, as she balances cuing with giving tips for working with clients since this is aimed at Stott-trained Pilates instructors. Moira is always in her element when teaching. She seems just a bit more natural and relaxed as time goes on, but perhaps it’s because she continues to grow on me. She’s still professional, although not exactly peppy.
Moira isn’t concerned with which side you’re doing: she’ll often just tell you to start on one leg or the other without specifying which one.