What is Pilates?
I’m sure you've all heard of Pilates, and I'm sure most of you are familiar with the benefits of the exercise, from strength and mobility to flexibility and rehabilitation. For the uninitiated, though, Pilates is a physical and mental training method invented in the early twentieth century by Joseph Hubertus Pilates, who created it based on his knowledge of gymnastics, traumatology, and yoga.
Pilates focuses on building internal muscles for stability and firmness in the spine and maintaining body balance. It's a great way to help manage back pain because many of the exercises are adaptable to be part of rehabilitation.
I'm a big fan and have been practising Pilates for a few years now, and I find that it complements many other aspects of my fitness routine, helping to keep my core strong and stable (not to mention helping to mitigate injuries!).
So, today, I wanted to share six classic Pilates mat workout exercises I do daily that help with core strength, take no time at all, and can be done anywhere. All you need is a mat!
But before we dive into the exercises, let's take a quick look at what core strength is.
Pilates for core strength
Pilates exercises are primarily intended to strengthen the core. The abdominal muscles and the dorsal muscles form the body's centre, where all Pilates movements originate. This centre is a priority because everything is controlled from there.
By stabilising the torso, we create a ‘co-contraction’ between the abdominal and dorsal muscles. In other words, all these muscles work together.
Maintaining good posture and preventing minor back issues is easier when the dorsal and abdominal muscles are strong and flexible. Pilates strengthens and stretches these crucial muscles, actively assisting in reducing the risk of back pain by helping to correct any muscle imbalances.
Types of Mat Exercises in Pilates
Mat work is the foundation of Pilates. Pilates on the mat requires no equipment and complete body control, as well as mindful attention so that you can execute all positions, repetitions, and movements.
As you do a series of mat-based Pilates exercises, you'll find your hips in a position called ‘printed’, which will protect your vertebrae and build your core strength.
Pilates mat exercises usually start with you in a ‘tabletop’ position. In this position, the knees are bent, making the thighs perpendicular to the floor. By holding this position, the lower back is protected, and it's easier to commit the abdominal muscles and do the movement.
If you have a mat, you can practice these Pilates exercises anywhere. Below are my top six mat workout exercises to strengthen your core and give you a full body
workout by WHOLE PILATES STUDIO – I recommend you try them out and see what works for you!
THE ROLL UP
START POSITION: Lie flat on your back, legs together. Arms are reaching overhead, shoulder distance apart.
MOVEMENT: Inhale as your arms reach toward the ceiling and curl your head and shoulders off the mat. Exhale as you peel the rest of your spine off the mat, drawing your abdominals into the spine the entire time. Round forward and reach the arms toward your feet. Sit up tall with an inhale, and then exhale to tuck the pelvis and peel the spine back down on the mat into the starting position. Repeat 3-5 times.
START POSITION: Lie flat on the mat with knees bent and legs together. Exhale as you curl your head and shoulders up, lift and hover arms off the mat, and extend both legs off the mat to desired height.
MOVEMENT: Begin to pump your arms. Inhale for five arm pumps and exhale for five arm pumps. Repeat this 10 times.
START POSITION:Lie flat on the mat with knees bent and legs just slightly apart.
MOVEMENT: Inhale to prepare, exhale to tuck and peel the pelvis off the mat, continuing to peel the spine off the floor until you reach the shoulder blades. The body should form a straight line through the shoulders, hips and knees. Inhale at the top and slowly peel the spine back down onto the mat to the starting position. Repeat 3-5 times.
SINGLE LEG STRETCH
START POSITION: Curl your head and shoulders off the mat, bend both knees into your chest, and extend one leg straight as you place both hands on the opposite shin. Outside hand places near your ankle, inside hand places near your knee.
MOVEMENT: Switch your legs, extending your opposite leg straight and pulling the opposite knee into your hands. Continue switching legs 10 times, exhaling as you pull the knee into the chest.
START POSITION: Sit with legs extended in front of the body, shoulder width apart and feet flexed. Raise arms directly to the side at shoulder height. Sit tall through the spine.
MOVEMENT: Inhale to reach the crown of your head to the ceiling. Exhale to twist the torso to the right, growing taller on the twist making sure to keep the legs and feet still. Inhale to return the torso to centre. Exhale to twist the torso to the left. Inhale to return to centre. Repeat 3-5 times each side.
START POSITION: Facing the floor on hands and knees, position the hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
MOVEMENT: Extend one leg at a time, supporting the body into a full plank or push-up position. The body should make a straight line from head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Hold the position for a goal of 30 to 60 seconds while breathing in and out. Repeat 3 times.
Photo Credits: www.wholepilatesstudio.com
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