Written by Sophie Oti
Image by @thisisposture_
As the original creator of the method, Joseph Pilates once said: “After ten hours of Pilates, you’ll feel the difference, after 20 hours you’ll see the difference, and after 30 hours you’ll have a new body.” That’s the reason Pilates is so popular, the results on the mind and body are undeniable!
I’m here to make Pilates accessible to you all and teach you some of the fundamentals when it comes to creating a strong core, toned muscles, and definition in all the right places. The following exercises can be done at the gym (as a little ab finisher), in the comfort of your own home – if you’ve adjusted to that ‘WFH’ life or by the pool on holiday because… it’s a lifestyle hun!
All you need is a mat and some water to rehydrate with, because trust me, Pilates is not just stretching! If you really want to up the intensity, adding props such as wrist/ankle weights, resistance bands or a Pilates ring will really take your workout to a whole new level.
Let’s start by activating the core:
Lying down on the mat, lengthen your legs with both arms stretched overhead. Take a few deep breaths here to really connect to your center. Inhale – expanding your rib cage and filling your lungs. Exhale – closing the ribs and drawing the abdominals down towards the mat.
Bending both knees in towards your chest at a 90-degree angle, squeeze the heels together with toes a fist-width apart. Lifting the head, neck, and shoulders, bring one hand on top of the other and place them behind your head. Staying lifted, inhale – extending your legs out to a high diagonal. Exhale – drawing both knees in towards you while scooping your abdominals in. Repeat x10
Keeping your head, neck and shoulders lifted, bring your knees into a tabletop position. Inhale – tapping both toes down to the ground. Exhale – drawing them back up to starting position. Repeat x10. Maintaining the same position, begin single toe taps. Repeat x10.
Bringing both legs into tabletop, squeeze your heels together with your toes apart. Curl the head, neck, and shoulders off the mat with arms on either side of your body. Start pumping your arms up and down, inhaling for 5 counts and exhaling for 5 counts. Remember to keep the core engaged scooping the abs in towards the spine. For a challenge, extend both legs up to the ceiling maintaining that squeeze of the heels and inner thighs. To take it up a notch, lower the legs to a high diagonal. The closer to the ground, the more challenging it will be. Once you’ve made it to 100 counts, relax your head, neck, and shoulders.
With both knees drawn in towards your chest. Lift the head, neck, and shoulders. Place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand on your right shin. Extend the left leg out to a high diagonal while drawing the right knee in towards you. Switch legs, bending the left knee into your chest as your right leg extends (opposite hand goes on the opposite knee) Repeat x10
Double Leg Stretch
With the head, neck, and shoulders remaining lifted, hug both knees into your chest – hands on either shin. Inhale – extend the arms by your ears as the legs lengthen out to a 45-degree angle. Exhale – circle the arms around and hug both knees back into your chest. Repeat x5
Head, neck, and shoulders remain lifted as you lengthen both legs up towards the ceiling. Scoop the abs in and close your ribs. Squeezing your heels together, inhale – lowering both legs down towards the ground. Exhale – drawing your lower abs in lengthening your legs back up to the top. Repeat x5
Leg Pull Down
Coming onto all fours, ensure your wrists are positioned directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Stepping one leg back at a time, come into a high plank. Maintain a strong core by keeping the hips down and the stomach and ribs drawn up.
Begin by rocking forward onto the ball of your feet and back pushing through your heels x5. Staying in your high plank, lift the right leg off the mat. Rock the left heel back and forth x2. Lower the right leg and repeat on the left side x2.
Coming onto your side, stagger your legs along the mat ensuring the top leg is in front of the bottom. Press the bottom palm down into the mat while the top hand rests on the thigh – palm facing up to the ceiling. Take a big inhale and exhale – picking the hips up while sweeping the top arm overhead. Lower the palm back down to the thigh while drawing the hips back down to the mat. Repeat x3
In Pilates, we focus on movement coming from a strong center which we refer to as the ‘Powerhouse’. Following this workout, you will be well and truly connected to yours.