Tag: pilates mat

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Swimming


Purpose: This advanced exercise lengthens the stomach muscles while strengthening the back muscles.

  1. Lie on your stomach, arms extend overhead, palms down. Squeeze the backs of legs together, slightly turn feet outward.
  2. Inhale, pulling navel up into your spine, lift your head; then your right arm and left leg off the mat. Switch arms and legs by lifting your left arm and right leg. Without shifting your body weight; flutter the arms and legs in a swimming motion.
  3. Inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts. Feel that you are stretching in opposition, fingers and toes reaching for opposite ends of the room; keep arms and legs as straight as possible without letting them touch the mat.
  4. Complete 3-5 sets of 5 inhalations/exhalations each. To end and stretch your lower back, sit back on your heels in child’s pose.
  5. As you improve, speed up swimming action of arms and legs; 2 movements per count. This challenges coordination or torso stability.

Checklist:
Hold your gaze high without crunching the back of the neck.
Work arms directly in front of you and in line with your shoulders.
The legs should flutter close to each other and in line with your torso.
Swim briskly; avoid rocking from side to side.

Note: A shoulder injury may be aggravated by this exercise. Reduce range of motion of the arms. Any lower back issues, approach exercise carefully.

Visualization: Move rapidly and keep your head up as though you were actually in water. Envision your legs working as if using a kickboard in a swimming pool.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Single Leg Circles

Purpose: To improve flexibility and range of motion at your hip joint and challenge abdominals.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor.
  2. Press your shoulders and arms (palms down) into the mat and keep your neck long.
  3. Straighten one leg to the ceiling and turn it out slightly from the hip.
  4. Draw a circle with your leg. That is, move your leg across the center of your body, then lower it, bring it around the other side and up; pause at the top.
  5. Do not let your leg swing too far right or left (outside your hip joint). The motion of the leg should not cause you to roll off to one side or arch your back.
  6. Repeat 5-8 times on each leg, inhaling as you circle your leg, exhaling as you pause. Then, reverse direction.

Checklist:

  • Anchor your pelvis and do not shrug your shoulders.
  • Avoid lifting your chin and crunching the back of your neck.
  • Remember to draw your navel in and up, hollowing out your midsection.

Goal: Remain very still in your upper body, keep pelvis level and control the circling movement of your leg from your core.

Progression: Straighten your floor leg (not bent anymore). And, make your circles of the straight leg a little bigger each time if you can keep your back and pelvis still.

Note: If any popping of hip occurs, bend your knee and draws the circles with the knee bent.

Visualization: Imagine drawing circles on the ceiling with your leg.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Jack Knife

Purpose: This is an advanced mat exercise. It builds strength in your abdominal muscles and stretches the muscles of your back and shoulders.

  1. Lie on the mat with arms long by your sides; palms down. Lift both legs to a 60 degree angle from the mat, keep a slight turn out in your legs.
  2. Inhale, lift the legs to a 90-degree angle, arms continue to reach long, shoulders pinned down. Use your abdominals to roll over- bring your legs over your head and peel your spine off the mat. Your legs remain together and go no lower than parallel to the floor. The weight is on your shoulders, not neck.
  3. Exhale, raise your straight legs upward toward the ceiling, using the strength of your buttocks to support your position. At the peak of the exercise, your feet should be over your eyes. Neck is long; arms continue to press firmly into the mat.
  4. Inhale, start to roll down vertebra by vertebra, slowly resisting gravity. Exhale, to finish, bring the body down to 90 degrees and return legs to starting position. Repeat 3 times.

Checklist:

  • Anchor the back of the head, shoulders, and palms solidly into the mat.
  • Distribute your weight between the shoulders – not on the neck.
  • During Step 2, aim the toes for the wall behind you and don’t allow your legs to separate throughout.
  • Keep squeezing the back of the upper inner thighs and buttocks to support your lower back.
  • On the decent, keep the feet over eyes.

Note: Omit this exercise if you have a bad neck, shoulder, or back.

Visualization: In Step 3, raise your legs to the ceiling, as if opening a Swiss Army knife and snapping it into place.