In the age of home workouts, we’ve come to realize the many perks of creating a space and routine at home that complements your in-studio practice. But for many of us, working out at home just doesn’t have the same draw as going into a beautiful, fully-equipped and expertly-staffed studio.

We get it! We look forward to hopping on the Pilates Reformer or Gyrotonic Tower just as much as the next person. Plus, we love the accountability of coming in to see our favorite trainer on a set schedule. We know it can be tough to keep up motivation and consistency when exercising solely at home. 

But who says you can’t have the best of both worlds?

In this blog, MOVE Trainer, Jane Sheets shares her 3 Essential Exercise Props: the foam roller, resistance bands and light hand weights. All three of these props and the suggestions below can be used to level up your home fitness routine. Jane’s favorite three props are easily purchased online or at your local fitness store. Also, each prop has a wide range of applications (that means the prop possibilities are endless!). Read on as Jane unwraps her prop insights, pro-tips, and creative exercise ideas.

And don’t forget to leave us a comment below – share your experiments and, if you’re already a prop enthusiast, let us know how incorporating props has enhanced the effectiveness of your home workouts.

The Benefits of Using Exercise Props

While Pilates, the Gyrotonic Expansion System®, and Barre all provide challenging workouts without props (we’re looking at you Pilates teaser and Barre squats!), after you get the basics down and start looking to add another layer of difficulty, it can be beneficial to add in small props to your routine.

So what’s the lowdown on props?

Well, props add variety and versatility to exercises. Jane says,

“We can use props for many different reasons: to increase challenge, to help with mobility and balance, and to make an exercise more accessible OR more challenging. We can also use props to highlight a specific aspect of an exercise and encourage enhanced muscle engagement.”

Jane also notes that props can even channel the vibes of high-tech equipment, like the Pilates Reformer, right in your living room. So let’s dive in and learn how.

Exercise Equipment: The Foam Roller: Unleashing Muscular Recovery and Flexibility

What is a Foam Roller and What Are Its Benefits?

A foam roller is a cylindrical tool made of – you guessed it – foam, typically used in fitness routines for self-myofascial release, also known as self-massage. By applying pressure to specific muscle groups, the foam roller helps release tension and improve blood flow, which can lead to increased flexibility, reduced soreness, and overall enhanced muscle function. 

Foam rolling is commonly used as a recovery technique in fitness routines to enhance mobility and optimize workout performance. However, as you’ll see below Jane also loves to get creative with the foam roller to use it for stability work as well as core strengthening. In general, we recommend you purchase the soft or medium hardness rollers. Some companies also make half foam rollers which are flat on one side and curved on the other. This style is still just as useful and is perfect for those who need a slightly more stable surface.

Foam Roller Exercises

Beginner Exercise: Arm Circles

Set your foam roller down lengthwise along your mat and lie on top of it on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Make sure you feel stable and grounded with the entire length of your spine, head, and neck resting on the foam roller. From there, slowly begin your arm circles, taking care to keep your abs engaged as your body adjusts to the added instability of the foam roller. The video below will show you arm circles without the foam roller as a guide for the foundation of the movement.

Intermediate Exercise: Back Extension

Start by laying on your stomach and either hold the foam roller or place it under your arms. From there, move through your back extension letting your arms gently move the roller and your spine lifts. Back extension is great for strengthening the entire back chain. As with the first exercise, the foam roller provides great feedback and helps your body build both stability and strength. The video below will show you exactly what to do!

Advanced Exercise: Hip Rolls

Level up by placing the foam roller under your feet in hip rolls. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat resting on the foam roller. Engage your glutes and core as you slowly roll up one vertebrae at a time into your hip bridge. Roll back down slowly and repeat for a few repetitions. In the video below, Jane does a fun variation for added hamstring and glute challenges.

Fitness Equipment: The Resistance Band: Adding Resistance and Strength to Your Workout

Resistance bands are highly portable and versatile props. They also have the added bonus of being compact, making them perfect to tuck into your suitcase when you’re traveling. With its elastic properties and various levels of resistance, you can control how much intensity you’re adding, making resistance bands indispensable companions for both beginners and seasoned fitness enthusiasts.

Advantages of Using Resistance Bands

Jane points out that these unassuming bands can help you feel greater muscle engagement, as well as build muscle flexibility and strength. Resistance band exercises effectively target and activate specific muscle groups, promoting gradual and balanced strengthening. They also provide constant tension throughout the entire range of motion, which can lead to improved muscle tone and definition.

Jane notes that it’s nice to have a couple different tensions of bands and for everyone to also consider purchasing the loop style band for leg work. In the exercises below, Jane highlights three different ways resistance bands can be useful: to offer support in a movement, to encourage a greater range of motion, and as added resistance to an exercise.

Resistance Band Exercises

Beginner Exercise: Chest Stretch

Using a light or medium tension band, hold the band with your arms straight out in front of you. Pull your arms to your sides, bending your elbows, and lift your sternum/chest slightly into the band as it stretches. Focus on the movement coming from your shoulder blades and sternum, rather than your lower back. Try repeating 4-6 times. This movement will both stretch your chest and improve mobility.

Intermediate Exercise: Leg Circles

To get started, hook the band around the ball/arch of your foot, just like Jane in the video below. While gripping each end of the band in one hand, begin to circle your leg. When used in leg circles, the resistance band offers support and enhanced control of your leg as it moves. For many this allows the movement to feel more accessible and easeful.

Advanced Exercise: Banded Squats 

This is where the loop-style band is useful but you can also securely tie a standard resistance band to create your own ad hoc loop. You can choose what feels most comfortable but either place the band around your thighs or calves. From there do your squats. Using the band here not only adds resistance but it can also help to activate abductors and glutes which will help you get the most out of the movement.

Workout Equipment: Light Hand Weights: Elevating Your Home Strength Training

The Benefits of Light Hand Weights

Light hand weights (1-3 pounds max!) introduce an element of external resistance (i.e. weight), intensifying home workouts to stimulate muscle growth and enhance strength. By adding weights into your repertoire, basic exercises can become more challenging. Anyone who has taken Jane’s virtual Barre class knows that 1-2 pound hand weights are more than enough to feel the burn after rounds of bicep curls and tricep extensions. Besides enhancing muscle definition, incorporating light hand weights can also increase caloric output during your workout.

Light Hand Weight Exercises

Beginner Exercise: “Reformer” Arm Work 

We love to mimic some of the arm exercises from our reformer repertoire at home using weights.  For example– “offering” from the front rowing reformer series. Sit with your legs crossed or out in front of you (whichever feels most comfortable and allows you to sit upright). Have your elbows flexed at 90 degrees by sides, palms up and holding the hand weights. Then, extend your arms forward, keeping palms upward.

Take a breath in and as you do open your arms to the sides, maintaining the grip and upward palms. Exhale and return your arms forward. Lastly, inhale to flex the elbows to return to the starting position. The breathing in this movement helps you keep a nice intentional pace, but don’t worry if your inhales and exhales don’t match up, just move slowly with good form.

Intermediate Exercise: Roll-Up With Weights

See the video below for basic guidance on how to do a roll-up without weights. You’ll simply add in the weights by holding one in each hand as you perform your roll down. The weights will actually offer you some assistance as you roll up off of the mat. As you roll back down, the added weight will help you articulate your spine slowly which is great not only for spinal mobility but also core engagement and strength.

Advanced Exercise: Bicep Curls in Half Roll Back 

Adding weighted bicep curls or other arm work to your c-curve/half roll back: Adding arm work while holding the c-curve/roll back means that you stay in this challenging position while having to work your biceps/arms, increasing abdominal work and challenging co-ordination. Watch the video below and then give it a try yourself!

Creating a Balanced Home Routine with Fitness Gear

Want more guidance on how to incorporate these fitness props at home? At MOVE Wellness, we’re all about seizing the power of virtual movement to supplement your in-studio routine. Our favorite online options include our free Youtube channel, our dynamic livestream classes, and our ever-accessible on-demand workouts and guided programs.

Virtual options are functional and effective because they offer flexibility for scheduling (you set the schedule however you want!) and are also a low, or even no-cost, option for classes meaning you can supplement an in-person practice without a big impact on your health or your monthly budget. But perhaps most importantly, our virtual options allow you to have a class-based format guided by our fabulous instructors. This means, Jane and our other instructors plan a great workout for you and all you have to do is show up ready to move!

Here’s a sample workout schedule that incorporates all three props into your weekly routine:

Just getting started in your fitness journey? We’d recommend scheduling your Introductory Private Session with us. This 50 minute movement session will take you through a great workout individualized to your unique body and goals.

Jane’s Final Tips for Success

  • Always warm up your body before moving into more demanding movements. When you do take on a challenge, listen to your body and avoid overexertion. 
  • Make sure you have the basics down of any movement before adding in a prop. We love to add in props for greater creativity and fun, but only as our bodies are ready. Having time one-on-one or in a small group class setting where a trainer has their eyes on your form and is offering corrections when needed will help you build the body awareness you need for a great solo practice. 
  • Know that growth takes time and consistency. Keep up with your weekly practice and know that you’re building the foundation for greater strength.

Incorporating the foam roller, resistance bands, and hand weights into your home fitness routine offers an abundance of advantages. To recap just a few, Jane reminded us that even though we often think of the foam roller as a tool for muscle recovery and flexibility, it can also be a great way to challenge balance and stability. She taught us how resistance bands amplify resistance training with their adaptable tension, helping to sculpt and really home in on targeted muscle engagement. Last but not least, Jane showed us how to add in hand weights to infuse your workouts with heightened intensity and take strength-building to the next level.

Ready to dive in? We encourage you to experiment with these props and feel the benefits for yourself. MOVE offers numerous virtual class options that incorporate these great tools into your workout routine. From our livestream classes (check out our FREE trial if you haven’t yet!) to our Youtube Channel there are workouts for all experience levels and schedules. 

We’d love to hear your experiences and your favorite exercises using props. Comment below!

“If you are just starting out or coming back to movement from a break or injury, low impact workouts are gentle on your joints. These types of workouts can ease you into the process of getting stronger, while giving your body a chance to build up the load tolerance on your tissues to avoid injury.”

—Elaine Economou

If you’ve made the decision to bring more movement into your life, congratulations! That commitment to yourself is the first step. And it’s a big one. Now it’s time to find the right workout.

Benefits of low impact workouts

Benefits of low-impact workouts include:

  • Strengthening your body
  • Improving flexibility
  • Minimizing your risk of injury
  • Helping you focus on the mind-body connection
  • Improving your form and range of motion when working out

These benefits make low-impact workouts like Pilates a great choice for beginners or people who are returning to exercise after a break.

Elaine Economou‘s latest blog post for popular website Sixty and Me shares how a low impact workout can be a smart choice for beginners. Getting started with a mind-body movement system like Pilates can build strength and minimize your risk of injury.

Read the full blog post on Sixty and Me.

What is the best low impact workout?

The best low impact workout is the one you can commit to for at least a few minutes every day. Pilates is a great example. At MOVE Wellness we’ve seen its impact on clients again and again. Doing things you love regularly and getting outside to walk are also wonderful choices. As you build your commitment you can start increasing the pace and adding in workouts like the one I’ve provided below.

Can you lose weight with low impact exercise?

Low-impact workouts can support weight loss by helping you create a stronger, leaner body.

Low impact workout routine

Try this sequence of low impact movements perfect for beginners. You’ll be on your way to reaching your movement goals in no time!

Learn the essentials when you’re ready for more

Elaine Economou’s new Movement Essentials: Getting Started with Pilates is a 28-day program at MOVE On Demand designed to get you moving safely and keep you on track. Each week Elaine introduces you to the basic principles of Pilates with a consistent warm up, weekly classes, and a variety of special topics to enhance your journey. And, it comes with an easy-to-follow calendar that will guide you through a clear progression and provide a foundation for healthy movement.

Watch the trailer to learn more. Support the activities you love to do in life by starting today!

About Elaine Economou

As co-founder of MOVE Wellness®, Elaine Economou helps people move with ease, strength, and joy. Her passion is empowering people to understand their unique bodies and build strength to support moving well through their unique life. Elaine has created Movement Essentials: Getting Started with Pilates to help people move well and live a life they love – wherever and whenever.

Find all of Elaine’s Sixty and Me blogs on her author page.

The Benefits of Pilates for Men

What do you think of when you picture a Pilates class? For many, ‘Pilates,’ brings up images of leggings-clad women doing light exercises that look more like stretching than an actual workout — but that’s a complete misconception.

Although Pilates doesn’t incorporate intense cardio or heavy weights, it’s still a tough workout for men and women of all ages. In fact, some of the top athletes in the world incorporate Pilates into their routines.. Pilates works new muscles and movements, so it’s challenging without causing the strain some higher-impact workouts do. But whether you’re a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs or a retiree looking to switch up your workout routine, you can find benefits in Pilates.

Here are answers to some common questions about Pilates, its benefits for men, and a free Pilates workout you can try from the comfort of your own home.

Try even more Pilates classes with our MOVE On Demand Series: Building a Strong Core with Pilates for Men and sign up for our free 14-day livestream class trial.

What is Pilates, exactly?

Pilates is a safe, adaptable exercise method that can be done on a mat or with a specialized Reformer machine. It uses resistance and your own body weight to stabilize your core and strengthen your body. Pilates’ adaptability makes it great for all body types and fitness levels, while still being a challenge for even the toughest athletes. This form of exercise is an efficient, effective, and safe way to increase your flexibility, develop your core, and release tension.

Some men dismiss Pilates as a form of exercise because it doesn’t involve high intensity cardio or heavy weightlifting. But don’t let that fool you — Pilates is a great workout that corrects muscular imbalances and builds a strong and stable core, without the impact on your joints that extreme fitness can cause.

Can you gain muscle with Pilates?

Yes. Pilates helps lengthen the muscle and build strength for men of all fitness levels. 

Is Pilates good for weight loss in men?

Pilates supports weight loss by helping to create a leaner, fitter body. However, for best results, men should combine Pilates with cardio and a healthy diet.

Do men do Pilates?

Yes, we have many men in our studio who enjoy the benefits of Pilates. Top athletes, including tennis champion Andy Murray and members of the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots, also do Pilates.

What are some benefits of Pilates for men?

Here are some benefits of Pilates that men of all ages can enjoy:

  • Improved flexibility: Flexibility is crucial. According to Harvard Health, it allows us to more easily achieve a full range of motion, which leads to both improved athletic performance (a smoother golf swing) and  functional abilities (reaching and bending). Muscles get shorter and less elastic as we age, so exercises like Pilates that lengthen the muscles and improve flexibility are great for keeping you moving.
  • Building strength: Pilates can be an effective strength training workout for all fitness levels; this exercise can be adapted to provide stability for beginners or provide a challenging workout for athletes.
  • Alleviate pain and side effects of illness: Working the deep abs and pelvic floor can help alleviate back problems, and can be incredibly beneficial for men who have been, or will be, treated for prostate cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the “chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50,” making it especially useful for men in this age group.
  • It supports weight loss: Pilates helps to create long, lean, fit bodies. There are many ways that doing Pilates supports weight loss, but it is also recommended that you eat a healthy diet and incorporate cardio to boost the metabolism.
  • Safety: While high-intensity workouts are great for getting your heart pumping, they can be jarring on your joints and possibly cause injury. Pilates, especially when done with a knowledgeable trainer, is a safe, effective way to workout without the pain. It can be done as a standalone routine or worked into a more high-intensity regimen for variation.
  • It can be done alone or in a group: Men still wary of trying Pilates (despite the endorsement of many professional athletes!) can start off with a private Pilates session. One-on-one sessions will put you in contact with a Pilates trainer who can give you individual attention and a great introduction to this workout that’s adapted to your current fitness level. At MOVE Wellness, small group classes are limited to six students to allow for personalized instruction.

How quickly will you see results with Pilates?

Everyone responds differently to Pilates, but if you maintain a somewhat regular practice, you’ll see changes quickly. According to Joseph Pilates, the creator of Pilates: “10 sessions — feel the difference, 20 sessions — see the difference, 30 sessions — have a new body.”

Pilates Workout for Men

This 20 minute Pilates workout will take you through exercises that will help with the tight hamstrings and shoulders that are common for men, but experienced by all. All you need is your mat!

Getting started with Pilates 

Pilates can be done on a mat or with specialized equipment. Mat Pilates classes, like the 20 minute workout above, tend to focus on core work and require you to support the stabilization of your body. Pilates equipment, like the Cadillac or Reformer, gives you a frame to work within that is often more helpful than a mat, but can be more challenging when springs are added or taken away. Working on the equipment can also target and tone specific areas of your body very efficiently.

If you’re new to Pilates or fitness in general, it can be worthwhile to begin with a private Pilates session to get individualized attention and a more customized Pilates-based fitness program. You can also explore Pilates on your own and learn the Pilates basics with a beginners Pilates workout.

At MOVE Wellness, our memberships allow clients to individualize their experience by selecting from a movement menu of in-person, livestream, or on demand options, with the expert support you need to meet your goals.  

Ready to give Pilates a try?

Call us today at 734-224-2306 to learn more or start now online. We offer private training and small group classes in our Ann Arbor, Michigan studio. In addition, take classes from the comfort and privacy of your own home with MOVE Online Class Options. There are even classes specifically focused on core exercises for men!

How to Exercise to Prevent Injury

Finding a workout routine that you enjoy and can stick to is something to be celebrated. Moving consistently brings a sense of empowerment and accomplishment. And the more you move, the better you will feel. Still, it’s important to take into account any old injuries or discomfort in your body you may experience. At one point or another, many of us have felt nervous about injuring ourselves while exercising. Sometimes that fear of injury will cause enough worry to prevent you from increasing your challenge or trying something new that you might enjoy. Therefore, it’s essential to support your body’s unique needs throughout your routine to stay pain and injury free. Doing some little things on a regular basis can make a big difference. As we age, these little things become critical for maintaining our mobility and continuing to do what we love.

What are ways to prevent injury?

No one can wave a magic wand and prevent injury. But, we can make it far less likely by integrating these simple practices and injury prevention exercises into your daily routine. 

#1: Practice noticing

First and foremost, practice noticing how your body feels. When you do Pilates, or any movement routine that connects breath to movement, you will begin to notice how your body feels when you move. Don’t ignore this. This mental “muscle”—the practice of noticing your body as you move—is your barometer, both while you are exercising and throughout all aspects of your day. When you pay attention to how you feel, if something doesn’t seem quite right you can make the decision to get curious and pay attention to the sensation or stop moving. 

A man and woman doing a shell stretch at home during an online exercise class

#2: Ask for help

Don’t work through pain and please seek support from a medical professional if you feel pain. The process of getting stronger will occasionally bring about some soreness. Increasing your routine and trying more challenging workouts may lead to those sensations. That’s a very normal part of training our body. Noticing the difference and knowing when to stop and seek help from a physician or physical therapist is key. Having a Pilates trainer help set up your workout or routine provides “eyes on your body”. That will help you create a program suited to your unique needs and prevent injury right from the start.  

#3: Pace yourself

This is truly an instance of slow and steady winning the race. Make sure that you are trying more challenging routines or adding minutes to your workout a little at a time. Large jumps in intensity can lead to injury. Give your body time to adapt at its own pace. 

#4: Build a foundation

Be sure to do some whole body movement like Pilates that will move your spine, shoulders and hips. These foundational movements will engage the core muscles to help keep the forces of whatever you do moving through your body in a balanced way. A key benefit of Pilates is that it focuses on individual postural issues and helps each person unravel their own unique muscular imbalances to create healthy movement patterns. Improved overall fitness levels may help prevent injury plus offer greater strength and ease of movement.

What exercise causes the most injury?

The simple answer: too much, too soon. Of any type of exercise. It often feels like we live in a culture of extreme fitness trends with the mantra go big or go home. Any workout your body is not prepared for is the one that brings the most risk. If you do something high impact or extremely cardiovascular without easing yourself into that activity, your body is going to be caught off guard. Anyone who has ever decided to take up running and thought they’d just head out and try to run a mile will know what I mean. By starting slowly, first walking, then jogging to start building endurance you’ll safely be able to progress to a running routine. Even in Pilates, if you once attended advanced classes but then took some time off, you’ll need to revisit the basics. 

Jumping right back into complex movements without taking time to reinforce the foundational movements can leave you vulnerable to injury. Taking inspiration from a favorite silly board book about a bear hunt that I used to read to my kids, I like to say we have to go through the forest, not around, over or under it. The goal is to have you safely engage in movement in whatever range your body will allow, and then progress from there in ways that allow you to own that movement and experience joy and confidence in doing so.

A woman holding hand weights doing an online exercise class at home in front of the fireplace

How can I exercise without damaging my joints?

Exercises that move your spine in all of its planes of motion are important. Then, keeping hip joints mobile and having your legs and hips moving freely is important. This helps to keep the hips, core and back working together. It’s also important to make sure your abdominal and back muscles are engaging when they are needed. This will keep you from any strain in your trunk and support each movement. The nice thing about Pilates is that it’s easy on the joints. The mat exercises are low impact bodyweight training, so the forces on your bones will help you maintain bone density safely. There is so much you can do with just a mat and you.

Injury prevention exercises

In general, there are three characteristics of a successful home routine that I like to emphasize: consistency, progression, and balance. Moving your body every day in all planes of motion and through all the joints of the body will keep you strong and prepared for the type of unexpected movements that can cause injury. These exercises will mobilize the whole body, connect breath to movement, and are safe to do every day. You know what they say… an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

9 easy injury prevention exercises: arm circles

Arm Circles

Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and feet hip distance apart. Place your arms by your sides with your palms facing in towards the body. Take a nice inhale to lift your arms up toward the ceiling and then reach them overhead only as far as ribcage and shoulder stabilization can be maintained. Exhale to circle your arms wide out to sides and return down to your starting position. Repeat 4 times and switch directions for four circles.

9 easy injury prevention exercises: half roll back

Half Roll Back

Start seated on a mat with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent in front of you. Start upright in a neutral position with arms reaching in front of you parallel to the floor. While exhaling, start to roll your pelvis away from your femurs (legs) so that you feel your low abdominal muscles hugging into your spine. You are creating a “C” shape with your low back while keeping your shoulders wide and relaxed. Keep the “C” shape and inhale.  Then, exhale to fold forward at the hips over your legs. Stack up your spine from tail to head and float your arms back to the starting position.  

9 easy injury prevention exercises: hip rolls

Hip Rolls

Start lying on your back with your knees bent and feet hip distance apart. Your arms are by your sides. Take a deep breath into the sides of your rib cage and feel yourself grow long through your spine. As you exhale, recruit your abdominals into an imprinted position by feeling your hip bones and ribs pull closer together until there is little or no gap between your spine and the floor. Once imprinted, articulate your spine starting from the tail to roll up into a bridge position where wide shoulders support your weight. Your hip joints are extended, and your knees should feel they are energetically reaching long over your toes. Take an inhale to stay here at the top, then roll down as you exhale to return to your starting position. Imagine your sit bones reaching toward your heels as you articulate down through your spine. Repeat eight times.

9 easy injury prevention exercises: mid-back spinal rotation

Mid-Back Spinal Rotation

Begin kneeling with elbows bent under shoulders and knees under hips. Your spine should be in a neutral position and feel as though it’s reaching long from tail to head. Your shoulder blades are stable against your rib cage. As you exhale, reach your elbow to the ceiling lead as you open your chest and allow your spine to rotate. Inhale to return to your starting position and repeat with your other arm. Repeat four times on each side.

9 easy injury prevention exercises: hip circles

Hip Circles

Begin kneeling on all fours with arms underneath shoulders, and knees directly underneath hips, slightly apart. Your spine should be reaching long from tail to head. Shift your weight to your right hand and knee and then circle your hips back to your heels on the right side then continue to shift your hips to the left side. Pull your pelvis underneath you as you continue the circle towards the starting position while arching your back like a cat. Feel that great cat stretch.  You are making a circle with your spine first in extension and then flexion as you continue the movement. Do four to the right and then four to the left. 

9 easy injury prevention exercises: bird-dog variation

Bird-Dog Variation

Begin kneeling on all fours with arms underneath shoulders, and knees directly underneath hips, slightly apart. Your spine should be reaching long from tail to head. Inhale and find extra length through the spine. Exhale to recruit your abdominals and simultaneously lift your right arm and left leg, reaching towards opposite ends of the mat. Hold this balanced position as you inhale and reach fingertips and toes even longer. As you exhale, simultaneously lower your arm and leg to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Be sure to keep your head level with your spine and keep length through the back of your neck. 

9 easy injury prevention exercises: cat stretch

Cat Stretch

Begin kneeling on all fours. Your arms should be underneath your shoulders and knees directly underneath the hips, slightly apart. Feel your spine reaching long from tail to head. Inhale to grow longer and find length through the spine. As you exhale, use your abdominals to round your spine like a Halloween cat. Start from your tailbone and leave the head for last. Hold this c-curve position while you inhale to breathe into the sides of your ribcage, rounding further. Finish with an exhale and beginning with the tail end of the spine, extend one vertebra at a time until you return to your starting position. Repeat six to eight times.

9 easy injury prevention exercises: squats


Stand tall with your feet wider than your hips. Propping your heels on a blanket or rolled up mat can be a helpful modification when you are just starting out with these deep squats (see video). Be sure your toes are pointed forward or slightly turned out and that your knees track over your feet. Your hands can hang by your sides. Bend at the knees and hips as though you are going to sit in a chair and go as far down as you can. Your weight will be in your heels. Keep your back straight and your gaze directed low in front of you. Pause at your lowest point for a moment then return to your starting position. Repeat four times.

9 easy injury prevention exercises: standing side arch

Standing Side Arch

Stand with feet hip distance apart. Your weight should stay evenly distributed on both feet and your spine long and neutral. On an inhale, lift your arms over head while keeping your shoulders lengthened down. Grab your left wrist with your right hand overhead. As you exhale, lengthen your waist and spine and reach the heel of your hand away from the heel of your foot. Keep both sides of your body long and hips level. Be sure to stay square to the front and avoid rotating. Return to standing tall, switch the grip of your hands and repeat on the other side.

Move More, Feel Better

The price of a healthy body and personal wellness is hard to pinpoint because, in a way, health is defined by the absence of illness or injury. Sometimes we need a little guidance getting started in a safe way for our body. That’s why Elaine Economou created Movement Essentials: Getting Started with Pilates, a 28-day program at MOVE On Demand designed to get you moving safely and keep you on track. Each week Elaine introduces you to the basic principles of Pilates with a consistent warm up, weekly classes, and a variety of special topics to enhance your journey. And, it comes with an easy-to-follow calendar that will guide you through a clear progression and provide a foundation for healthy movement. Watch the trailer to learn more. Support the activities you love to do in life by starting today!

The 15 minute morning routine to improve mobility at any age

The latest blog from Elaine Economou is now posted on the popular website, Sixty and Me.

Moving in a thoughtful, balanced way on a daily basis has both short-term and long-term benefits for our health and wellness. Spending just 15 minutes each morning can help maintain our mobility as we age and continue to do what we love to do. Over time, a daily movement routine:

  • Reduces inflammation and the achy joints that accompany it
  • Stimulates our body’s systems and helps us feel more energized
  • Encourages breathing and a mindful start to our day
  • Creates balance by engaging our muscles
  • Establishes a habit of moving more and sitting less

Read more and try this short head to toe routine to warm up all your joints. Doing little things consistently can make a big difference for your whole body and mobility. You can even do most of it before you get out of bed.

Move more, feel better

See for yourself what Pilates can do for you from the comfort of your own home. MOVE Wellness offers a free 14 day trial of our livestream classes with over 40 to choose from weekly. We are also welcoming clients safely into our Ann Arbor, MI studio for private training sessions. Whichever path is right for you, support the activities you love to do in life by starting your personal Pilates journey today!

About Elaine Economou

Elaine Economou

Elaine Economou helps people move with ease, strength, and joy. Her passion is empowering people to understand their unique bodies to build strength, and do more of what they love. As co-founder of MOVE Wellness®, Elaine leads a global movement community of clients in high-caliber, in-studio, and interactive livestream training

Find all of Elaine’s Sixty and Me blogs on her author page.

Counteract the Effects of Sitting with these Simple Exercises for a Sedentary Lifestyle

The latest blog from our own Elaine Economou is now posted on the popular website, Sixty and Me.

“A majority of us have seen our routines and daily movement patterns uprooted over this last year by the global pandemic. Like it or not, we are spending a significant amount of time within the cozy confines of our own homes. Those of us working from home are commuting to a chair in the next room. Instead of walking across the office to ask a colleague a question, we are interacting on a screen. As we’ve all seen from mail and shipping delays, more of us are now doing our shopping and errands online. And let’s not forget all the happy hours or book group meetings moved to a Zoom format. What does this all add up to? We are moving our bodies less and sitting a lot more.”

Elaine Economou

The answer is to move more. With simple modifications to your daily routine, you can offset the effects of too much sitting in your lifestyle. Try the 10-minute routine in the video above with 9 exercises perfect for maintaining movement throughout your spine. These exercises can be done all at once, or one or two throughout the day. Be sure to read the full blog over on Sixty and Me to learn even more strategies.

Read 9 Simple Exercises for a Sedentary Lifestyle.

You CAN Start Now

See for yourself what Pilates can do for you from the comfort of your own home. MOVE Wellness offers a free 14 day trial of our livestream classes with over 40 to choose from weekly. We are also welcoming clients safely into our Ann Arbor, MI studio for private training sessions. Whichever path is right for you, support the activities you love to do in life by starting your personal Pilates journey today!

Elaine Economou

About Elaine Economou

Elaine Economou helps people move with ease, strength, and joy. Her passion is empowering people to understand their unique bodies to build strength, and do more of what they love. As co-founder of MOVE Wellness®, Elaine leads a global movement community of clients in high-caliber, in-studio, and interactive livestream training

Find all of Elaine’s Sixty and Me blogs on her author page.

An In-Depth Guide to Building Muscle After 50: Core Exercises for Men When You Can No Longer Workout the Way You Used To

Wait. I’m over 50? How did that happen?! Can this be right? Sigh, I think it is… A lot of us grew up on a football field, both playing and watching on Sunday nights. The baseball diamond was our favorite pastime, live or on the radio. TV’s Wide World of Sports gave us the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Those were all mountains we could climb and conquer effortlessly, but now some of these challenges are chillingly reminiscent of that skier wiping out on national TV.

Rumination on Fitness After 50

As we get older we can be more prone to injury, which can slow if not derail an exercise program. Approaching exercise as if we were still suiting up for the Friday night game of our youth can often result in painful and sometimes dangerous injuries. Whether in the weight room or the crossfit class, overtraining may lead to (*ahem, middle-aged) types of injuries. Rotator cuffs, torn meniscuses, and plantar fasciitis to name a few, can range from disruptions to unemployment.

A group of men participating in a Pilates mat class

As we age it is also more difficult to build muscle. (Sadly, it seems super easy to gain fat, though, which is totally unfair.) In order to combat both negatives, movement remains the key, but careful self-assessment and exercising in smarter ways are in order. We may have to shift away from higher impact exercise to more consistent, gentler forms like walking or swimming. While healthy, some men find that this adjustment is tough on the mind because it becomes an admission of aging. Fortunately, just because we cannot workout like we used to, it does not follow that we cannot strengthen and condition the body after 50. Starting with core training, or strengthening the muscles of the abdomen, spine and pelvis is a great way to ensure that you get fit safely.

How do I strengthen my core?

Our core really is the central command in our body. Working from the inside out, all the movements we do in exercise and daily life have a foundation in our core. Motion either begins in, or moves through our core. Keeping that foundation strong ensures that as we move through life, everything outward will be supported. There are both fitness and real-life benefits to keeping our core strong. Think about all the times in your day you reach, turn, bend, or lift something. Your core is the not-so-secret helper supporting all of that movement. Whether you’re sitting at a desk, putting away groceries, playing golf with friends, or taking a hike in the woods your body needs stability and mobility. Like most things in the fitness world, there’s more than one way to reach our goals. The best movement is the one that you’ll actually stick with and enjoy!

What’s the best core workout?

So what’s the best way to keep our core strong and working hard for us? A classic Google search mostly reveals top-ten type lists of specific exercises we can do. 

The most common core exercises for men include:

  • Planks
  • Bridges
  • Crunches
A group of men's participating in a Pilates mat class

Some great studio or gym-based workouts with core strengthening benefits include:

In particular though, let’s talk about these last two types of strengthening and conditioning systems on this list that, while not new, are newer to men. Pilates and GYROTONIC® are growing in popularity among men of all ages who want to build muscle and strengthen their core. These exercise systems offer improved balance, sure-footedness, reduced back pain, greater flexibility, and so much more. 

These workouts support other fun activities, add to our quality of life, and keep us moving pain free. Other activities that complement these workouts include:

  • Golf
  • Dancing
  • Tennis
A man working out with a personal trainer on the Pilates Reformer


Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates starting as early as the 1920s. His thinking about fitness began with how to help injured soldiers and was also influenced by ancient statues of Gods and their musculature. He even studied the movements of animals in designing his exercises.

Pilates is a system designed to help you strengthen and mobilize your body. There are a variety of exercises that target strength and mobility for the whole body, always initiating with the core. They can be done on a mat or unique equipment strategically designed to allow for the fullest expression of movement. Some pieces of equipment you would likely find in your session include the Reformer, Cadillac, chair, and barrel.

Man working out on the Pilates Cadillac with a personal trainer

In any session, including an introductory session, the trainer will aim to move you through all possible planes of movement of the spine if possible. Your session will include exercises that move the spine forward and back, sideways, and rotating into a spiral. You will also be taught to stabilize your spine and pelvis using your core.

This innovative mind-body system of exercise continues to grow in popularity. Pilates is practiced by many professional athletes from a variety of sports, including Lebron James, Jake Arrieta, Martellus Bennett, and Auston Matthews to name a few. Pilates is also a safe and effective program that can be used to great effect by men over 50 to support fitness routines and recreation. Whatever your conditioning goal, Pilates is an efficient, effective, and safe way to increase your mobility, strengthen, develop your core, and release tension. 

Three men doing an arm workout on the Pilates Reformer

Benefits of Pilates for Men

We can’t all be Lebron James (and I can assure you that I am not) when we head out to play basketball, but we can all experience the benefits of Pilates for men. My personal experience with Pilates is that it is a challenging workout that focuses on building core strength and overall strength and mobility in the body. It really hones in on what some guys my age are going through and supports our other active life pursuits. In addition to the muscle strengthening of a session, it also focuses on creating and improving flexibility and balance. These are not easy workouts. The focus and control you need to practice the exercises makes this system unique and efficient. Other benefits of Pilates include injury prevention and recovery (and not injury production).

Best Pilates Exercises for Strengthening Your Core

A great place to start? Follow along with this simple 15-minute Men’s Core Session video. It doesn’t take long to get that core active and working hard! This workout is a great way to start your day or unwind in the evening.

Or, here are a few of our favorite Pilates core exercises for men to get you started at home. Try adding them to your regular workout routines.

The Hundred

Core Exercises for Men Series: The Hundred
  • Start lying on a firm surface, legs together knees bent, feet flat.
  • Inhale to prepare, exhale to deepen abdominals to imprint and lift legs, either together, or one at a time to tabletop. 
  • Inhale to lengthen the back of neck and nod chin gently. Exhale flex up through upper thoracic, keeping lower tips of scapulae on floor, extend legs to straight (or when just starting out, keep knees bent or on the floor).
  • Begin pulsing the arms. Inhale for five counts and five pulses of the arms. Exhale for five counts and five pulses of the arms. Repeat 10 times for a total of 100 pulses
  • One last inhale to stay lifted as legs fold into tabletop and exhale to lower down of upper body in a controlled way.

Single-Leg Stretch

Core Exercises for Men Series: Single Leg Stretch
  • Start lying on a firm surface, legs together knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
  • Inhale to prepare, exhale to deepen abdominals to imprint and lift legs, either together, or one at a time to tabletop.
  • Inhale to lengthen the back of neck and nod chin gently. Exhale flex up through upper thoracic, keeping lower tips of scapulae on floor, hands reaching by knees. Inhale to stay.
  • Exhale to extend one leg to straight, tapping hands to sides of bent knee or, for a challenge, outside hand to ankle, inside hand to knee.
  • Inhale to begin exchange of legs, and exhale to extend the other leg.
  • Repeat 6-10 times on each side.
  • Inhale to fold legs to tabletop and exhale to lower down with control.

Side Leg Kick

Core Exercises for Men Series: Side Leg Kick
Core Exercises for Men Series: Side Leg Kick Forward
  • Start lying on side with spine long, legs straight at an angle slightly forward of the torso, top leg at hip level. Bottom leg can be bent if needed for balance. Head can either rest on hand, or arm can be long or folded on the floor to make a support for the head.
  • Inhale to sweep the top leg forward with foot flexed for two gentle pulses, only as far as neutral spine can be maintained.
  • Exhale to point foot and sweep leg to back for one long reach, maintaining neutral spine.
  • Keep hips stacked straight and not allowed to roll forward or back.
  • Don’t allow the rib cage to pop forward, especially when the leg goes back.
  • Complete 8-10 repetitions and then repeat on the other side.


Another great option for core exercises for men is GYROTONIC® Exercise. This is a less well known type of workout, not having the current popular reach of Pilates. It is nonetheless an up and coming program worth trying that offers up movement fusion of yoga, ballet, tai chi, gymnastics, and swimming. 

The GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® method was created by Juliu Horvath beginning about 40 years ago. While it may sound foreign to those that grew up on a weight bench, GYROTONIC® exercise allows users to stretch and strengthen muscles, while simultaneously stimulating and strengthening connective tissues in and around the joints of the body for full body benefit. The exercises involve a series of circular and fluid movements on weight and pulley-based machines coordinated with breathing patterns to support aerobic and cardiovascular health. All this in one workout package. What’s not to like?

Benefits of GYROTONIC® Exercise for Men

In 2016, British tennis great Andy Murray credited GYROTONIC® exercise with helping him back to Wimbledon after his back surgery. For the rest of us, we can access a long list of benefits for daily life including:

  • Strong, lean muscles.
  • Increased flexibility, coordination, and balance.
  • Enhanced joint mobility and articulation.
  • Ease of movement.
  • Increased circulation of blood, lymphatic fluids, and energy.
An older gentleman working out with a private trainer on the GYROTONIC Tower

In addition, GYROTONIC® Exercise:

  • Complements/supplements physical therapy and other rehabilitative bodywork.
  • Helps slow the aging process through mental and physical stimulation and regeneration.
  • Relieves low back pain and the postural effects of sitting.
  • Improves mind-body focus, concentration and coordination.

GYROTONIC® training is also beneficial to men of a “certain” age, as it relates to building strength, balance, and flexibility while preventing injury and supporting life’s activities. For me, GYROTONIC® exercise just feels good. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, I feel like the spiraling movements strengthen my whole body instead of one muscle group at a time. That is different than what I have been used to in the gym. I do it weekly and during periods of time when I can’t, I definitely feel worse for the wear. 

Strengthening Your Core After 50

I’ve been doing both Pilates and GYROTONIC® exercise for 5 years now.  While I am still an amateur and still appear that way on the equipment, I can say that they have both improved my quality of movement and life. I simply feel better when I am exercising in these ways. Whether you are a lumberjack or a desk jockey, you will notice how these methods bring daily improvement.

Two men working out with a trainer on the Pilates Reformer

You Can Start Now

Pilates and GYROTONIC® exercise are both effective functional training methods to support your life’s activities as you celebrate more birthdays. MOVE Wellness has experienced trainers who can help you workout safely and effectively and provide accommodation for any injuries or nagging pains. Talk to your trainer about your personal goals for the movement that matters in your life so we can support you in achieving those goals. MOVE offers private training in-person or online as well as MOVE Livestream with interactive livestream group classes you can take from the comfort and privacy of your own home. In addition, MOVE On Demand offers programs and classes you can access whenever and wherever you want.

Call us today at 734-224-2560 to learn more or start now online to schedule in-studio. We also have a 14 day free trial of MOVE Livestream classes you can take advantage of.

A group of men exercising on the Pilates Reformer

About the Author: Patrick J. Conlin Jr.

Patrick Conlin was raised in the Ann Arbor area and is a Circuit Court Judge in Washtenaw County. Patrick is the guy you can all relate to reading this blog. He’s reached that over-50 stage in life where he can’t work out the way he used to, but knows firsthand how important movement is and has 3 sons to keep up with. Spoiler alert…If you didn’t already know, Patrick is also MOVE co-founder Elaine Economou’s husband. He has been doing PIlates for more than 20 years. Basically, as long as he’s known Elaine. He added Gyrotonic to his workout mix around the time MOVE Wellness opened 6 years ago. Patrick knows the value of exercise and the powerful impact it has on his life and longevity. 


Why Try MOVE Livestream Classes

Whether you’re local to Ann Arbor or across the country, you can now join our high-quality, interactive livestream classes from the comfort of your home. Livestream classes offer new content each session with the energy of a live instructor to motivate and guide you in real time. You’ll have access to our expert team to answer your personal questions—something you won’t find with pre-recorded workouts. Choose from Pilates, GYROKINESIS®, Barre, Yoga, HIIT, and more. Our weekly class schedule includes over 30 classes. All you need is a device for streaming and space to move. Find frequently asked questions about livestream classes at MOVE here.

But really, we know there’s free content all over the internet. We also know you can subscribe to some really big brands for a lot less. So what sets our program apart and why are we worth a look? Why are 30 LIVE classes better than 3000 on demand classes? Here are 7 reasons to choose MOVE livestream. But don’t just take our word for it, give us a try and see for yourself with our 14-day free trial.

Pilates trainer starting a Move livestream class.
  1. Built-in accountability when you register for a live class
    Admit it. There’s just something special about scheduling something and putting it in your calendar that makes you more likely to follow through. It’s so easy to get caught up in our busy schedules and “forget” to make time for ourselves. But if you’ve signed up for a class with a live instructor, you’re much more likely to make the time and hold yourself accountable. The sense of commitment increases when we find a class we love and incorporate it into our weekly routine. 
A MOVE livestream class trainer doing an inspiring Pilates teaser.
  1. Motivating energy of live instruction to keep you moving
    We’ve done plenty of pre-recorded workouts. There’s lots of enthusiasm, but not much spontaneity. An instructor truly enjoying teaching clients in realtime and the ability to adapt the pace or content of a class based on the participants’ needs is irreplaceable. It feels like we’re all a part of one community moving together.
Laptop displaying a MOVE Livestream class in someone's living room.
  1. Convenience and comfort of working out in your own home
    Just rolling out of bed and feeling like taking a class in your pajamas? No problem. We’ve been there and done that, too. While our instructors love to see you moving, there’s no judgement on those days you turn your camera off and move with no one watching. Another perk of livestream classes is that there’s no commute to factor in. Join us on the fly when your 11:00 o’clock meeting gets cancelled. Don’t want to go out in the cold rain? Stay cozy in your very own living room.
Trainer explaining something in a MOVE Livestream class.
  1. Expert support you need to meet your personal goals
    We may be connecting on Zoom, but there’s a whole team of experts behind the screen ready to answer your questions and make sure we’re meeting your needs. We’re always happy to recommend classes, talk through your goals and set a schedule for you, or answer questions about any specific issues or modifications you may need.
Trainer teaching a MOVE Livestream Class in a recording studio.
  1. Variety of fresh class content each session to stave off boredom
    Did you love your class today? Awesome. Do you want to do that exact same class over and over again? Maybe not. (Ok, maybe once or twice.) With livestream classes, trainers are able to progress a group and move you through a repertoire week after week. We promise to keep you on your toes!
Man and woman taking a MOVE Livestream class together
  1. Connection to a wellness-focused community of peers and professionals
    We’ve all found our way to MOVE Wellness for a reason (or reasons). Our community is a group of people who seek to improve our well-being through movement, nutrition, education, and other holistic methods. We all find joy and comfort in traveling on this journey together. MOVE often hosts special community-focused events like our MOVE Book Club, unique-topic Member Workshops, MOVE Donation Classes for social justice, and more.
Trainer greeting her MOVE Livestream class
  1. Reliable access to our expert team to answer your questions
    Trainers are available for a quick chat before or after class as well. Something specific going on with your body? Hop into class early or jump into the chat so that your trainer can be sure to throw out custom suggestions and modifications in class. Our concierge team is always standing by to answer any bigger questions and make sure you’re on your best journey.

Your Interactive Livestream Program Starts Here

Let our expert instructors come to you—attend your choice of 30+ professional studio classes from the comfort of your home. Start your free 14-day trial of MOVE Livestream classes today.