Pilates is one of today’s exercise movements of choice. Doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, golf pros, athletic coaches and hockey teams are all talking about it and many are doing it. So, what is it? Essentially, Pilates is a word that describes a repertoire of exercises that focus on strengthening all the muscles that are involved in maintaining a properly aligned spine. It is an amazing organization of exercises that truly rehabilitate and enhance overall quality of movement for any and every lifestyle.
I have my own personal Pilates rehab experience that was so significant that I went onto become certified so I could teach these movements to others. There are many people who share similar positive experiences with Pilates. If you embark on a Pilates Mat Introductory course, you can expect to be wowed by the new awareness that you will learn. For most people, it is a new perspective or approach to body movement. The best thing about it is that it works. I want to share a few of my favourite exercises with you and why. I will do my best to lead you through proper movements, but the best thing for you to do is to find a studio and take an introductory course. It will usually run 2x/wk for 6-8wks. You will use the tools you learn in class in your daily life. Pilates will teach you life skills.
For those of you who have been following these articles for the last couple of months, try to keep in mind the articles on “Subtle Not Substantive Gets Resutls” and “Diaphragmatic Breathing.” That will help you a lot as you try these exercises at home.
I really like this exercise because it is the first exercise of the series that incorporates all the Pilates principles. It is also an exercise that looks very similar to the ab crunch but with a focus on the transverses abdominus and external obliques and not the overpowering, overrated rectus abdominus. This move is a real eye opener for the seasoned gym exerciser.
Lie on your back whereby you can feel a small space between your low back and the floor. Maintain that space as you, exhale, lift the upper body by thinking about sliding the ribcage and the armpits towards your hips. Inhale to hold, exhale and release to the floor.
Breast Stroke Prep 2
I take every opportunity I can get to promote thoracic (middle spine) extension. I really appreciate all the thoracic and lumbar strengthening exercises, but I particularly like this one. Many people are victims of an overly flexed thoracic spine, which creates many alignment problems. This move exaggerates proper thoracic alignment to strengthen everyone’s middle back, but specifically for those who have exaggerated improper thoracic alignment.
Lie on your front, zip your legs together, drop your shoulders to the floor and rest your forehead to the floor. Inhale, pick the shoulders up off the floor by pulling your shoulder blades together, exhale, and hover your nose off the floor and reach your shoulder blades to your waist line. Inhale to hold, exhale to release.
Double Leg Stretch
This is a very challenging abdominal exercise for all strength levels. Because the arms move up beside the ears, it tests your ability to keep the upper body flexed and the scapula still, and because you move the legs away from the center of the body, it challenges your ability to keep your pelvis still.
Lie on your back. Do a forceful exhale (expel air out of your abdomen through pursed lips) for 5 sec. Hold the contraction of your abdominals that you feel at the bottom of that forceful exhalation. Breath laterally into your ribcage, and not into the belly, so that you can keep the abdominals contracted. Lift the legs into the table top position and the upper body into the ab prep position (see first exercise) without losing the contraction of your abdominals – the start position. Exhale and stretch your legs out on a diagonal, and move your arms in a way that mimics taking a top hat off of your head. Inhale to come back to the start position.
This move involves spine flexion, rotation and stabilization. It challenges our spine awareness to be able to stabilize the low back from rotation and maintain a vertical position while the middle back rotates and flexes. This move requires a lot of thought and postural awareness.
Sit up tall on your sit bone with your arms out to the side and your legs open hip width apart. Inhale and twist the middle back to the left. Exhale and reach your right arm towards your left foot while keeping both sit bones (special attention paid to the right sit bone) rooted into the floor. Inhale and restack your vertebrae one at a time back onto your sit bones. Exhale and return to the center. Repeat on the other side.
Reformer – Pilates exercises done on equipment
The Reformer is a great piece of equipment that challenges the postural stabilizer muscles while strengthening the arms and legs.
For more information, please see www.sculptpilates.ca