10 Building Blocks of Pilates: A Path to Strength and Flexibility
My neck aches. My back aches. My knees hurt me all the time. I don’t want to live with this pain anymore! I need to build some flexibility and strength. Help! What can I do?
Does this sound like you? Well, you’re not alone -- many clients and patients come to me for these exact same reasons. A lot of them have coped with similar issues for years. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to put up with these aches and pains anymore.
The answer? Pilates! Pilates has helped me, and my clients and patients, tremendously. Pilates was created in the early 1900s by Joseph Pilates, who'd been a sickly child growing up in Germany. Determined to overcome his weakness, he designed a fitness program to help build core strength. He also invented spring-resistance machines that could be used to perform the exercises. Pilates exercises build muscular strength, in contrast with yoga, which mainly involves stretching, flexibility and spirituality.
Pilates employs key movement and alignment principles used in everyday and athletic activities.
10 PILATES MOVEMENT PRINCIPLES
(Developed by Balanced Body, Summarized by Moi!)
Breathing is the first, and most obvious, movement principle. Breathing techniques have been used by many cultures to decrease stress, lower or raise blood pressure, improve aerobic capacity, and calm the mind and spirit. Before you try to meditate, or exercise, or engage in physical activity, you should learn how to breathe optimally.
2: CORE ACTIVATION
The core, or powerhouse, is the foundation for every exercise in Pilates. Learning to use the core as a dynamic center is key to achieving balanced, efficient and graceful movement.
THE ELEMENTS OF THE CORE INCLUDE:
These four systems work together to stabilize the pelvis and lumbar spine, since the lumbopelvic bones are both mobile and delicate. Without the stabilization providing by the deep muscles that surround them, the pelvis and lumbar spine can be stressed through lifting, bending, sitting, twisting, walking, running or jumping.
3: NEUTRAL PELVIS
Research in biomechanics shows that the core, or “inner unit,” works best as a spinal stabilizer when the pelvis is in a neutral position. So, it’s essential to identify neutral pelvis before performing any Pilates movements. The right starting position for each exercise you do provides a solid foundation for motion and allows for efficient and comfortable movement patterns.
4: ABDOMINAL STRENGTH
While abdominal strength starts with the core, the core doesn’t actually move the torso. The abdominal muscles must be engaged to create movement.
Abdominal strength helps create a strong torso, which is vital for generating power in athletic activities such as golf, tennis, swimming and dancing.
5: LUMBOPELVIC STABILITY
Lumbopelvic stability is related to core and abdominal strength, but it includes all of the muscles that attach to the pelvis and the spine through the action of the four outer units.
All of the outer units play some role in virtually every Pilates exercise and functional movement. Maintaining balance and strength in the four outer units is essential for preventing low back dysfunction and for creating efficient and graceful movement patterns.
6: SPINAL STRENGTH AND MOBILITY
Another Pilates principle involves optimizing the mobility of the spine in all directions. Any activity that you engage in, from walking to swimming to playing tennis to driving a car, involves movement of the spine. If the spine loses mobility, movement will be less comfortable and pain and injury can occur.
7: SCAPULAR STABILITY AND MOBILITY
The shoulder – one of the most anatomically complex areas of the body – is prone to injury and dysfunction. Learning to use the shoulder prudently can make a great difference in how you look, feel and perform.
8: POSTURE AND POSTURAL ANALYSIS
Postural analysis aims to resolve the conflict between the body and gravity – to foster good posture and efficient movement patterns. When your body is properly aligned, it uses less energy to hold itself up. By correcting misalignments, by reestablishing efficient movement and postural patterns, you can improve your performance and curb discomfort.
9: RELEASE WORK
Tightness in one area can limit the range of motion in an associated joint and keep muscles from working in the right sequence. Traditional Pilates work includes exercises meant to release and relax certain chronically tight parts of the body, including neck, shoulders, hips and lower back.
Pilates mat work will help stretch several chronically tight areas of the body, particularly the hamstrings, low back, shoulders and hips. Specific Pilates stretches can boost your body’s ability to strengthen, learn new movement patterns, and heal.
Interested in more Pilates? Check out my free 15-Minute Pilates video here. What to fall in love with Pilates? Join my online 21-day Pilates challenge. To learn more or to join the 21-Day Full Body Pilates Challenge click here.
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