Pilates builds strength, flexibility and endurance.
Want to flatten your tummy, strengthen those shoulder blades, and build better posture? Pilates might just be the thing for you. Pioneered by the late Joseph Pilates in the mid-1920s, pilates builds strength, flexibility and endurance without adding bulk to muscles or increasing risk of injury. Pilates has outlasted just about every exercise fad and attracts all types of people, from exercise enthusiasts and Hollywood celebrities to rehabilitation patients and reformed couch potatoes.
There are a variety of methods that are modifications of the original, among them STOTT PILATES®. The original “classic” pilates program promotes movements on a flat back, while STOTT focuses on the spine’s natural curves and rebalancing body muscles.
We are featuring STOTT pilates as part of our Let’s Get Physical series. STOTT offers hundreds of specifically designed exercises that blend body awareness and breathing with fluid, controlled movements to tighten your core, stabilize your spine, and improve the way you move, feel and look. The body’s core is the heart of this exercise program.
“The core is like a box, with your abs on your front, side and back, spine on the back, diaphragm on the top and pelvic floor on the bottom,” explains instructor Liz Smythe, who teaches at one of the nation’s top STOTT teacher training studios, Equilibrium, in Bloomfield Hills, MI. “Pilates strengthens all of this and improves everything I do.”
It will take at least two pilates sessions (class, private or at home) per week to reap maximum benefits. It’s ideal when combined with cardiovascular exercise (walking, running, aerobics, swimming) and a great complement to weight training. Smythe demonstrates some of her favorite pilates poses.
THE HUNDRED (For abdominals and endurance)
To start, lie flat on your mat with your arms by your side and legs in the air with knees bent so that your shins are parallel to the floor.
Inhale, slightly nod your chin, exhale and curl up off the floor with your hands reaching toward your toes. Focus eyes toward your knees. Legs can stay where they are, or for more challenge, reach them out on a diagonal.
Begin inhaling through your nose for 5 counts and exhaling through a pursed lip for 5 counts until you reach 100 (10 sets). Gently pump your arms up and down, like you are pressing an imaginary nail toward the mat with your hands.
SPINE TWIST (Increases upper body range of motion)
Sit tall, engage abs and flex your feet. Move arms to the sides, relax shoulders.
Rotate from your abs to the right 3 times, going as far as you can the first time and attempting to go slightly further the next two times. Imagine you are getting taller with each rotation.
DOUBLE LEG STRETCH (Works the abdominals)
Lie flat on the mat with your legs in the air, knees bent, and shins parallel to the floor (tabletop position). Hands are on the outside of the knees and upper body is flexed off the mat, eyes on the knees.
Exhale, simultaneously reaching your legs to a diagonal position and your arms up past your ears like you are taking off an imaginary top hat.
Simultaneously sweep your arms out to the side and back where they started, touching your knees as you also return your legs to tabletop position.
PUSH UP (Works triceps, pectorals and abdominals)
Stand straight, keep shoulders down and bring arms straight above your head.
Nod head, roll down toward the mat. Pull in abs and curve spine until your hands reach the mat.
Arms can go out to the side or straight back. Inhale. Lower your arms for 3 counts. Exhale as you push up, keeping the shoulders stable. Do six reps.
SWIMMING PREP MODIFICATION (Great for lower back pain)
Start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and hips over knees, keeping the knees hip-distance apart. Spine is in neutral position following the back’s natural curve. Engage your abs as you lift your opposite arm and leg in the air.
Simultaneously move the arm and leg out to the side and back, keeping the rest of your body still.
Lower and repeat on other side. Kneel or sit on heels, extend arms overhead toward ceiling, then alternate arms in a swimming motion.
REFORMER: REVERSE EXPANSION (For balance and spine stability)
When visiting a pilates studio, you may find yourself utilizing some of the STOTT PILATES® specific equipment. Kneel on the carriage with your feet against the shoulder rests, ankles flexed, in an upright position. Spine is in neutral. Hold the straps with your palms facing forward and arms by the side of your body. Exhale. Reach the arms forward and upward as high as possible up to eye level, flexing the shoulders. Do not move torso, hips or legs. Return arms to starting position without falling.
NOTE: Before starting any exercise program, you should first consult with your doctor. Exercise is a physical activity that has potential physical risk. Dunham’s Sports and all their affiliates are not responsible for an injury that could occur from exercise.
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Pilates builds strength, flexibility and endurance.