Tag Archives: exercise

Mel Collie | Is your neck stronger than your core?

Mel Collie | Is your neck stronger than your core?

Core exercises are all the rage and have been for years, they’ve been embedded into our heads from fitness classes, magazine articles and celebrities shouting that you should all the doing core strength exercises, however.. if you are, and seeing minimal results, why is that and what can you do about it…?

  1. Do a core exercise you are familiar with.
  2. Now do it again and be aware of the following – clenched jaw, tilted head position, lifted shoulders, tight diaphragm, clenched toes.
  3. Why those in particular? Well, these are a few compensatory ways of using what we believe is our “core” when in fact, the connection between brain and “core” isn’t as strong as we believe.
  4. It takes a brave person to admit they have a weak core,  I see it a lot os weak “core” muscles in my NKT sessions.
  5. If you aren’t stable in your centre, the extremities will take up the slack, you will experience tightness in arms, legs, jaw, neck, pelvic floor or diaphragm.

A simple example :

Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor.

Now lift both arms up to the ceiling, palms facing each other.

Now lift your feet, knees stay bent at 90 degrees, so the knee line is above the hip bones.

Breathe in

Exhale as you, slowly lower the right leg towards the floor(leg can stay bent or straight, depends on your current level of core connection)  and the left arm back

Keep the arm straight, keep the knee bent.

Inhale come back with arm and leg.

Change sides as repeat.

Compensation points to check:

Chin lifts as your head drops back

Shoulders lift

Breathe holding

Toes lifting or clawing at the ground

Pelvic floor clenching

Ribs lifting

Glutes squeezing

Eyes closing


It doesn’t have to be a check list of all of these, but it could be one or two that you may notice.

Work on correcting those and your core exercises will take off.

Stick with the compensation patterns and they will get stronger, not your core.

How can you tell? Get assessed by an NeuroKinetic Therapist (NKT) or have your compensation check list as listed above and listen your brain.

Be your brain. Where does your brain go to when the core isn’t connecting.

What does your brain do?

Mel Collie


Core Strength & Your Jaw

Core Strength & Your Jaw

Sit ups, planks and push ups- all favoured as core exercises, and core strength is supposed to be enhanced by practicing them for many reps or keeping the position held for a few minutes, I used to go to a Pilates class where they insisted you Core & Your Jaw wern’t strong if you didn’t hold your plank position for more than 5 minutes, in fact they wanted you to do it for 8 minutes…


A little bit smarter and wiser , I wish I could go back to that class with the knowledge I now have to see what was being used as compensation – a tight jaw, held breath, tight shoulders, tightness in the back of the neck. All of these are used as compensations, cheats by the body when its searching for strength because its failed elsewhere, usually in the core.

The jaw is a common one. With todays anxieties, worries and fears, tension in the jaw is commonplace when the brain seeks stability, especially if it isn’t getting it from the core muscles.

So next time you are doing your core exercises, check what is happening and where you are compensating.

  1. Breathe out through the mouth to avoid jaw clenching.
  2. Keep the back of the neck long to avoid using this area for strength.
  3. Watch you aren’t breath holding, the diaphragm can become facilitated for a weaker core.
  4. Ensure the upper shoulders are away from the ears
  5. Watch your toe position and that they aren’t clawing at the ground, a classic compensation for a weaker core.

If you’ve been doing these for a while, your compensations may also be present in everyday life, you may find you hold your breathe often, your toes might already prefer the clawed position, your upper shoulders may find they like it near your ears and are always tight..

What can you do about it?

Awareness is a great start, you might not like it, but regressing your reps and take it slow. Record yourself with a camera/mobile and see whats happening when you play it back, are your shoulders in a good position, when does that begin to falter? Do you hold your breath, at what point is that?

That is where your neural edge is, the brain compensates, thats when you stop and rest until you are ready to go again.

You can also practice your breathing as this can improve a  load of issues, if the brain is happy with the oxygen amount, its happy giving you extra strength to a certain degree.

Stabilising from the centre out is always a good place to start.

Melanie Collie




Mel Collie | Necking It

Heres what I used to do for my tight neck muscles – get them stretched…

Did they need stretching often ? yes…were they always tight? yes…

Why? Computer..stress..anxiety…forward head posture, clenched jaw..all that stuff means tight upper neck muscles.

Was I fed up with it..not really, after all it was my own fault right?   I knew what to stretch though, so I stretched them, I just told myself off for spending too much time on that computer

Is that you too? Hell yes I bet it is!

Years and years later…still stretching?

Here we go – the tight muscles are telling you a story, and you’ve just read it in a different language.

For all that time…

Remember the yellow fish in Hitchhikers Guide To the Galaxy?

I got me one of those fish when I started to understand the WHY

I began to understand the language

I stopped chasing the pain and looked elsewhere

What was that pain telling me? Tight muscles, overworking, tired, fed up, pissed off neck muscles.


Switched off core muscles…even though I’m a Pilates instructor, my abs were NOT working in a correct pattern.

When tested using NKT (www.neurokinetictherapy.com) my Psoas (hip flexor) TA (Transversus Abs) and Rectus Abs were unorganised…thats my polite way of saying they were inhibited. Their pattern of working was all jumbled up.

My left shoulder hikes up when I’m stressed, its been like that forever, it gets tight, I’m aware of it but I wasn’t aware those muscles were working to stabilise my core as well.

As soon as they were released and my Psoas and TA strengthened, stuff changed.

As soon as my Scalenes were released after testing to find they were facilitated (left more than right) and the left ones released (ouch! ) my diaphragm went whooosshhh…and my breathing was lighter.

Oh yes, the diaphragm is a commonly facilitated muscle too, you can practice deep breathing , but for some of us, it wont “let go” if its compensating.

I love testing core muscles when a client compensates by clinching jaw or breath holding, its a common cheat, and tells a story – do you do core work at the gym or in your Pilates class with a clenched jaw and no breathing for those tricky repetitions?

Want to stop that and do the same exercises with good form (check your neck position, if you need a towel under your head to keep it neutral, then use one or you are using your neck to stabilise , not your core)and breathe out with your mouth open, and eyes open, don’t close those eyes, that just means you are searching the brain for answers when it cant find your core muscles to do the work. Bet you are clenching the jaw and toes too …

Get yourself assessed to find out whats inhibited and facilitated, what patterns are unorganised , you will get homework to do thats specific for your unique patterning, which will involve a stretch or a massage with a ball in a tender/tight area, but what you do that follows that release is crucial to allow that “stretch” to hold, for the brain to relearn the new pattern.

It can take up to 3,000 reps for the brain to cement a new pattern of learning…thats a LOT of reps.

Its a lot of wrong reps if you are treating the wrong pattern. Guys thats why I was stretching for years and nothing changed. I was stretching the tight and not strengthening the weak. I didn’t know my patterns were unorganised.

So yes, there you go, get assessed, you can search NKT on You Tube too, to get an idea of how it works..

You will save a lot of years of stretching and chasing pain, you are unique, find out whats working..and whats not.




Mel Collie | How stable is your core?

Mel Collie | How stable is your core?

Theres a saying by a respected health and wellness coach that goes like this:

“You cant shoot a canon from a canoe”

What does that mean?

It means, that if you are going straight into lunges, burpees and squats and your core isn’t stable, you are going to get problems.

Basically, exercises classes aren’t structured to assess you before you do any of their classes. Overhead weight lifts, strength raining on clients who have basically sat all day at a computer are an accident and a shoulder impingement waiting to happen. Thoracic extension can be very difficult when the spine hasn’t moved very much all day. Shoulder mobility can be very tricky when your ams stay in the same position all day. Forward head posture is now commonly more than 3cm. Instability and lack of mobility in the upper thoracic therefore is common.

You just turn up, and get on with it.

I’ve been there, so don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing exercise classes, I used to teach Bootcamps on a Cornish beach. Ive attended bootcamp and circuit style classes. Ive seen bad form, and its painful to watch.

Trouble is, I saw people struggling with good form whilst they bashed out another 10 push ups after sprinting , doing squat jumps and lunges, seeing their anterior tilts not improve, seeing them getting up super early to go to a session when a lie in was what their adrenal glands were craving.

Shoulder, back and knee injuries are common…yes, even in well meaning Pilates classes.

I used to go to an osteopath for my tight neck muscles, (too much studying on a laptop!) who told me that they had many clients who came to them with lower back pain after going to Pilates classes, mainly in a gym with more than 10 people per sessions, sometimes up to 30 people in a class…they were at the point where they didn’t recommend Pilates to any clients!

You are NOT going to receive personal attention if you are going to a Pilates or Yoga session for rehab if your physic/dr/ospeo/chiro has told you that you should be doing one of these classes and it has lots of people attending.

If you are super lucky, your instructor may have received awesome training from a great training provider and taken more in depth courses in anatomy and physiology, neuroscience and muscular patterns.

If they have, stick with them, have some 1:1 sessions, and your training will come on in leaps and bounds

You will know your imbalances, you can work to correct them, you can work to enhance your inner strength.

Build your core strength and joint mobility before shooting that canon from the canoe.

Your future spinal health will thank you for it.

Remember, more is not better…better is better.


Movement Pattern Detective in Training


Core strength assessments : https://gotpain.wufoo.com/forms/got-core/

Mel Collie | Chatting

Mel Collie | Chatting

Every fortnight on a Thursday my client comes to my studio for Pilates

She’s hypermobile

That means her joints are super bendy!

We spend most of that hour chatting

She talks, I listen!

I love that though!

Its not all about sit ups, flat abs and wondering if you will look good to your friends.

Its about connection.

Rock up, chat about stuff, unwind, un-burden, de-stress and the body moves way better.

Try saying you feel happy with your shoulder slumped forward and your head down to the ground with the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Now try saying you feel depressed, sad, pissed off with the world with your head high and a smile on your face having spent an hour chatting to a friend.

Putting the kettle on is Britains fave past time

Do it more often, and if you don’t like Tea/Coffee, then go for a run with your mates, go to Pilates with your friends, book a session for the both of you to enjoy, go for a spa day together, go for a walk in the park, or on the beach together.

Natter. Chat. Laugh. Be silly.

Play on the swings and the slide (make sure you don’t get told off!)

Do it all without checking your mobile!

It release so many good hormones, and the cascading effect that has really shows in your body

…better than a six pack any old day