The execution of these exercises would be best suited as a warm-up for the gym rat, with a dynamic stretching approach in mind.  Research has indicated that dynamic stretching helps the body move into a stretched position while not seeking to stretch the muscles to their maximum.

The first step would be to increase the body’s circulation prior to engaging in the designated exercises.  Walking briskly or performing jumping jacks while performing deep breathing for a short period of time will help promote this and set the stage for these pilates stretches.

Here are the five exercises:


1. Swan Prep

Lie in a prone position on the floor.  Place your arms to your sides with your hands under the anterior part of your shoulders and palms down on the floor.  Now place your legs together and straight behind you.  Next place your forehead on the floor.  Now start the stretch by lengthening your spine all the way up through your head.

Now press your palms into the floor, inhale and start to raise your torso up off of the floor and retract you shoulder blades together and down, and keep your head in line with the torso and do not let it arch back.  Now exhale and return to your starting position.  Perform this at least three times.

2. Clam

This will target your hips by opening them up.  Lie on one side with your shoulders, hips, and knees in line.  Now extend your arm that is contacting the floor and rest your head on it.  Next, put your feet together and lift them off the floor while your knees stay down.  Now bend your knees close to 90 degrees.

The movement takes place deep in the hip, as you rotate the top knee open while keeping your feet together and up.  Once the knee is at the top you will return the knee to the starting position like a clam shell closing and slow the movement down as if there is a moderate amount of resistance.  Repeat this movement five to ten times per side.

pilates stretches_02

3. Mermaid

You will want to sit down on the floor and put your legs together, and start out by folding them to the right side of your body.  Now raise your left arm and move it towards your left ear.  Do not raise up your left shoulder, keep it down.  Next elongate your spine by reaching up and over your knees.

Your hip stays down, and you move directly to the side and avoid twisting.  When you achieve a full extension of the side stretch, elongate your spine in to the floor and then reach up to the ceiling to bring yourself upright.  Repeat this movement pattern three times, and then switch to the other side.

4. Single Straight Leg Stretch

Lie on your back on the floor.  Then extend both legs towards the ceiling.  Now perform a curl which engages the upper abdominals, then reach behind to an area that is possible for you to grab (calve, ankle, or thigh).  If your hamstrings are tight, you can bend the knee slightly.  Now separate the legs by performing a scissor move.

Next with the top leg pulse two times towards the face with the help of your hands.  Now switch up by releasing the top leg, and then scissor it with the bottom leg.  Now grabbing the bottom leg with your hands it becomes the top leg.  Then repeat the pulsing as you did with the previous leg.  Do this five times on each leg.

5. Supported Roll Back

Sit on the floor and assume an upright position with your knees bent and hands behind your thighs with good posture.  Now draw your abdominals in towards your spine in order to create a curve in your spine, it should make your upper torso tilt forward.  Next, roll back following the curve of your torso.

Your shoulders should stay down, but your hands can assist you on the rollback to the starting position (you can deepen the curve in your abdominals by moving your head towards your knees; this should help you in getting back up).

To sum it up, keep these thoughts in mind:

Your warm-up requires circulation, take the time to get the blood flowing and work on your deep breathing.  You want to perform each exercise with a full range of motion, but do not lock out the joints, keep thinking stretch and flow.  Enjoy adding these exercises to your warm-up routine for variety!

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