Popular Pilates exercises
Combining his apprenticeship experience in yoga, Greek and Roman physical exercise regimes and his extensive experience as a boxer and rehabilitation specialist, Joseph Pilates created his unique method in 1914. During WWI, he became a nurse and caretaker for many injured during wartime. Afflicted with a variety of ailments and physical limitations, these people began to utilize the methods Joseph was creating while working in the hospital setting. He would take springs from beds and rig up unique resistance machines to aid even those who were unable to get out of bed.
Today’s reformer machines are built with the same principles in mind: an emphasis on improving movement, strength and flexibility. As the Pilates Method gained popularity, Joseph began working with professional sports athletes and injured prima ballerinas to help aid in their recovery and regain strength in record time. The basic foundation of Pilates has remained the same, and the exercises that were both popular and effective a century ago are still a significant part of the Method today. The Pilates Method’s basis for encouraging strength starts at the core. All Pilates exercises engage and strengthen the core; the muscles at the body’s center are essential for overall strength and spinal support. Here are some of the most popular and effective mat-based and reformer exercises that strengthen, tone, elongate and rehabilitate the muscles.
1.) The Hundred
One of the most transforming exercises in the Pilates Method can be done with or without the use of a reformer machine. To perform this exercise, lie flat on your back on a mat or on the reformer machine. Bring your knees in towards your chest. Simultaneously lift your head, neck and shoulders off the mat or machine, and stretch your hands out with your palms facing the floor. If you are utilizing a reformer, insert your hands into the loops and fully extend your hands by your side; your machine should be placed on three or four cords before beginning this exercise. Extend your legs to a 45-degree angle, or as far as you can. Pump your arms up and down vigorously while breathing in through the nose for five counts and out for five counts. You will want to work yourself up to completing 10 full sets. This exercise targets the entire body and fires up the core.
2.) The Bridge Roll-Up
This exercise helps to strengthen and coordinate the lower back and pelvic muscles while also strengthening and toning the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and core muscles. To perform this exercise, lie flat on your back on either the mat or reformer machine. Bend your knees, and plant your feet firmly on the ground. Exhale, and tilt your pelvis by pressing your lower back down into the ground. Slowly progressing through one vertebrae at a time, press your heels down in towards the ground and lift your back off of the ground; start with your hips and progress upwards until only your shoulders remain firmly planted on the mat or machine. Hold the top position and breathe slowly in and out for 10 seconds before slowly rolling down to return to the starting position. Work up to performing this exercise at least 10 times.
3.) Leg Circles
This exercise can be performed with or without a reformer machine. If you have a reformer, you would simply adjust your machine to three or four cords, place your feet inside the loops and proceed with the exercise. If you are utilizing a mat, you will be using your own body weight for exercise and balance in lieu of the machine for support and resistance. Lie flat on your back on the mat or reformer, and plant your arms firmly down by your side with your palms facing down. Raise one leg up towards the ceiling; keep it as straight as possible and only go as far as is comfortable for your ability. Point your toes up towards the ceiling, then inhale as you draw little circles in the air towards your other leg. Exhale, then reverse the rotation so that you are drawing little circles in the air away from your opposite leg. Once you have completed 10 of each set with one leg, repeat the series with your other leg.
Whether you attend a mat-based class at a gym, purchase a reformer for in-home use or prefer to do mat-based workouts at home, these signature moves are always featured in Pilates. With regular practice, you will gain more strength, flexibility and toned muscles with a Pilates routine.