Guys, obviously I am biased because I chose Pilates as my preferred obsession and hope to make it my full-time career, but it is really just such an amazing way to work every single part of your body. Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates as a method of recovery and rehabilitation for WWII vets. I completely understand why this was such a fitness breakthrough in the early 1900’s and is quickly becoming more and more popular today.
Even the most basic Pilates exercises make me feel stretched, strengthened, and relaxed. Switching up workouts is of course important, but something about adding in just 20-30 minutes of Pilates everyday, even if it’s a warm-up, really makes a huge difference. I have been trying to use a few minutes of Pilates as a warm up exercise, adding in some strength training, and then cooling down with a few more minutes of mat work and I feel amazing.
(Stanlee does not feel the same way I do about Pilates)
A basic mat flow is broken down into a number of categories;
Many instructors begin the sequence from a standing position, starting with very, very basic movements to warm up the extremities. Arm circles, neck/head rolls, forward fold. To start firing up some of the major muscles (quads, glutes) I add in some squats, which I love doing anyways, to really start warming up.
2. Core warm-up
We all know, (if you didn’t you do now!) That one of the major goals of Pilates is focusing on alignment and core-work. Before we dig into the abs and set them on fire, we need to focus on what proper alignment really feels like; we need to discover what a neutral position feels like. Neutral is when no muscles are engaged and joints are free from strain. The body is merely relaxed in a natural position.
3. Core Work
Core, core, and more core. One of the things I love about Pilates is that it feels like some inner part of my body is working. I feel the burn when I run, lift, cross-fit (that’s a verb, right?) but it all feels kind of…surface, for lack of a better word. Pilates attacks some muscle groups much deeper…I guess that’s why they call it the core.
4. Spinal Mobility/Extension/Strengthening
Spinal movement and flexibility is essential for helping with back pain, hip flexor pain and gripping. I happen to experience all of these. One of the great things about working on Spinal Mobility is that it also works the abs like crazy.
Side note, I recently purchased the Lo-Bak-Trax, partially because it’s being endorsed by Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner, but we both suffer from sever lower back pain. So far, nothing..unimpressed.
However working on spinal mobility is amazing for back pain. Just be careful and listen to your body, do not over extend or you will exacerbate any tension you have going on.
5. Scapular Mobility
Think push up without bending your arms. The Sternum drop, or (scapula push-up), is awesome for not only strengthening the upper back, but also for aiding in shoulder pain which is common among those who lifts heavy weights or have jobs that require a lot of upper body strength, lifting etc. Also a great workout for ANYONE who has a cellphone! Looking down constantly (like what I am doing right now at my laptop) causes serious neck and should cramping, as well as postural issues. A strong scapular region helps this so much.
6. Leg strengthening
And who doesn’t love working their legs and glutes? The great thing, as I mentioned 16 times already, is that Pilates allows us to strengthen and stretch at the same time. I’ve seen this new (well upsurge, I think it’s always been prevalent) fear among women about getting bulky thighs by doing too much strength training. Apparently we all must have skinny thighs now, so I’m SOL no matter what. HOWEVER, Pilates is known for giving us the long, lean, dance muscles that Pinterest wants us to have so bad. Also, the more flexible we are, the better we can avoid hip gripping (pain caused by hip flexors doing the work when we the flexibility is not available). Flexibility in general decreases the need for other parts of the body to compensate when we do certain movements. However, engaging the correct muscle groups helps relieve strain, so always listen carefully to your instructor ;).
And I think that’s all for now, folks!
What do you think, do you feel stretched and lean after a Pilates workout? What is your favorite muscle group to attack?