Pilates expert Joanne Bezzina details five exercises to take you off the couch and building your strength and stamina.
“Take ten minutes with these moves each morning and before you know it you’ll be a force to be reckoned with!”
Distraction here, procrastination there, your to-do list keeps growing! You know that you can do it but getting started can sometimes be tough. These Pilates exercises are tiny snippets of those times. It would be easier to lie on the couch but forging ahead will make you feel strong and focused. These full body exercises have a lot going on — you’ll be inspired to take the same sense of discipline to all the other stuff you need to get through.
This is multitasking at its best here people!
This is it. Joseph Pilates’ traditional start to mat work. Find your position and then maintain it (and your form). The longer and lower your legs are the more challenging it will be to keep the work in your belly (and not in your back). Find a leg position that gives you the right amount of challenge.
Lying down with arms and legs extended long.
Slide your arms along the ground and curl your upper body up into a chest lift position keeping your eye gaze out in front (not to the ceiling).
Float your legs off the ground and keep them energised- they are an important part of this exercise too.
Start to pump your straight arms up and down powerfully 5 times on the inhale and 5 times on the exhale.
Imagine your lungs expanding like big red balloons — this will help you keep your shape. Each time you exhale, curl a little deeper and feel the way your abdominals connect your ribs to your hips.
Work this for ten breaths.
Notice how focused you feel at the end.
Now there’s a literal fire in your belly — what will you do with it?
Leg Pull Front.
Take the plank position up a notch by adding some leg work.
Find your plank position — hands below shoulders and feet hip width apart. Imagine you’re balancing one glass of water between your shoulders and another on the back of your pelvis; we’re aiming to keep those glasses steady so avoid letting your hips sink to the ground or float up to the ceiling.
Point your right foot and let your leg hover off the floor, tap your foot up and down until your have done eight taps. Move your leg in a range that doesn’t disturb your plank alignment. Place the foot down and repeat on your other leg.
Keep your chest open and your neck long. Trust that your body is in the right place — your gaze can stay directly in front of you (no need to look at your feet).
Fingers crossed, no spilled water at the end of this exercise!
Single Leg Kick.
Here’s another opportunity to work on your upper body endurance while your legs are in motion. While the leg movement isn’t too tricky, keeping your upper body in position requires endurance. When it starts to feel hard, remember — you’ve got this!
Prop yourself up onto your forearms with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Hands are flat on the mat and fingers pointing forward. Think about how this position relates to sitting at a desk with your hands on the keyboard, no slouching or letting your ribs hang to the floor.
Create length through your neck. By pressing your legs long being you and into the mat, notice the way your deep belly muscles kick in — try to maintain this throughout the exercise.
Bend one knee pulling your heel towards your bottom and pulse twice. Keep your pelvis steady while you do this and check your upper body.
Press your shin down towards the ground until your leg is straight and place it down to repeat on the other leg.
Do eight each side.
Side Kick Series.
The constant in this exercise is the upper body position. We’re trying to maintain a long curve in the spine while gravity and fatigue try to pull us down to the floor. Through this, our hips stay steady and our top leg moves through space. Talk about multi tasking!
Prop yourself up so that your elbow is directly under your shoulder with your hand pointing forward. You can choose where you put your top hand — onto the floor for a little more support or behind your head to take things up a notch. Reach your bottom leg long and strong — facing the sole of your foot to the other side of the room.
Hover the top leg up to hip height.
Swing the top leg back as far as you can: keep your upper body shape and pelvis still. Inhale to swing the top leg forward keeping your spine long. Each time your legs align feel as though your body position is revived.
Mix it up by taking the top leg up and down or drawing small circles (both directions). When it gets easy you can do all three!
Do eight of each variation.
Balance work is awesome; you need to focus but you’re finding it hard. This version is great, just make sure you have a bit of space around you to work with.
Stand with your weight even on both feet. Take your left leg behind you with your toes lightly touching the ground. Tip forward so that you make a straight line from your toes to the crown of your head. Keep your straight arms beside you (palms forward) and open your chest. Notice your shoulder blades sitting flat on your ribs.
Start to tip forward by pivoting on your standing hip while keeping the front of your body open. While it’s tempting to make this a big movement, the real goal is to maintain your balance and your pelvis as square as possible. Keeping your floating leg active and in line with your back will really help.
Hold the position for 5 calm breaths and imagine your whole body becoming longer in space like an arrow flying through the air. Flex your ankle and return to your start position, slipping the floating foot back onto the floor. Even out your weight and then give it a shot on the other side.
Persistence pays off!