Pilates is a fitness method that strengthens your core while giving the rest of body the tone of a nice, long resistance workout. The benefits of Pilates? Aside from increasing mental focus, you’ll engage many aspects of your physical strength through six principles: breath, centering, concentration, control, flow, and precision. The method was designed by Joseph Pilates as a method of muscle control.
Mayo Clinic recommends that adults engage in strength training exercises twice a week. Luckily, Pilates is a great exercise to help you meet this fitness standard. Just remember to incorporate some cardio activities like running, walking, or biking into this workout routine as well.
Although Pilates is best approached under the supervision of a trained instructor, the following exercises can help all novices determine if the fitness system is right for them. Nonetheless, be sure to check with your physician before starting any new exercise routine.
The 100 warms up your body while promoting deep breathing. To begin this exercise, lie on your back with your arms at your side and your knees bent into your chest. Use your core (or powerhouse) to lift your head and shoulders while extending your legs outward so your toes are higher up than your knees. Hold this pose as you pump your arms up and down—inhaling for five pumps and then exhaling for five pumps. Continue to breathe deeply and pump your arms while holding this position until you reach 100 pumps, or 10 full breaths—hence the name, The 100.
Rolling Like a Ball
Here, you get two benefits of Pilates in one great move, as this exercise strengthens your core while massaging your spine. Note that although it is tempting to have fun and perform this quickly, it’s best to roll slowly, using your core to hold your form.
Start this move in a seated position. Keep your knees shoulder-length apart, hold your hands under your thighs, and find your balance. Lower your head slightly while tightening your abs, and inhale as you gently roll backward onto the mat like a ball. When you reach your shoulder blades, exhale and use your core to pull your body back to the original seated position—all while holding the pose throughout the move. Repeat this five to ten times.
Single Leg Circles
Single leg circles are all about the hips. Perform this exercise lying down on your back, keeping your left knee bent with your foot on the ground. From here, lift your right leg up toward the ceiling. Move this leg in a slow clockwise circle, breathing in and out during each rotation. Complete five full circles (ten breaths) in this direction before switching to five counterclockwise circles. Switch legs and complete five circles in each direction with your left leg.
Single Leg Stretch
The single leg stretch is one of my favorite Pilates moves because of the way it stretches and strengthens the hamstring. This is another technique that is performed lying down with your back on your mat. Lift up your head and pull your left knee to your chest while lifting your right leg up to the ceiling. Alternate the positions of your legs five to ten times, inhaling for one set and exhaling for the next set. Remember to keep your core strong and your abs pulled into your back as you perform this move.
Spine Stretch Forward
Spine stretch forward encourages good posture and steady breathing, while giving your back a well-needed stretch. Start this move by sitting on your mat with your legs extended fully in front of you at hips-length apart. Hold your arms out—parallel with your legs—and move your hands forward as if to touch your toes. Return to your original position and repeat three to five times.
Give these five Pilates exercises a try at home and sign-up for a class at your local gym or studio for a more personalized Pilates routine. If you are exploring new exercises, you also may consider checking out some simple Yoga stretches.
What is Pilates, if not another workout regimen to try? Do you have a muscle group you’d like to work on? Drop us a line in the comments and let us know on Twitter, #GoodMatters!
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