What Is Pilates
In recent years, pilates has become a popular workout which is practice by many people as part of their fitness regimen. In fact, it can be found in every conceivable environment and is widely taught in academic institutions, fitness centers and medical facilities. Basically, it suits anybody ranging from healthy and elite athletes to people who had limited capacities, limited mobility or range of motion due to disease or injury. So the question is what is pilates? What are the principles of pilates?
Perhaps you may say that pilates is just another form of healthy exercises with particular movements as in Tai-chi or Yoga, but you are wrong. Pilates is a system of physical and mental conditioning which helps to enhance your physical strength, flexibility and coordination. While practicing the movements, it reduces stress, improve mental focus and foster an improved sense of well-being.
Though throughout the years, pilates have evolved into multiple forms (physical-based and mind or body-based), the fundamentals or main approach of pilates is designed to be integrated into every facet of life. This explains why pilates workouts is ideal and suitable for anyone. If you intend to pick up pilates as your fitness regimen, then your should start from the warm up exercises for pilates workouts to condition your body and mind.
6 Principles Of Pilates Exercises
Depending on the school of pilates, the list of principles may vary slightly. Still, the principals discuss below actually form the basic approach of pilates and these are viewed as the foundation of the system.
Breath can be viewed as the fuel of the powerhouse, which is the engine that drives pilates. It can also be look upon as being of the body, of the mind and of the spirit as Joseph Pilates (founder of pilates) regarded.
Breath is one of the keys to life itself with the respiratory muscles are the only skeletal muscles which are essential to life. An understanding of this principle can facilitate optimal breathing while practicing the pilates exercises.
Anyone who wanted to perform the exercises correctly will require concentration. Before begin pilates exercises, one should take a few seconds or 1-2 minutes to go through a mental checklist for each form. This includes awareness of the breath pattern as well as the muscle groups which are to be worked on. Concentration is especially essential during the execution of the exercises in order to maintain the correct body posture, alignment and stabilization.
The concept of center can have 2 meanings. Firstly, it refers to the center of gravity in which the weight is distributed equally and totally balanced in all directions. Generally, when standing upright with the arms down by the sides, the center of gravity of the average person is located just in front of the second sacral vertebra as well as at about 55% of the person’s height. However, there will be significant variances between both genders.
Secondly, it also relates to the muscles of the core, quite often known as powerhouse in pilates. This is the area from the bottom of the rib cage to a line across the hip joints in the front and to the base of the buttocks in the back. In pilates, powerhouse is considered a physical center of the body from which all pilates movements should proceed.
In fact, many pilates workouts are designed to strengthen the powerhouse and there is a desire to keep the powerhouse working consistently throughout a given exercise. If the powerhouse is used appropriately, the limbs should be able to move in a more coordinated and connected manner.
It is defined as the regulation of the execution of a given action which is essential in mastering a skill. Initially, when someone executes an exercise, control is especially important. However, as the skill increases, the control will be more refined.
Most of the times, a higher level of control means that there will be lesser errors or mistakes in performing the exercises. As such, this allows exact alignment, greater coordination, greater balance and greater ability to perform the moves successfully over several attempts.
Refined control requires a great deal of practice which can help in developing more refined motor programs. With less conscious attention to while performing the moves, more attention can be paid to inner details and to making minor adjustments, only when needed.
Precision is the main trait which identified pilates from other exercise systems. It can be described as the exact manner in which a move is executed. In such cases, gaining knowledge of anatomy helps to achieve precision in pilates. As such, you will be able to understand which muscles are working or should be working. This helps you to align your body correctly and understand the goals of an exercise.
Therefore, with greater precision, the chance of achieving your goal is higher as well as maximized benefits from the exercise. No matter which institution or fitness center which you register for your pilates classes, precision is definitely the key approach to movements as well as the infinite corrections that need to be implemented through the learning process. Precision is also associated with the activation of isolated muscles and at the same time with the integration of the required muscles to create movement.
It is an essential quality to strive for and is described as a smooth, uninterrupted continuity of movement. This required a deep understanding of the movement and incorporates precise muscle activation and timing. From extensive practice, movement proficiency will develop gradually and this is the stage when each movement and session should flow.
The above 6 principles should be present when executing pilates workouts as these connect the body and the mind throughout each session. Still, the way in which a person integrates these principles into the practice of pilates and life itself may be different.
For example, one may emphasize more of the physical aspects by using pilates to enhance athletic performance, improving muscle tone or help in the recovery from injury. On the other hand, some may place greater focus on the mental aspects by using pilates to reduce stress or help with improving concentration in life or work.
8 Warm Up Exercises For Pilates Workouts
The warm up exercises for pilates workouts discuss below are usually advise to perform at the beginning of the mat session or before you perform the more challenging ones. The purpose is to warm up your body, shifting your mental focus inwards, eliminating daily stressors and develop inner calmness.
These exercises can be performed slowly by adjusting the level of difficulty, progressing from smaller range of motion to the larger range. It also provides a perfect opportunity to help you focus on more internal and detailed elements while executing the exercises.
Technique #1: Pelvic Curl
- Start position : Lie supine with the knees bent and the feet flat on the mat and hip-width apart. Place the arms by the sides with the palms facing down. Focus inward, and consciously relax the neck, shoulders and lower back muscles while maintaining a neutral pelvic position.
Exhale: Draw the abdominal wall inward and slowly curl the pelvis and lower, middle, and upper back sequentially off the mat.
Inhale: Lift the upper trunk slightly higher to form a straight line on the side of the body running through the shoulder, pelvis, and knees.
Exhale: Slowly lower the trunk, articulating each vertebra to return to the start position. Repeat the sequence 10 times.
Benefits: Pelvic curl can help you to focus on activating the deep pelvic muscles, to sequentially articulate the pelvis and spine, and to co-contract the muscles of the powerhouse in the desired manner.
Technique #2: Chest Lift
- Start postion: Lie supine with the knees bent and the feet flat on the mat and hip-width apart. Interlace the fingers behind the head, and bend the elbows so they point sideways. Tilt the chin slightly down toward the chest.
Exhale: Slowly curl the head and upper trunk up so that the scapulae lift off the mat while the back portion of the waistline establishes contact with the mat. Pull in the abdominal wall farther, deepening the forward curved position of the trunk.
Exhale: Slowly lower the trunk and head to the start position. Repeat the sequence 10 times.
Benefits: Chest lift offers a perfect opportunity to learn how to effectively recruit the abdominals for strength gains and for use in more challenging abdominal exercises.
Technique #3: Leg Lift Supine
- Start position: Lie supine with the knees bent so the lower legs form approximately 90 degrees relative to the thighs and the feet are flat on the mat and hip-width apart. The arms are by the sides with the palms facing down.
Exhale: Raise one leg until the knee is just above the hip joint, the thigh perpendicular to the mat, while maintain the 90 degree angle at the knee joint.
Inhale: Lower the leg until the toes touch the mat, while still maintaining the 90 degree angle at the knee joint. Repeat the sequence 5 times with the same leg. Place the foot fully down on the mat. Perform the same sequence with the opposite leg.
Benefits: This exercise focus on using the necessary muscles, primarily the abdominals, to keep the trunk stable as the lower limbs move.
Technique #4: Leg Lift Side
- Start position: Lie on one side, with the bottom arm and both legs straight and in line with the trunk. The head is resting on the bottom arm. The top arm is bent, with the palm on the mat, in front of the torso and the fingers pointing toward the head.
Exhale: Raise both legs as one unit toward the ceiling and then lift the legs higher by laterally flexing the spine.
Inhale: Lower the legs until they are just above but not touching the mat. Repeat the sequence 10 times. Lower the legs to the start position. Perform the same sequence on the opposite side.
Benefits: Though this exercise can provide some toning benefits for both the hip adductors and abductors, its primary purpose is to strengthen the lateral flexors of the spine and develop essential skills for core stability.
Technique #5: Leg Pull Side
- Start position: Lie on one side, with the bottom arm and both legs straight and in line with the trunk. The head is resting on the bottom arm. The top arm is bent, with the pal, on the mat in front of the torso, the fingers pointing toward the head. The bottom leg is resting on the mat, and the top leg is held slightly higher than the top hip. Feet are pointed.
Exhale: Raise the bottom leg toward the top leg, ideally until touching.
Inhale: Lower the bottom leg until it lightly touches the mat. Repeat the sequence 10 times. After the last repetition, lower the bottom leg to rest fully on the mat. Perform the same sequence on the other side.
Benefits: The purpose of this exercise is to improve muscle strength or tone in the hip adductors while maintaining trunk stability in this challenging side-lying position.
Technique #6: Spine Twist Supine
- Start position: Lie supine with the hips and knees at 90 degree so that the knees are gently pointed. The arms are straight down by the sides, with the palms facing down.
Exhale: Pull the abdominal wall in and perform a slight posterior pelvic tilt. Gently pull the inner thighs together.
Inhale: Rotate the middle and lower trunk so that the pelvis and knees moves as a single unit to one side.
Exhale: Rotate back to center.
Inhale: Rotate the middle and lower trunk to the opposite, moving the pelvis and knees as one unit.
Exhale: Rotate back to center. Repeat the sequence 5 times each direction.
Benefits: This exercise helps in learning to rotate the pelvis and lower back while maintaining desired alignment of the core. When rotating the spine, the common mistake is to excessively arch the back so the spinal extensors, not the abdominals, primarily affect the movement.
Learning to use the transverses abdominis and obliques in this supine position can help protect the spine from injury when spinal rotation is used, particularly in more challenging exercises or during athletic activities.
Technique #7: Chest Lift With Rotation
- Start position: Start in the same position as for Chest Lift, supine with the knees bent and feet flat on the mat and hip-width apart. Interlace the fingers behind the head, bend the elbows so they point to the sides. The chin is tilted slightly down toward the chest.
Exhale: Slowly curl the head and upper trunk so that the scapulae lift off the mat while the back of the waistline contacts the mat.
Exhale: Rotate the upper trunk to one side.
Inhale: Rotate back to center
Exhale: Rotate the upper trunk to the opposite side.
Inhale: Rotate back to center. Continue alternating the rotation 10 times (5 times each side) while the head and upper trunk remain lifted off the mat. On the last repetition, pause in the center, pulling the abdominal wall farther inward, and then slowly exhale while lowering the trunk and head to the start position.
Benefits: This basic exercise is to develop the obliques, muscles essential for providing contour and tone in the abdominal area to the sides of the central rectus abdominis. The obliques also play a key role in trunk stability and prevention of lower back injury, and are fundamental to most athletic activities.
Technique #8: Back Extension Prone
- Start position: Lie prone with the forehead on the mat and the arms by the sides with the palms pressing against the sides of the thighs, elbows straight. The legs should be together with the feet gently pointed.
Exhale: Lift the head, upper trunk and middle trunk off the mat while keeping the legs together and the arms pressing against the sides.
Inhale: Slowly lower the trunk and head, returning to the start position. Repeat the sequence 10 times.
Benefits: This exercise is to strengthen the spinal extensors, particularly the erector spinae, while working on developing the ability to simultaneously use the abdominals to help protect the lower back.
Each of the above warm up exercises for pilates workouts should be executed with low to moderate density so that the focus is on warming up and finding inner technique connections rather than maximizing strength gains. This is advisable especially if you are learning the skills during the initial stage or have just started to perform pilates exercises. However, once you become proficient, the sequencing and position of some of these exercises in a workout can be changed to meet individual profiles.