Sunday, May 8, 2011

Physique 57: Amped Up Abs Workshop Review

If you know me at all, you will know that I love Physique 57! If you don't know me, let me preface this post with this: I fell into it almost four years ago and am still pulsing my legs and tucking my hips through the pain with a smile! I have always been into working out. It started off with video tapes of Jane Fonda's New Workout which transitioned into Cindy Crawford's Next challenge  in the 90s. During the 2000s, I experimented with pilates, hot yoga, and cardio kickboxing. But there was an almost mindlessness to the way I worked out. I didn't particulary enjoy it. I did it because I felt I should but there was no a mind connection to it at all. I also did not get the results I felt I should have attained. Physique 57 really changed all that for me. I saw changes in my body within one month of starting it and it really changed my whole outlook to fitness and health. It was not just about looking good but it was how I felt afterwards, strong, healthy, alive! I also credit it with getting me back into pre-pregnancy shape within 10 weeks but thats a whole other post!

So now that I have an effective lead-up, let me get to the actual review. From time to time Physique 57 holds workshops. These classes are 90 minutes long, longer than the traditional 60 minute class, and usually have a particular theme. There was the Broadway-themed workshop which led choreography to showtunes, the So You Think You're Advanced workshop which promised to challenge you even harder than your standard advanced class and the one I took yesterday afternoon, the Amped-Up Abs workshop. As described on the Physique 57 website this class :
 "Follows the sequence of a PHYSIQUE 57® class and is designed to deepen your understanding of how to use your core muscles more effectively while doing PHYSIQUE 57®’s most challenging, waist-chiseling, hip-twisting choreography to your favorite tummy-tucking tunes. Taught by three PHYSIQUE 57® instructors, this workshop is hands-on to help you improve your alignment. You will leave with a slimmer center and a stronger connection to your core."

Armed with this knowledge, I went to the 57th Street studio yesterday afternoon. I was especially excited as this class was going to be led by three of my favorite instructors, Alicia, Karen and Mandy. So I knew it was going to be a  great workout, with creative and challenging choreography. Each instructor led the class for a 30 minute segment and each provided their unique take on how to effectively use the muscles comprising our core.

Source: Physique 57
At the start of the class we were all given an elastic band and asked to claim a spot at the barre. After a warm-up and push-up/plank/side plank series. we moved under the barre to start the first abdominal segment, the flat back series. In this position you lie flat on the floor with your legs extended up. In a typical class, at the same time, you grab onto a yoga strap that hangs off the barre for support. In this class an elastic band was used (something new!) and we pulled down on the elastic band as we crunched and twisted our torso while scissoring and darting our legs. The addition of the elastic band really allowed me to move deeper into the crunch and the movement felt smoother than when it is performed with a yoga strap. Also, the concurrent  pulling-down motion allows for working out the upper back (latissimus dorsi) muscles providing a more complete upper body workout since the back muscles also function in supporting the core. I really liked the addition of this particular prop and hope it finds its way into a regular class.

The next abdominal segment was the round-back abdominal series. This was not very different from the same segment in a typical class. Here you sit with your back against the wall and pull your legs towards you and perform different moves such as pulsing in with your legs shaped like a diamond and scissoring your legs etc. Usually this position does not work for me as I have tight hips and I do this segment lying on the ground with a ball underneath my head. This is my least favorite abdominal exercise and I think its partly because I cannot comfortably get into the proper position. But either way, by this point in the class my abs were really feeling the burn!
Source: Physique 57
The last segment was the hardest! I guess they were saving the best for last. Here, we sat on the ground with the ball behind our lower back in a curl position and used light hand weights (3lbs) to do some arm work (bicep curls etc) while keeping our abdominals contracted. So far so good, I thought to myself. I spoke to soon because we then moved onto what I think is one of the hardest abdominal exercises on the barre. We lay down on the ground and put our feet up on the barre and performed numerous crunches and twists, amongst other moves. We were advised that we could hold onto our legs for support while doing this but the challenge was to let go and utilise your maximum core strength. This is tough exercise because it can be hard to get into the proper position but once you understand the exercise you can really feel your core work. While the instructors did a fabulous job with corrections throughout the class ensuring that no one was performing the exercises incorrectly, they were especially vigilant during this last series.

While the focus was definitely on the abdominals in this class, between each abdominal segment we had a mini-reprieve and worked the thighs or gluteal region. The class ended with back dancing (lying on your back and doing pelvic tucks), back extensions and, finally, a long stretch.

Source: New York Times
The Good:
1. Hands-on Correction: Because there were three instructors someone was always there to correct your form. This is really important in abdominal work since incorrect form can quickly lead to injury.

2. Fun and high energy: I run the risk of getting bored in 90 minute classes but this was not the case here, mainly because of the upbeat energy of the three instructors and the constantly changing choreography.

3. Thorough: The abs are often hard to zone-in on but this class targeted the abs from every angle - upper, lower, and obliques were all worked to the point of exhaustion.

The Not-so-Good:
I am at a loss here. I am not sure there was anything specifically about the class I did not like.

A really great class with a strong focus on strengthening your core. It emphasized challenging ways to work your abdominal muscles but did this within the framework of a fast-paced, high energy strength workout that is the hallmark of a Physique 57 class. Another workshop, the Trim Your Trouble Spots workshop is taking place on Saturday May 22nd at 130pm at the Spring Street studio.


Jess (Fit Chick in the City) said...

Sounds amazing! I have to get to a workshop sometime soon!

Mom at the Barre said...

Jess: I am sure they will repeat this particular workshop since it has been so popular- you will love it!

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