Pilates has been described as the art of control. It requires control to hold the movements, to be fluid during the transitions and to get out of the poses gracefully. This control is physically accomplished by engaging, or stabilizing, the core muscles. I'm sure you've heard that phrase before. But do you know what it means, exactly? You have multiple muscle groups that make up your core: your transverse abdominals (deep muscles in your anterior torso that hold organs in place), your rectus abdominals (the "six-pack"), internal and external obliques (the sides of your torso), low back muscles and spinal stabilizers, gluteus medius & maximus (your butt) and sartorius & adductor longus (inner thighs). When you hear an instructor either at the gym or on your T.V or computer use this phrase, be sure to do more than just hold your breath and suck in your gut. Tighten and flex all of the muscles mentioned above, especially the transverse and rectus abdominals. This can be accomplished by performing the kegel squeeze that your OBGYN may have mentioned to you at your last visit, if not then, probably at your 6-week post-partum appointment. While engaging or stabilizing the core, you are priming your body for movement. Getting it ready for an action that's about to begin. Pilates has become one of my favorite types of exercise. It helps to flush oxygenated blood quickly to all organs and working muscles. I want to share a 20-minute workout with you that will leave you feeling refreshed, warm, loose and invigorated. Perform all the exercises in the sequence shown. I pray that you find it as delightful and energizing as I do. *You can click on any photo to get a closer look at the movement pattern.*
The Pilates Hundred. Lift shoulder blades off floor and hands toward heals. Reach feet away from body by extending knees and lift legs off floor. The longer the lever the harder the exercise. I am in the intermediate position. To modify, simply bend knees and place feet on the floor. Vigorously pulse hands up and down while breathing in for a count of 5 and then exhaling for the same 5 count. Repeat 10 times.
Single Leg Stretch. From the Hundred position, pull right knee in toward chest, reaching for the outside of right ankle with right hand and placing left hand on inside of right knee. Inhale. Exhale as you switch legs and arms. Repeat 10 times.
Roll Up. Lay flat on back, while still engaging core. Legs straight. Feet flexed. Inhale. Exhale as you lift your upper body off the floor, round your back by scooping your stomach in below belly button, and reach for toes. Inhale as you raise hands up overhead and straighten spine. Exhale and you round spine again, tuck chin toward chest, scoop stomach in below the belly button and articulate each vertebra back on the floor. Repeat eight times. This is an intermediate move. You can modify by starting with your knees bent and hands placed behind knees. While you are lifting your upper body off floor, you can use your hands and arms to help you by pressing palms into the backs of your knees. Pilates Bridge with Optional Calf Raise. Lay on back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Reach arms straight up from shoulders. Inhale. Exhale as you lift hips off floor and kick one leg to the ceiling, while lifting up to the ball of the foot that stays on the floor (optional). Inhale. Exhale and articulate out of the bridge before you bring the leg down and switch. Repeat five times on each leg, for a total of 10 bridges. Single Leg Circle. Lay flat on back. Engage abdominals. Lift right leg up as close to ninety degrees from your hip as you can get it. To modify, you can bend left knee and place left foot on floor while performing the right single leg kick. Maintaining a stable pelvis, swing right leg out in a circular motion from hip. The size of your circle depends on your hip's range of motion and your strength. Exhale as you cross your body's center line with your foot. Repeat five times in each direction. Switch legs and repeat. Pendulum. Lift legs up from hips, getting as close to ninety degrees as you can. Remember, the longer the lever the harder the exercise. I am in the intermediate - advanced position. You can modify by bending knees and making the "rainbow" with your knees. Reach arms straight out from shoulder to resemble a "T". Be mindful of how much pressure you apply to your palms. As you get better with this movement, you can lessen the pressure. Keeping shoulder blades on the floor and chest lifted, connect inner thighs (as if you have a mermaid tail) and lower legs to one side. Inhale. Exhale and lift back to center with obliques. Inhale. Exhale and lower to other side. Inhale. Exhale back to center. Repeat five times per side. Criss-Cross. This may be a familiar exercise to some. It's also referred to as the bicycle. You are not actually mimicing the cyclical motion with your legs, so I like to stay true to the pilates term, and call it the criss-cross. Pull your right knee in toward your chest while simultaneously lifting your left shoulder blade off floor and keeping the left elbow open wide, and leg off the floor. Inhale. Exhale and switch legs and shoulders. Be sure to reach across your body with your shoulder, not your elbow. You should not be able to see your elbows in your peripheral vision. Perform 10 repetitions. Knee Hinge with Torso Reach. Kneel on floor (preferably on a mat) and place arms in front of body as shown in picture. Lean back from the knees by contracting your abdominals and gluteals. Do not bend at the hips. Keeping a nice tall spine and stable trunk, reach arms back behind you as shown in picture. Come back to starting position before you reach to the other side. Repeat five times with each arm. Full Arm Plank. This is a power pose and is to be held for up to 2 minutes. Start lying prone with your hands just outside of your shoulders, but under them. Keep your face in front of your fingers at all times. Keep your feet hip-width apart. Engage your core (you now are fully aware of where that is and what that feels like) and press your body up off mat, like performing half of a push-up. Hold for as long as you can. If you are surpassing 2 minutes, feel free to contact me for variations on this move. Advanced Side Plank. This is an advanced power pose. Lay on one side and position yourself on your palm and foot. Place palm under shoulder and stack feet. Top hand can start on top hip. When you feel stable through-out the core, raise top arm to ceiling and lift top leg up. Refer to the picture for proper height of top leg and hips. Hold for as long as you can, up to 30 seconds. Modifications can be made to help you get to this level. Start with the bottom knee on the floor. Everything else, structurally and posturally, is the same. Repeat entire set of exercises up to four times. Please leave a comment or contact me directly with questions you may have about this workout.