Next-Level Pilates

Erika Bloom
Year Released: 2010

Categories: Abs/Core , Lower Body Strength , Pilates/Core Strength , Total Body Workouts, Upper Body Strength

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NOTE: I received a free copy of this DVD to review for the web site

This DVD is one of newest releases from the Human Kinetics publishing group. It is led by Erika Bloom, a certified Pilates instructor and yoga therapist who owns a Pilates studio in New York City. Rather than offering a single workout, this DVD is uniquely formatted to provide many different options. There are a total of nine Pilates sequences featured on this disc, each approximately 10 minutes in length. These can be used as short, stand-alone workouts, or they can be combined into a customized routine using the DVD’s programmable feature. Finally, the disc includes eight Preset Workouts; these are premixes of either 30- or 60-minutes in length.

The Main Menu of the DVD appears as follows:

Workout Segments
Preset Workouts
Program Your Workout

In her brief (3 minutes) Introduction, Bloom provides an overview of the video, including the props that are used—these include a slightly deflated small (8 cm) Pilates ball and a band. The Preset Workouts are described in the DVD insert, but here is the list of times/titles:

Core Burn
30-Minute Sculpt
Lower-Body Burn

60-Minute Sculpt
Advanced Core
Perfect Posture
Advanced Lower Body
The Total-Body Workout

Selecting both “Workout Segments” and “Program Your Workout” takes you to a list of the nine individual chapters, but the latter allows you the option of selecting more than one segment in order to create a customized workout. (Note: there is no option to “Play All” on this DVD.) I have listed the name of each sequence below along with an approximate time estimate as well as my brief comments.

Warm-Up: Fundamentals (9 minutes)
Bloom teaches this segment live. She begins on the back for breathing and pelvic exercises, then moves into bridge and footwork. She continues onto all fours, ending with a twist.

With the Pilates Ball: Deep Core (9.5 minutes)
This is also taught by Bloom live. She starts with the ball under her pelvis for moves such as pelvic rolls, knee circles, toe taps, and bicycles. She performs side plank work with the ball between her knees, and she concludes with the ball under her back.

With the Pilates Ball: Legs (9.5 minutes)
Bloom is again teaching live here, starting with the ball between her knees for bridge moves. She then moves the ball to between her knees for a series of side leg lifts for both the outer and inner thigh. This segment includes some prone work, and Bloom finishes with a seated twist.

On the Mat: Abs (10 minutes)
Bloom instructs this segment via voiceover with another exerciser, Kimberly, demonstrating the moves. The sequence begins on the back for the traditional Pilates series of five exercises but also includes plank, dolphin, and one-leg teaser to finish.

With the Band: Arms (9.5 minutes)
Bloom is back live here. She starts kneeling with the band, moving quickly through several shoulder exercises before coming to standing and continuing to work the arms with the band. These are mostly traditional strength moves, but Bloom concludes with the Pilates rowing series.

With the Band: Hips (10 minutes)
Again teaching live, Bloom starts by tying the band loosely around her ankles for approximately 5 minutes of the Pilates leg kick series. For the second half of this segment, she moves the band to around the thighs and the legs out front to a 90-degree angle for more outer hip work.

Advanced Flow (10 minutes)
Here Bloom returns to cuing Kimberly via voiceover. This segment is a bit more challenging: some of the exercises include coordination, bridge with leg circles, shoulder bridge, backstroke, leg pull-down, full mermaid, bow, and push-ups series with leg kicks.

Cool-Down: Stretch (10 minutes)
Bloom uses the band to assist with a series of stretches. She performs a hamstring stretch, lunge, wide-legged seated stretch, a hip stretch, and a very brief savasana (relaxation).

The sequences on this DVD offered a nice variety, and the ability to customize the programming to create your own workout is definitely a huge plus. Unfortunately, there are several detractions to this DVD as well. The first is Bloom’s cuing, which is poor to non-existent at times. She has a habit of merely stating the next exercise (the name of which also appears on-screen) and then expecting the viewer basically to watch and copy her without any additional prompting. This works tolerably well when you are facing the screen, but in Pilates, you are often face up or face down, so being able to hear additional verbal instruction is crucial! A second complaint I had was with respect to the music. It had a classical feel, which was fine and of itself, but it was so up-tempo that it felt completely jarring and incongruous with the program. Plus, Bloom certainly didn’t make any effort to time her movements to the music.

This DVD definitely does have some merits, particularly in its versatility; it might be a good match for those looking to incorporate a variety of short segments into their Pilates practice. Because Bloom provides little instruction, however, this workout video is appropriate for experienced Pilates practitioners only.

Instructor Comments:
In general, I found Erika to be likable, but as noted above, her cuing is really atrocious. Perhaps she is used to teaching live classes where she is walking around, showing people what to do, rather than leaving unseen viewers hanging? Given that I am fairly knowledgeable in Pilates, I was usually able to catch on to what she was doing, but I certainly would have preferred her telling me than having to figure it out for myself. ;)

Beth C (aka toaster)