Gluteal Tendinopathy and Pilates

Did you know one in four women over the age of 50 have been shown to have gluteal tendinopathy? Gluteal tendinopathy can greatly impact your daily activities. Whether that is through lack of sleep, inability to walk normal distances or climb stairs without pain or the inability to sit or stand for long periods.

Your gluteal tendons are the tough fibres that connect your gluteal muscle to your hip bone. A tendon injury may seem to happen suddenly, but usually it is the result of many tiny tears to the tendon that have happened over time. The buttock or gluteal muscles are extremely important in providing pelvic stability when walking or running. Every time you step on your right foot, your right gluteal muscles are vital in keeping your pelvis stable and preventing your left hip from dropping. The gluteal muscles insert into the outside of the hip via their tendons and these tendons can break down.


What is a Tendon Injury? 

Tendons are the tough fibres that connect muscle to bone. Most tendon injuries occur near joints, such as the shoulder, elbow, knee, and ankle. A tendon injury may seem to happen suddenly, but usually it is the result of repetitive tendon overloading.

Your tendons are designed to withstand high, repetitive loading, however, on occasions, when the load being applied to the tendon is too great for the tendon to withstand, the tendon begins to become stressed. When tendons become stressed, they sustain small micro tears, which encourage inflammatory chemicals and swelling, which can quickly heal if managed appropriately.

What are the Symptoms of Tendinopathy?

Tendinopathy usually causes pain, stiffness, and loss of strength in the affected area.  The pain may get worse when you use the tendon. You may have more pain and stiffness during the night or when you get up in the morning. The area may be tender, red, warm, or swollen if there is inflammation. You may notice a crunchy sound or feeling when you use the tendon. The symptoms of a tendon injury can be a lot like those caused by bursitis

Can Pilates help?

In order to reduce pain, it is important to avoid positions that load the tendon such as sitting cross-legged, sitting in a low chair or carrying children on hips. Treatment involves strengthening the gluteals and the other pelvic stabilizing muscles. Pilates is a great way of ensuring correct posture and muscle recruitment during various exercises. There are so many exercises for Pilates on the Matts and reformer.

Pilates Exercise: 

1: Lying Side Kick/leg circles:

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*Lay down on your side in a straight line, shoulder over shoulder, hip over hip, and ankles together.

* Bring both legs forward to 45 degrees form the body line

* Prop the head behind the head, reaching the elbow towards the ceiling.

* Lift top leg to a point level with the pelvis, the pelvis and spine remain stable.

* Lengthen the leg and circle or kick forward in a controlled manner.

* Hinging from the hip, draw the movement back through the heel.

* Repeat.

2: The Clams


* Begin this exercise lying on your side with your shoulders, hips and ankles aligned.

* Your knees should be bent at right angles and resting together.

* Slowly lift your upper knee away from your other leg, keeping your ankles together, your pelvis still and tightening your buttock muscles. Hold or 2 seconds and then slowly lower the knee back down.

3: Window Washer

* Start on the floor in full plank position, feet together, hands directly under shoulders

*   Keep hips parallel to the floor, life left foot slightly and tap out to the left as far up as you can and return.

There are so many other exercises, but again, Pilates is a great way to help with any injuries or strains.


Sarah Pennicott

Pilates Teacher



Pilates Benefits for Menopause

What is the Menopause?

Before I blog about the Menopause, some of you may wonder, how can I give advice about the menopause if I haven’t experienced it. Well, let me explain.  For us women, it happens, we can’t avoid it. Some of us have seen our own mothers experience Menopause and at some point, my time will come, but what I can do, is to provide a little bit of advice from the knowledge I have gained over the years.

Menopause, also known as the “change of life”  is the time in most women’s lives when menstrual periods stop permanently, and they are no longer able to have children. This will normally occurs between 45 and 55 years of age with Medical professionals often define menopause as having occurred when a woman has not had any vaginal bleeding for a year. It’s a stage of life, when women become deeply concerned about aging and feel like the best of life is now behind, as their body starts demonstrating unpleasant changes and their emotions seem to run out of control.

Symptoms of the Menopause.

Before menopause, the functioning of the ovaries and the secretion of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone decline. The reduction in the levels of estrogen create a hormonal imbalance that results in several physical an psychological symptoms.

Woman’s periods typically become irregular, which means that periods may be longer or shorter in duration, or be lighter or heavier in terms of the amount of flow. These changes generally happen several years before the actual menopause begins. This transition phase is called perimenopause. During this time, women will often experience hot flushes which will typically last from 30 seconds to ten minutes and may often stop occurring after a year or two. Other symptoms may include vaginal dryness, mood changes and trouble sleeping.






Menopause and your bone health

Women can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the five to seven years after the menopause. This makes post-menopausal women more at risk of Osteoporosis which may increase weak bones and fractures.  Pilates, specifically, is a form of exercise that is often mentioned with regard to osteoporosis. But in Pilates there are definite parameters as far as what exercises are appropriate for osteoporosis.

We must have strong bones that can bear our weight and allow us mobility

Bone is a dynamic tissue, like muscle, that strengthens in response to forces it has to resist. Gravity is one such force, and working against gravity is what we refer to when speaking of “weight-bearing exercise.” The combination of compression and tension from gravity and from our muscles plays a major role in bone strengthening.

The resistance can come from weights, elastic bands, but you can also consider your own body weight as resistance in some instances, like a push-up. In this example, you’re using gravity and your own body weight to provide resistance and induce muscle pull.

Pilates Benefits and Exercises.

Pilates exercises can improve brain activity, improve the general attitude towards life, increase alertness during the day and enable a restful sleep at the end of the day.

Pilates is very much focused on Breathing, Strength, Balance, Flexibility, Endurance and Coordination.

Breathing and Relaxation: Breathing reduces stress, can help with anxiety attacks and helps to attain clam and enhance focus.

Strength:  A decline in estrogen levels, will be a decline in bone density, however, exercises bearing resistance may help reduce and even reverse this effect.

Balance: Balance exercises will focus on enhancing your posture and body awareness which can help prevent falls and avoid injuries.

Flexibility:  These exercises are so important to keep muscles flexible and to reduce pain and stiffness in the body.

Coordination: Coordination exercises help to improve concentration, challenge your memory and increase brain activity.

Pilates Exercises.

  1. Back Extensions: (The Dart – upper back extensions, Forward Stretch, Opposite Arm and Leg Reaches, The Saw) Working on back extension is imperative for clients in the Menopause. As we age, we have the tendency to lose good posture, weakening more and more the strength in our back extension muscles.  We need to focus on strengthening our scapulars, mid to lower trapezius, rhomboids and serratus anterior.
  2. Arm work:  (Triceps Press/Bicep Curl with Resistance Band) is essential for clients in menopause, as they lose fat deposits in the arms and the skin gets saggy especially in the triceps area. It is crucial to strengthen and build up muscle taking in consideration that as we age we have more difficulties to do any kind of over-head arm work exercises. . The aim is to develop arm and shoulder strength, flexibility and control.  It is imperative for the client to pay special attention to core strength and stability, good posture and alignment. Considering that at this stage there is a tendency of kyphosis (I refer to my clients as stressed shoulders….relax!!!) the correct placement of the shoulders before performing the arm work block.
  1. Lateral flexion rotation: (Mermaid, Side Bend) Focusing on abdominal control with emphasis on the oblique’s, spinal mobility and scapular stabilization. The sides of the trunk generally become weaker as the muscles lose some tone with the aging process.
  1. Leg/Glues Work:  (Side Kick, Thigh High Lift, The Frog, and Leg Pull front) The focus is on strengthening hip extensors, hip adductors, Hamstrings, knee extensors and keeping pelvic stabilization.
  2. The Core:  (Hundred, Double Leg Stretch, Toe Taps, and The Bicycle) this is an area of the body where women in menopause lose tone and gain weight.
  3. Hip Work: (Bicycle, Hip Rolls, One leg Circle) this area tends to lose strength and stability. It is important to keep this area functional to help prevent issues with balance.
  1. Stretching:  It is of great importance for women in this stage to stretch in order to keep muscles flexible and reduce future pain and stiffness in the body

Its not all Doom and Gloom

In addition to the biological an physiological changes, women at this stage in life (unless you have started the menopause at an earlier age)  are generally experiencing changes in their family structure, as their grown children have started to leave their home and it’s at this time, when women can finally have more time to dedicate for themselves. To pursue their interest and passions, and to connect with their friends, to experience a sense of freedom.


Sarah Pennicott

Pilates Teacher/Advanced Personal Trainer







The New Shoulder Bridge – tum and bum workout


The new Shoulder Bridge – Have two for the price of one with this move.

Muscle group used:  The core, bottom and hamstrings


A total tone-up that’s great at home or in the gym, the shoulder brige really drills the stomach and bottom. The Glutes are quiet strong, so the traditional move can gradually become less challenging, which slows results. This new way allows you to add extra resistance, which you can adjust using the band, so you can continue to see the results.



  • Lie on your back with hips and knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Remember to find neutral spine (read previous blogs). Loop a band around your right foot and extend your right leg toward the ceiling.
  • Take hold of the band and keep both elbows resting on the floor. There shoudl be a small amount of tension in the band.
  • Push through your left foot and lift your hips off th efloor to forma a straight line from your left knee to your shoulders.
  • Hold and breathe in and out of your chest then slowly lower your hips to just off the floor and repeat, keeping your hips level as you lift and lower.



3 x times a week.

The resistance is set using the band, which you can adjust between sets if it is too easy ro difficult. So to make it harder, increase the tension in the band by holding it closer to your foot, or using a different coloured band with a higher tension setting.  You could also do five small pulses at the top of the movement with each rep.


Sarah Pennicott

Personal Trainer & Pilates Teacher

Pilates: why is it so good for our back?


Pilates exercises are common place at physical therapy centers, chiropractors are recommending Pilates, and “My back used to hurt all the time and now I don’t feel it anymore” is a phrase I hear a lot from people who do Pilates consistently. So what is it about Pilates that works so well for back pain relief?

What makes Pilates so effective is that it addresses the underlying structural imbalances in the body that lead to back pain. Issues like lack of core support, pelvic instability, muscular imbalances, poor posture, and lack of body awareness all effect back health.

Pilates Helps Correct Posture

In Pilates, we pay a lot of attention to how our body parts are lined up in relation to each other, which is our alignment. We usually think of our alignment as our posture, but good posture is a dynamic process, dependent on the body’s ability to align its parts to respond to varying demands effectively. When alignment is off, uneven stresses on the skeleton, especially the spine, are the result. Pilates exercises, done with attention to alignment, create uniform muscle use and development, allowing movement to flow through the body in a natural way.

For example, one of the most common postural imbalances that people have is the tendency to either tuck or tilt the pelvis. Both positions create weaknesses on one side of the body and overly tight areas on the other. They deny the spine the support of its natural curves and create a domino effect of aches and pains all the way up the spine and into the neck. Doing Pilates increases the awareness of the proper placement of the spine and pelvis, and creates the inner strength to support the natural curves of the spine. This is called having a neutral spine and it has been the key to better backs for many people.

Pilates Develops Core Strength

Good posture that goes beyond the “look” of being aligned requires core strength. Having core strength means that all of the muscles of the trunk of your body are strong, flexible, and working together to support and stabilise the spine.

Core strength is deeper than the big surface muscles that we are used to thinking of as those of the trunk of the body, like the rectus abdominis, the infamous 6-pack abs muscle or the beautiful big muscles of the back, like the lattisimus dorsi, popularly called “the lats.” The core muscles include the muscles that are below the surface musculature.

So while many forms of exercise focus on strengthening the big surface muscles, Pilates trains the body so that all of the core muscles work together to support and stabilise the back. Part of developing effective core strength is to train the body to know when to release, as well as activate, its core muscles. So while core strength is the catch-all term, we might say that the core coherence that Pilates teaches is essential for back health.

Some of these less obvious but very important core muscles are the muscles of the pelvic floor; the psoas, which play a huge role in keeping us upright and in hip bending; the transversospinalis, which are small muscles that weave along the spine; and the transverse and oblique abdominal muscles. The diaphragm, our prime breathing muscle, is right in the middle of the core. All of these muscles play crucial roles in the support and stability of the spine.

A healthy spine can curve forward and backward, twist, and move side to side, and do so in a way that reveals all the subtle articulations that our many vertebrae allow us to have. As core strength develops, the back muscles learn to work in harmony with the abdominal muscles, forming protective support for the spine that increase the potential range of motion of the spine. Pilates exercises are easy to modify so that we can develop spinal flexibility at our own pace. This is one of the things about Pilates that makes it easy for people with back pain to work with.

Pilates Increases Body Awareness

Whether the cause of pain is from an injury or as is often the case, a culmination of the effects of poor posture and inefficient movement habits, back pain is a messenger letting us know that we have to pay more attention to how we live in our bodies. The Pilates method is full attention exercise. You can’t do Pilates without becoming extremely aware of your alignment and the energy you bring to movement.

This kind of awareness practice is extremely powerful for people with back pain because we not only improve physical functioning, but as awareness increases, we move beyond the physical and mental holding patterns that back pain can create

Back pain has many causes and Pilates may not be right for all of them. If you have back pain, especially serious or chronic back pain, please check with your health care practitioner before you begin a Pilates program. If you do choose to begin Pilates, it is important to work with a fully certified instructor who is aware of exactly what challenges you are working with.

Sarah Pennicott

Personal Trainer & Pilates Teacher

Pilates Breathing – lateral thoracic breathing

Knowing how to take a full, deep breath is true life skill. Its a very important process that some people find difficult at first. When doing Pilates exercises we engage the deep abdominals and so it is important to fucus the breathing into the rib area. This is called lateral thoracic breathing. It focuses the mind, release tension, and ebabling you to maintain the contraction of the transverus abdominis and keep the shoulders stablised. Image

A full breath cycle spreads life-giving oxygen throughout the body, gets rid of waste gasses like carbon dioxide, and stimulates the spine and internal organs.


Place both hands on your ribs, with the heels of your hands at the side of the rib cage and your middle fingers meeting in the middle.

Breath in – focus the breathing into the ribcage and feel the sides and back of the ribcage expand and your fingertips come apart.

Breat out – feel the ribcage move back towards the middle, bringing your fingertips back together.

Avoid lifting the shoulders and creating tension in the neck and shoulders.

Sarah Pennicott

Personal Trainer & Pilates Instructor



Being a Pilates Teacher, I am slightly biased, but let me explain why Pilate is so good for us.

Joseph Pilates was a ballet dancer, but struggled with the intense physical commitment that went with it, so he invented an exercise regime to strengthen his body to allow him to cope with the pressures presented by his ballet training.


Firstly, there are 6 core principles:  Breathing, Centring, Control, Concentration, Flowing, Movement, Precision and more recently Awareness, Stamina and Relaxation.This means you do every exercise slowly, in an exact position, always extending from your middle which stays strong and static, and always with the effort on the out breath.

Secondary, the areas of the body you work are important. Traditionally at the gym we move our head and shoulders back and forth off the mat to work our abdominals, but how often do we make that movement in real life? Never, so why do we spend so much time training it? The answer is the stronger the abdominals are, the more they hold in the flabby bits.

The Transverse Abdominus (TVA) is a very large muscle that resembles a tin can with the back attached to the spine. It ensures we can stand up without falling over, or sit up without flopping sideways. How often do we do this in real life….always. Pilates trains the TVA which in turn strengthens the muscles, helping back pain, hip pain, and even knee and ankle pain by making us stand correctly.

At the bottom of the TVA are your pelvic floor muscles, which are also focused in Pilates, which are really important for giving us good posture and protecting our hip joint in particularly.

As well as training these core muscles, Pilates uses stretching and mobility exercises to improve your posture. It teaches you to balance to help strengthen core and thus build your protective inner barrier.  The power of breathing in your exercises also helps you to concentrate and relax.

Sarah Pennicott

Personal Trainer & Pilates Instructor