You don’t need to be fit to start doing Pilates. In fact, Pilates has its roots in therapy and was designed to treat injuries, not cater to those who are already healthy and strong. The routine has evolved to include more advanced exercises for health buffs and athletes, but it remains to be beginner-friendly. If you’re new to Pilates, try these low-impact exercises to familiarize yourself with the routine.
1. The Hundred
What it does: The Hundred is arguably the most popular Pilates exercise. It targets both your breathing and your abdominals, and requires your abs to support you and hold your position.
How to do it: Lie on your back, with both the balls of your feet and the palms of your hands planted on the ground. Then, one by one, lift your legs to form a 65-degree angle with the floor. Peel your head and shoulders off the mat and pull them towards your chest. Then, with your palm still facing the floor, lift them a few inches off the ground and pump your arms up and down, as if you’re flying. Inhale through your nose while pumping five times, then exhale through the mouth while pumping five times. Repeat 10 times to complete The Hundred.
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2. One Leg Circle
What it does: It challenges you to keep your torso still while moving your leg in a circular motion. It also highlights the Pilates principles of concentration and centering.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your arms on your sides and your legs extended out front. Carefully lift one leg towards the ceiling without moving your hip, and form a 90-degree angle with the floor. Take a breath as you extend your lifted leg out to the side of your body and sweep it downwards, forming a semicircle. Then, exhale as you finish the circle by crossing your leg to the other side of your body and bringing the leg back to its original position. Make five to eight circles in the same direction, then another five to eight circles in the opposite direction. Repeat with the other leg.
3. Rolling Like a Ball
What it does: This fun exercise improves your spinal mobility and tests your core strength. It also makes you more attuned to the flow of your breathing.
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How to do it: Sit on the mat with legs pulled up, and place your hands over your shins. Curl into a ball by bringing your forehead toward your knees. Make sure that your shoulders are dropped, and that your spine is curved nicely. Inhale, and roll backward. During the roll, make sure that your heels don’t touch your butt, and that you don’t roll on your neck. Exhale, and lift yourself into your original position using your abdominal muscles. Repeat five to six times.
What it does: Another popular exercise, the Plank works the arms, shoulders, abdominals and back extensors.
How to do it: From a sitting position, lean forward and plant your palms on the floor. Keep your shoulders straight — don’t let them droop. Slowly, lengthen your legs behind you, and keep extending until your only your toes are supporting your lower body weight. Check your form and make sure that your abdomen is lifted and tucked in, i.e., your butt is not pointing to the ceiling but forms a straight line with your back and shoulders. Then, push away from the ground and squeeze your glutes and your quads. Use your abdominal muscles to hold this position for five to 10 breaths.
5. Wall Roll Down
What it does: This exercise highlights the benefits of Pilates in your daily life. It improves your posture by stretching your back and hamstrings.
How to do it: Stand flat and tall against a wall. With the rest of your body still pressed on the wall, extend your feet 6 to 10 inches in front of you. Keep your back straight, your abdomen in, and your arms on your sides. Begin rolling down the wall by lifting your head from the wall and leaning forward. Deepen the curve by rolling your back spine from the wall one vertebrae at a time. Relax your neck and shoulders, and let your abdominals pull you in and hold your weight. Never let your hips leave the wall. To roll back up, start with your lower abs and the lowest vertebrae of the spine and go up until your entire back is flat against the wall again.
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You can do simple Pilates exercises at home, but to fully experience their benefits, you need a knowledgeable instructor to guide your progress and check your form. Ready to experience the Pilates difference? Book a class with C2 Body today.