Get Ready To Light Up Your Core With This Simple Pilates Workout
We’ve been feeling pretty motivated to take our physical fitness to the next level lately, but that doesn’t mean we always want to venture to the gym or a class late at night or on the weekends to squeeze in another sweat session. And that’s where the wonderful world of home workouts comes into play. There are so many minimal-equipment moves you can do right in your living room to strengthen and tone — you just have to know what they are to start started.
One of our favorite home exercise categories is pilates because it’s such an effective way to engage all of the core muscles, improve posture and prevent injury. So we teamed up with Abena Tolentino, a Romana Pilates instructor and the owner of Abena Pilates, to get her expert advice on the best way to start doing
Pilates mat classes always begin with this traditional warm-up move. Start with your back on the mat and your knees bent into your chest or your legs on the mat in line with your body. Pull your abs in and up, curl your head and shoulders off the floor and lower your chin close to your chest. Extend your bent knees out long (or lift your legs straight up to settle at eye level) and raise your arms up by your hips. Start inhaling and pumping your arms for five seconds, and then exhale as you pump your arms for five more seconds. Repeat that pattern 10 times to complete the set.
Pro tip: You can tell that your abs are engaged when you press your lower back firmly into the mat beneath you, lift your pelvic floor up toward your abs and control your breathing.
The Roll Up
After The Hundred, lower your straight legs to the mat and stretch your arms out long by your ears, keeping your shoulders anchored to the mat. Engage your abdominals to stabilize your body and zip your inner thighs together to solidify your midline. Pull your arms forward in line with your shoulders, lift your head (bringing your chin close to your chest) and pull yourself up, lifting your upper back and then your middle back as you round your spine over your legs. Reach your arms above your toes and keep your abs engaged the entire time. Keep your neck in alignment with the rest of your spine to prevent your shoulders from rounding forward. If done with the right intensity and precision, five repetitions will help relieve any tightness you feel in your back.
Pro tip: If you can’t reach past your toes because of tight hamstrings, quads or hips flexors, soften or your elevate your knees a little to help you reach further, and open your lower back more.
The Roll Down
Sit with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat, your hands behind your thighs, your elbows stretched around like a hollow wrap and your shoulders down your back. Lift your lower abdominals, tilt your pelvis toward the floor behind you and scoop your abs in as you lengthen your spine onto the mat until your arms are straight (which should be still firmly placed behind your thighs). Then pull your trunk forward only by the strength of your abs — not your arms, shoulders or back. Repeat five to eight times. This exercise is a real strengthener when done right, as it teaches you how to isolate and articulate your abs and back, while also providing a nice stretch.
Lie flat on the mat and pull your right knee up and in line with your shoulder. As you gently pull it in, relax your hip joint to allow for a deep stretch in the hip. Then extend your leg straight to create a 90-degree angle, and circle the leg around, crossing the body five times in one direction and five times in the other. During the movement, keep your arms and palms on the mat with your abs engaged, eyes forward, neck long and chin down. Most importantly, keep the leg down on the mat stretched out long and your hips square, allowing your leg to circle with range and control.
Rolling Like A Ball
Rolling like a ball is one of those exercises that looks easily doable, but don’t be fooled — it’s all about balance and control. Roll your spine like a ball, but stop and balance between your shoulder blades and tailbone with your feet hovering over the mat (heels preferably together). To achieve this movement successfully, the spine must be curved into a “C” shape. Instead of tucking your pelvis, tilt it toward your stomach to provide a strong base and roll your spine with just a bit of acceleration. Keep your knees open in front of your shoulders and your heels close to your butt. Complete six reps, keeping your abs scooped and engaged the entire time.
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