Over the past few decades, The Pilates Method has become a mainstream fitness routine.  Joseph Pilates (December 9,1883 – October 9, 1967), born in Germany, was actually a sickly child who suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever.  This motivated him to study the body in search of self-healing.

Joseph dedicated his life to proper movement and strength development by studying bodybuilding, self-defense, yoga, qigong, and gymnastics.  He believed that modern society’s way of life lead to poor posture and inefficient breathing.  To counter the effects of modern living, Pilates developed a series of exercises to build core strength.

Prior to the spread of Pilates to mainstream physical fitness, dancers began to use the method to train and strengthen the body. Pioneers such as George Balanchine and Martha Graham studied at his studio, spreading Pilates’s teachings to the ballet and modern dance world.

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Being trained in ballet and Graham Technique, it was natural that I would also study Pilates.  If Pilates can help strengthen professional dancers, imagine what it can do for you. The following are just a few of the exercises I use to prepare clients for healthy movement.

Also check out these 10 Pilates exercises for a heathier you

Knee Folds 

This Pilates exercise is meant to activate the transverse abdominus and psoas muscles to stabilize the lumbar spine. Lay on your back with knees bent and heels in-line with sits bones (the two bony landmarks on your butt).  Find neutral pelvis so that the front hip bones are on the same plane as your pubic bone. You should have a natural curve to your lower back.

If unsure where your neutral pelvis is, tuck and untuck your pelvis several times feel the two extremes and then settle in the middleNow you want to use your deep abdominal muscles to lift one foot at a time very slightly off the mat while keeping your hip flexors relaxed and your pelvis stable. Let you legs be dead weight and pull your belly button to lower back.

If you have this going well bring both legs all the way up to table top and tap one or both toes down to the floor for an extra challenge. Make sure there is no movement in your lower spine throughout.  Do as many as you can with breath and maintaining tension in the abdominals rather than the neck and shoulders.

Single Leg Circles

This exercise will lengthen the muscles of the legs and provide pelvic stability.Lay on your back with both legs straight and together. Raise one leg raised about 45 degrees and slightly turned out from the hip.  The other leg remains on the floor.

Stir the raised leg in the hip socket making small circles. Use your abdominals to stabilize the pelvis. Do 10 circling in one direction and then 10 circling in the other direction. Repeat with the other leg both legs.

Woman working lateral abs

Pelvic Curls with Stability Ball

This is the classic pelvic curl exercise to strengthen the gluteals (muscles of the butt) with the addition of the stability ball to help engage the abdominals. Lay on your back with both feet up on a stability ball. Press both heels into the ball to engage the butt and lift the pelvis off the floor.

Make sure you are pulling your stomach in and up so you do not arch your back. You want your hamstrings (back of thighs) and gluteals (buttocks) to do the work here and not your lower back muscles. Keep the abdominals engaged and steady yourself on the ball.

Roll down one vertebrae at a time from the top of the spine to the pelvis to return to the starting position. Watch you don’t tense up your shoulders and neck here. Aim for a quality 6-8.

Teaser

This is a challenging exercise for the abdominals so you should work up to it. Start with single leg teaser by lying on your back with one leg bend foot flat on the floor and the other extended.  Arms are down by the sides with the chest open.

Press the heel of the foot that is down into the floor to help engage the gluteals. Simultaneously lift the other leg up to a 45 degree angle and the torso up to balance on the sits bone. Arms are long off the shoulders and spine is long.  Slowly lower the torso and leg down to the floor with control and try the other side

To progress to full teaser, stretch both legs on the floor. In one fluid motion raise the legs and torso up to balance on the sits bones with a long spine. You can try with both legs bend first. Aim for a quality 6-8.

Plank To Push-Up

This is an advanced trunk stability exercise that will also strengthen your arms.  You can regress the exercise by doing a modified plank with the knees down and then work back up to the full plank.

Begin on all fours with joints stacked. Wrists are directly under the shoulders. Push strongly away from the floor to stabilize your shoulder blades. Extend one leg back and then the other to come into the plank position. Make sure your body is in one line with abdominals and gluteals engaged.

Keeping your torso in one piece lower into a pushup without collapsing in the upper back. You can achieve this by pushing away from the floor as you bend your elbows. Make sure to keep your elbows squeezed into your ribs to engage your latissimus dorsi muscle and protect your shoulders.

Lower as far as you can and then press back to the starting position.  Do as many quality push-ups as you can, then rest and try again.

Trying to get in shape? Combine these with a Balanced diet plan and go all the way to a new healthier you!

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