Each and every one of our muscles are made up of connecting fibers. The fibers are designed to move with the muscles. For example when you stretch the fibers elongate with the stretch until they reach their maximum potential without causing a tear, which we don’t want. During the process of stretching the muscle whether it be from reaching for your toes, reaching to the sky; during any and all stretches any of the fibers within the muscles have a chance to move back into place if any of them were misaligned. After the stretch is done the muscle will return to the exact same length in which it started. Sadly, it is not a miracle and your muscle wont stay more elongated from a simple stretch. However, this is where Pilates can help! Pilates’ exercises come from the principles of lengthening muscles, improving flexibility and increasing strength in your powerhouse! I am going to share with you a few Pilates exercises that you can do anywhere that are guaranteed to promote elongated and lengthening the muscles within the body. Recommended but not required you may want a mat and a set of light hand weights to perform the exercises below.
Keep yourself on your back on the mat but this time your legs are bent, bottoms of the feet on the mat, feet about hip-width apart with your arms straight down at your sides.
Exhale: lift your hips toward the ceiling, tucking the tail bone, pushing through the heals into the mat forming a straight line from your ribs to your knees. Hold for one count.
Inhale: returning to your original position.
Repeat: 15-20 reps
Single Leg Stretch
Simply stated you are going to lay on your back, legs straight extended straight to the ceiling and arms by your side. This is a great way to warm up your abs and help lengthen your abdominal muscles. If you have tight hamstrings, those muscles on the back of your thighs, then please put a slight bend in your knees.
Exhale: Curl your upper spine off the mat and grasp the backs of your calves or behind your thighs, whichever you can reach on your legs is fine.
Take an Inhale.
Exhale: You want to lower one leg to a hover over the mat while the other leg comes closer to your chest. Take a moment here with the leg closer to your chest and pulse it a couple times, using your abs to bring the leg closer.
Take an Inhale
Exhale: Now switch your legs by scissoring the legs away from each other and repeat the pulse towards the chest with the opposite leg. Hands stay behind the thigh of each leg that comes towards the chest. Keep your legs as straight as you can.
Inhale: Keep the upper body curl, bring your legs back up.
Exhale: Switch legs. 5 – 10 reps each side
Serve The Platter
This exercise is great when it comes to lengthening the arms muscles and strengthening the muscles within the shoulders. For this exercise I recommend that light set of hand weights but they are not required.
Make sure you are standing straight, belly button pulled into your spine, slight bend in the knee (cued only to make sure your knees aren’t locked) and chest and head strong and facing forward. With the weights in your hands (palms up) bend your arms to a 90-degree angle.
Inhale. Engage your core.
Exhale: Extend your arms straight in front of you until your hands reach shoulder height.
Exhale: Slowly bring your arms back down and into a 90-degree position. Repeat: 10-15 reps
Even after these Pilates exercises it is important to make sure you add in some additional stretches. It is important in general for your muscles to stretch after a workout as well as it benefiting towards the results you want in the process! Double your efficiency and get to stretching!
Heather Dorak fell in love with Megaformer Pilates, and immediately wanted to share it with the world. In 2006, she opened Pilates Platinum, and today, she has a total of 4 studios under the Pilates Platinum name.