Trudie Styler’s Core Strength Pilates

James D'Silva, Trudie Styler
Year Released: 2009

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it once.

General workout breakdown: This DVD contains a 56-min. Pilates matwork session with interludes for yoga poses to stretch out the muscles that have just been worked.

Note: James has put his own spin on the exercises and order, and he rarely names exercises. I’ve tried to attach names that will ring a bell for those familiar with Pilates and yoga, but I’m not totally confident I’ve captured this practice in word form.
The warm-up (about 9.5 min.) begins seated with legs in front of you, coordinating breath with spinal flexion, twist, cycling the feet, half roll back with knees bent, open leg rocker-type prep move - tabletop - hip lift, roll back to floor, knee circles – roll up into seated forward bend with rounded back / pointed toes – flat back w/ flexed feet – side stretch, seated 1-leg stretch (open variation of seated big toe), and bridge w/ arms overhead. You’ll then move into a modified 100 with both or one foot on the floor, then pulse the upper body with both feet up; single leg stretch, single straight leg stretch (scissors); bridge w/ knee squeezes, toes flexing, marches, 1-leg circles, 1-leg raise w/ pelvis lift, and 1-leg double kick; held crunch with legs long & heel beats, then 1-leg lift; bridge hold with feet & knees in different positions (together, turned out, parallel, knees together & toes apart, heels up); 100 – single leg stretch combo (do 5 breaths with one leg out & the other in, then switch for the next 5 breaths, and so on); bridge w/ arms overhead – roll-up – long crunch w/ arm circles; 100 w/ feet in frog position reaching out & in; double leg stretch; criss cross; knees to chest, first both, then one at a time for a hip stretch (pigeon), then twist, reclined leg stretches, and reclined hip / glute stretch; crunch w/ knee and then knees to nose; rolling like a ball; rollover – open leg rocker combo; teaser w/ heel beats; firelog - seated forward bend w/ spinal flexion & extension moves - seated child’s-type pose; side-lying leg series: side lifts (both legs together), little pulses of the same, top leg lifts w/ bottom leg off floor, torso & double leg lift (I’ve seen this called the “banana”), little pulses of the same, top knee to floor & back to parallel, little pulses in the up position, up & down, tap out in front & just behind, taps just behind, inner thigh lift, inner thigh little circles, several psoas / hip flexor / hips / hamstrings stretches (first on side, then on back), then stretch the main working leg with a flowing series of side-lying leg stretches, cow’s face pose while grasping elbows – note that the entire side-lying leg series takes about 9 min. per side!; supine back extension, adding in back stroke arms, “paddling” or shallow leg kicks (lower body portion of swimming), heel beats; cobra / swan prep; 1-legged bow w/ head looking over shoulder; child’s pose; push forward into cobra / up dog - child’s - camel variation; down dog, 1-legged down dog; standing forward bend; and a few closing breathing exercises.

As you might expect, the focus is on quality over quantity. James will do 3-5 repetitions of series and 5-6 on up to 10 reps per side for individual exercises like each of the side-lying leg series moves.
The pace is controlled. There is practically no down time between exercises, although you will pause for some brief rests, and there is definitely no “hang time” where James pauses to instruct, because he leads you right through the whole thing in real time.
For those who love to have their Pilates practices become one big flowing routine, this is for you.

Level: I’d recommend this to intermediate to intermediate plus exercisers comfortable with at least basic Pilates exercises and breathing, as James assumes you already know what you’re doing. I know Collage rates this beginner / intermediate, but I always feel their ratings on Pilates exercises are rather optimistic, especially since this is a long practice that can’t easily be broken up and that assumes some prior experience, strength, and flexibility. Those with limited flexibility - specifically, if you have tight hamstrings and/or hips, if you have trouble sitting upright with your legs extended in front of you or doing leg stretches where you hold your foot or even leg - may struggle to do this one as shown. James advises you to take things at your own pace and modify as needed, but no modifications are shown or even suggested.
I consider myself at the intermediate / advanced level of Pilates (I’ve been practicing Pilates on average of once a week for the past 8 years) and an intermediate / advanced exerciser in general. I’m glad my recent gains in flexibility allowed me to enjoy this one. As anyone who’s done a lot of Pilates knows, concentrating on proper form is key to getting the most out of the exercises, and doing this means I found this sufficiently challenging, although I didn’t have to do anything special to make sure I felt those bridge series!

Class: James and Trudie, with James instructing via voiceover.

Music: jazzy instrumental songs taken from Sting’s Songs from the Labyrinth. An acoustic version of “Message in a Bottle” plays with the main menu screen.

Set: The entire video was filmed on the grounds of Trudie and Sting’s Tuscan villa (Il Palagio); this specific workout takes place on a shady patio outside, with shots of the green, rolling Tuscan countryside visible in the distance. It’s a little bit of a windy day, so the leaves rustle (although one advantage of the voiceover instruction is that you don’t have the whooshing sound of wind gusts cutting in).

Production: clear picture and sound, with the music and James’ instruction audible. Camera angles threaten to get a little artsy at times, but they usually show one or both and make it easy to follow along.

Equipment: mat (or equivalent, as needed depending upon your flooring). James and Trudie are both barefoot.

Space Requirements: a long (but can be narrow) space with enough room to lie down on your mat with arms and legs extended and to sweep them around while on your side or standing plus room to extend your legs over and behind your head.

DVD Notes: When you pop in the DVD, a quick Gaiam intro pops up, which then launches into Trudie’s introduction to her workout series, a trailer for Ana Caban’s Quick Start Pilates for Weight Loss, and another trailer for Patricia Moreno’s Dance Core Cross Train; fortunately I found I could skip through these rather long promos to get to the main menu, although I had to hit skip several times to get there. Your main menu options are Core Strength Pilates and Bonus Materials (Interviews – Trudie Styler, James D’Silva, and Sting; Organic Cooking with Trudie and Sting – a min. segment that also includes comments from their personal chef and shots of their grounds; and The Making of Sting’s Album, If on a Winter’s Night).

Comments: This is indeed Core Strength Pilates if you believe the glutes and inner thighs are part of the Pilates powerhouse. Even if you don’t, you can’t deny that they and the hamstrings get quite a bit of work here. For those interested in glute activation, James includes many exercises for this, and if you don’t feel your glutes after this you either truly have amazing buns of steel or you’re not doing the exercises properly. Admittedly I’m not a floorwork video junkie, but this has one of the hardest bridge sequences I’ve seen on video (my experience is limited to 10 Minute Solution Pilates on the Ball; the TLTs, Longevity, and Focus series; and the Stott Pilates stability ball series), even more remarkable because it uses no props.
There is very little here for the upper body, however. I can’t say I mind too much: sometimes I want a break from planks, Pilates push-ups, etc.

I’m well known around these parts for my Pilates pickiness: I prefer my Pilates straight up, with minimal fusion. Even so, I liked this one, in no small part because the yoga poses felt so good to counteract that hard lower body work. I think what makes this more appealing to me than other Pilates-yoga hybrids is that the yoga poses are distinct; James takes clear breaks from the Pilates-based sequences to use yoga for stretching. This wants to be a Pilates practice, not a mix of the two disciplines; there’s no ending relaxation, for example. The other unconventional Pilates workout I really like is Jules Benson’s Total Core Pilates; if Jules is athletic moves meets Pilates, James is dance meets Pilates, with yoga breaks.

Instructor Comments:
Trudie only introduces the workout quickly; James does the actual instruction.
James instructs fairly clearly, although it may be worth watching this first to get an idea of what he means by some of his cues. As noted, he doesn’t give a lot of form instruction or tips. He cues for his left and right rather than the viewer’s.
I would have loved to have seen a little bit more of the warmth and good humor James exhibits in his interview make their way into the workout itself. As things stand he’s pleasant and professional but doesn’t show a lot of personality during the workout itself, as he’s rather down to business. He’s clearly a well-trained dancer and an intelligent instructor who’s given some real thought to the routine. I feel focused on the task at hand when working along with him.