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Part 3: Modified STOTT PILATES® exercises for a client with breast cancer

Three exercises for a client with breast cancer

Each client is different, so when designing a modified exercise program for special populations, you need to do your research and take their specific physical and health needs into consideration. Consult their physician or health care team.

Working with Merrithew Master Instructor Trainer and Uxbridge Pilates Studio owner Laureen DuBeau, Anita Connolly, a STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor and Total Barre® Qualified Instructor, designed a tailored program for her friend and client Sharon Crowe after she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

Read more about this story here:

Part 1: How STOTT PILATES® helped me find the mental and physical strength to fight for my life >

Part 2: Creating safe and effective STOTT PILATES® programming for a client with breast cancer >

Here, Anita talks about some of the exercises she used with Sharon.

Planks, planks and more planks

“I love planks. They are a great movement to activate core stabilizers while keeping the spine in a neutral position. I started working with Sharon in a quadruped position to start building strength in those stabilizers. From there, I added arm and leg movements in a variety of directions. Arm reaches forward and side were followed by leg reaches back and knee lifts to the side. Then we combined the movements.

“Gradually we progressed to a modified plank, moving the knees farther and farther away from the body as her strength increased. Finally, we were able to do a full plank position, and worked on holding that position for longer periods of time.

“The next step was to move the plank to moveable and less stable surfaces. The first day we were able to perform the full Long Stretch on the Reformer was a great day! When I knew Sharon was having a good day, we’d ‘play’ with adding other props to her plank. An inverted BOSU® provided instability for her upper body and really made her work to stabilize. As an additional challenge one day, we decided to place Medicine Balls under her feet. She had such an amazing sense of accomplishment when she achieved the position, it was wonderful to see.”

Weight for the arms

“Right from our first sessions together, I wanted to make sure Sharon was working on her upper body strength. At first, even the 1 lb Toning Ball felt heavy for her, but she was a trooper and kept going.

“I made sure she was performing exercises in a variety of planes and positions, e.g. bicep curls with the arm vertical to bicep curls with the arm parallel to the floor in front of the body and out to the side.

“Then overhead reaches. I like the Arms Forward segment from the Total Barre Foundation workout, so we did those exercises often. When I felt like she could handle the additional challenge, we started doing those movements, and others with a Flex-Band®, with her sitting on a Stability Ball. The additional challenge to the core stabilizers made her work even harder with her arm exercises. Eventually, we moved on to heavier weights and even got her performing the series standing, first vertically, then adding the squats when she could handle it.”

Getting a leg up

“The Flex-Band was a great tool for starting off our legwork. In her seated position, we did leg extensions with a light resistance band. Once Sharon was able to lie on her back on the mat, we were able to add more leg exercises, such as Bend and Stretch, Lower and Lift and Leg Circles with one leg. We eventually progressed to a double leg Bend and Stretch and small range Lower and Lift.

“The great thing about these exercises is that it gives the added benefit of ab work in a completely neutral and supported position. The Reformer was another great place for us to develop leg strength. We had to start Footwork on relatively light tension, but gradually increased it as Sharon’s strength and ability progressed. The Extension Straps on the V2 Max Plus Reformer gave her some additional support for the more challenging exercises.”

Find out more about the STOTT PILATES Injuries and Special Populations course >

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