Stott Pilates Intense Sculpting Challenge

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 22-min. Pilates workout uses a flex or resistance band, mostly to add some additional work for the upper body.
Note that this begins with an introduction from Moira that’s about a minute long and can’t be skipped.
The warm-up (about 4 min.), done all standing (unusual for a Stott workout), covers side bend, imprint w/ bicep curl, lunge w/ bicep curl (I believe Moira did an extra set on the first side), and leg press.
The main body of the workout (18 min.) includes ab prep, ab prep w/ knees up, rotation prone, double leg circles, supine spine twist, rolling like a ball, single leg stretch, single leg stretch w/ rotation, and double leg stretch, all done on the mat. You then come up to standing for spinal extension, side bend w/ semaphore, squat w/ leg lifts, side bend w/ rotation, and flying eagle.
The pace is measured, with a little time between each exercise to set up for the next but no long pauses or hang time. Moira focuses on quality over quantity. She will do some things in series; for example, in the ab prep when you curl up the head and upper back you’ll stretch the band out to the side to work the triceps, release and repeat, then on the third or fourth time you’ll stay up and stretch the band out three or four times. It may take you a time or two through before you figure out whether she means repeat the whole series or just do the individual move when she says, “again.”

Level: I’d recommend this to intermediate exercisers with previous experience in Pilates or similar disciplines. Moira instructs with the assumption that you have the Pilates principles down, so she doesn’t cue much for breath, remind you about the abs, etc.
Stott labels this a 4 out of 5 in level of difficulty, with 5 being the most difficult, and Moira says in the introduction this is the most advanced of Stott’s resistance band workouts (at least, as of 2007). To some extent the “advanced” nature of this workout comes from the fact that it’s a progression from more basic versions, with many of the exercises being combination moves where you have to concentrate on doing one thing with your upper body and another with your lower while engaging your core. The level of intensity and challenge is going to depend a lot on your attention to executing the moves with perfect form and on the resistance of the band. Basically, you’re going to have to put a lot into this one if you want to get something out of it.
I consider myself at the int./adv. level of Pilates (I’ve been practicing Pilates on average of once a week for the past 8 years but am still working on flexibility and strength in some areas) and an int./adv. exerciser in general. I found this doable the first time through, more of a level 3 type of workout, and it was suitable for my active recovery day. I suspect there’s a little room for me to grow if I were to work on my technique as well as use a band of stronger resistance (mine is somewhere in between light and medium), but even still this might not live up to its name for me. If this is the most advanced of Stott’s resistance band offerings, it’s rather dulled my interest in trying the others.

Class: Moira walks around and instructs while Natalia does all of the exercises. Can I just say that there are very good reasons why Natalia has appeared as a demonstrator in so many Stott videos? Not only is it a joy to watch her move so beautifully through the exercises, but she is excellent as a model, executing the moves clearly and precisely while demonstrating the full version or the modification without showing off or making it look like she’s wimping out. She makes the workout and Moira’s teaching the stars, complementing them without drawing attention from them.

Music: soft atmospheric instrumentals. The music is very quiet in relation to Moira’s voice and is easy to tune out. I have to wonder why they even bothered.

Set: bright indoor studio with Pilates and other exercise equipment neatly arranged all around.

Production: clear picture and sound, helpful camera angles, etc.

Equipment: You’ll need a mat and a flex band (aka resistance band) of your choice of resistance (I’d recommend something light to medium, at least to start), preferably something in the 6-8’ range. Natalia does the workout barefoot.

Space Requirements: You need enough room to lie down with arms and legs extended straight out and to the side. That should also give you enough room while standing to do some lunges.

DVD Notes: I have one of the dual language DVDs, which adds an extra step to getting this silly DVD to play the workout already. First you have to choose your language (English or French), then you have to wait for the initial warning screen to come and go, and then you have to agree to the disclaimer. Once you’ve done that, there’s the standard Stott intro, which you can’t skip. Finally you get to the main menu, where your options are DVD Player Tips, Audio Options (Instruction On or Instruction Off – This DVD really, really needs an Instruction Only option so you can play your own music), Attaching Handles to the Flex Band (Note that the entire workout is done without handles on the flex band), Workout Principles (Breathing, Pelvic Placement, Rib Cage Placement, Scapular Movement & Stabilization, Head & Cervical Placement, and Play All), The Workout, Chapter Selections (sadly, this is not meticulously chaptered by exercise, but you’ll get a chapter for the warm-up and another two or three during the workout itself), and Special Features (Founders’ Message and Bio, Meet the Master Instructor Trainer, Bonus! Try the Next Level – which here is Pilates with Props Maximum Resistance Vol. 1, Stott Pilates equipment, Stott Pilates education, Stott Pilates additional titles, and Get in touch).

Comments: For those who rely primarily or exclusively on Pilates and similar disciplines for their strength training, this could be worth exploring because it works in a good deal of upper body, especially for the upper back, something that can be hard to hit with bodyweight exercises (unless you’re doing pull-ups and chin-ups, for example). This might also be a nice travel option, as you get a good deal of stretching with the strengthening, including in the upper body, which can get tight from being squeezed into uncomfortable airplane or hotel conference seats. I’m not sure it’s the best option out there for either case, but it is an option.

I only have had a few other Pilates DVDs that use the resistance band, including Lizbeth Garcia’s Shape Pilates Workout: Makeover Your Abs, Butt and Thighs Fast! and Suzanne Bowen’s 10 Minute Solution Slim & Sculpt Pilates. The Stott offering is very different from either of those. Lizbeth’s uses the band to increase the challenge particularly in the lower body, Suzanne’s rotates through areas of focus, but Stott’s uses the band primarily for the upper body. Few, if any, of the exercises in the Stott appear also in Lizbeth’s or Suzanne’s; they mostly use the standard mat repertoire, taken up a notch with the addition of the band, while Stott only uses a few exercises recognizable from that sequence. I wish I knew more about the apparatus and/or standing Pilates repertoires, as I suspect Moira may have drawn some inspiration from them (like the two standing side bends in the body of the workout?). Other moves seem to be standard exercise moves that’d appear in a non-Pilates resistance band workout (like the squat into a leg lift with a kind of lat pull back with the band).

Instructor Comments:
Moira is, as always, focused on cuing, with some instruction, form reminders, etc. She doesn’t really use directional cues, instead saying something like one leg and then the other. And, also as always, her strength is her teaching ability rather than a dynamic on screen persona, but I’ve never minded.