Pilates exercise 1: Single Leg stretch
This exercise serie starts with the Single leg stretch. This is a classic Pilates exercise which targets the abs for their core stability function. Take into account a couple of pointers here:
A. Make sure you hold the body stable from left to right while you work the legs.
As you stretch out one leg and pull in the other, the pelvis starts to tilt forward and backward and it tends to move form left to right. Try to stabilize all these directions as much as possible. The whole abs are working here, but try to seartch for the transverse abdominals (wiki) as much as possible. These are easiliy found between the ribs and hips on both sides of the body. Take a look at these this youtube video here to learn more about the location of this muscle group.
Finding the transverse adbominal muscles
B. Try to place you chin in such a position that you feel the most abdominal tension. This will prevent neck pain.
Chin Position Single leg stretch
Look at the position of the chin. Don’t tuck it in towards your chest and don’t push it out. Try to search for a position in between where you feel the least amount of action/pressure of and on the lower back and back of the neck. Try to feel in which position the abs work the most. Hold your head form the abs.
C. Hold your legs at the right angle.
Take a look at the picture again and see the angle of the legs. They are about 45º. Don’t let them point al the way towards the ceiling, but also don’t let them drop to the floor. You should feel the abs and not the lower back muscles working.
Pilates exercise 2: The Shoulderbrigde
The shoulderbridge is a wonderfull exercise for posture, pelvic stabilty, spine flexibility, leg strength and glute/ab activation. It’s a classic Pilates exercise which targets the spine flexiblity mainly. However, it’s a total body exercise as soon as you soften the spine. You really need to feel it to understand it. Here is a seperate video on the shoulderbridge. It is an example of the Pilates course for beginners. It provides great detail on what you need to look out for.
The shoulderbridge video
A. Try to soften the spine!
This is by far the best advice for the shoulderbridge. It’s the main point of the exercise, but it also triggers great support from the legs, glutes and abs.
B. Stabilize the pelvis from left to right.
This is a great tip for countering single leg dominance. Usually one leg is stronger. You can break this dominance by paying attention to this left-right movement of the pelvis (hips). Let both hips go up simultaniously.
C. Push from the feet, don’t lift.
For loosening the lower back this is of crucial importance. Lifting from the pelvis creates lower back muscle tension. Pushing from the feet, however, leads to a flexible lower spine and triggers the legs and glutes. This is great for getting rid of lower back tension. There are even shoulderbridges for the lower back you can do if this is what you’re after. Check out this video on training the lower back:
11 Pilates exercises for a weak lower back
The shoulderbridge in this video is adjusted to target the lower back a little bit extra. When you really try to loosen the first couple of vertebrea of the lower back, you will feel a tremendous amount of support from the legs, abs and glutes. Here you can see the full video on the lower back, the shoulderbridge starts at 5.40 min. Just scroll there and check it out, it’s definitely worth experiencing what happens once you target the lower back in a soft and relaxed manner.
11 Pilates exercises for a weak lower back
Of course the whole video is a great Pilates workout if you’re having lower back issues or lower back pain. But it’s also nice to do the Pilates exercises if you have a healthy lower back and nothing is wrong. This is because it helps to restore a natural spine with a slightly forward tiled pelvis which creates a little bit of arched lower back. Today, this is commonly seen as a healthy way to posture yourself. Check out the whole serie on this subject here: 11 Pilates exercises for strengthening a weak lower back.
Pilates exercise 3: Leg circles
Leg cricles are great for triggering the abs, working the legs and for pelvic stability. It’s hard to keep the pelvis stable! But that’s what you need to do while you turn with the legs. Make sure your leg is turned outward during the whole exercise.
A. Hold still the pelvis!
This is the main point of this exercise. It’s all about pelvic stability. But, you need do this using the abs. A common mistake is to push the lower back into the mat for extra stability and support. Try not to do this, just relax the lower back. It’s ok if it touches the mat, but don’t push it into the mat. As a result you should feel the abs working hard to stabilize the pelvis.
B. Turn the leg out.
When the leg (knee) is turned outward, you trigger the inside of the legs more. You also work more on the transverse abdominals, all the way towards the pubic bone. It’s also nice for an extra challenge on hip stability. Lastly, it keeps away pressure on the lower back.
Pilates exercise 4: The hundred
The hundred refers to doing 100 arm movements. It’s a classic ab exercise, also done on the reformer. This Pilates exercise is all about stability and ab strength and endurance.
A. Hold still the whole body exept for the arms.
There are two directions you need to think of when you’re trying to stabilize: left-right and back-front. Your head should move as less as possible from the back to the front. You need to manage this on ab strength, not on neck strength. Always stop if you have neck pain. Use the abs!
B. Lengthen the spine.
C. Push the arms forward.
Don’t hang with your arms, but try to reach forward. This helps the abs and also provides shoulder stability. On the reformer you would have weight on the arms pushing it formward and down.
D. Make big movements
It’s natural to minimize movement with the arms. Try to really move! It triggers that little extra in your body where you really need the abs to work hard. You have to challenge your stability and let the abs handle the stabilizing.
Pilates exercise 5: The swimming
When doing the swimming you need to end up with a lot of movement in the arms and legs. This is the endpoint of this exercise. It is of vital importance, however, that you don’t loose abdominal support while going for the end-swim!
A. Push the upper legs backward to find lower ab support.
This is one of the best tips you can take to heart concerning this Pilates exercise. Push the legs back untill you feel them lifting almost. Keep on pushing them back during the whole exercise. It gives you much needed abdominal suport.
B. Lean on the ribs at the front.
Find supprt on the ribs at the front. This wil give you upper abdominal support and prevents ‘working from the back’ to much.
c. Hold still the core body
This means the head, shoulders, chest and pelvis. So only the arms and legs move.
Alright, that’s it for these top 5 Pilates exercises for at home. Great job! Hopefully this will help you to improve your workout at home. If you’re looking for more workouts, then check out these free workouts: 5 Great Pilates Workouts For At Home and the Pilates Ab And Leg Workout.
More Pilates exercises and workouts
That’s it for the Neck and shoulder exercises on this page. You can also create your own Pilates workout by taking exercises from the Pilates exercises encyclopedia. They are grouped in ab exercises, back exercises, neck and shoulder exercises and general exercises. Amongst those exercises are the 50 basic Pilates exercises. Along with the Pilates for beginners, this is a great way to start doing Pilates. If you want to work on the lower back because of lower back pain or tension, then see the Pilates for the lower back page. You will find exercise series there like 11 Pilates exercises for a weak lower back. For Pilates exercises on topic, check out the Pilates exercise series. And of course there are a lot of great Pilates workouts to do.
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