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Strength, baby!

Strength, baby!

Plenty of mornings are a little more blah than bang, but good news: you can turn it around! These pyjama-friendly strength-builders by Pilates guru Jo Bezzina will help you feel fighting fit for the day ahead.

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It might be tempting to just stretch, but strength is where it’s at, baby! Starting your day feeling strong through your hips and upper back will really help to support your body through the day for all that lugging of gear, and all that slumping while scrolling on your devices. Here’s a series of strengthening Pilates-based exercises, with the added bonus that they’ll help focus your mind, too!

Roll out of bed and knock these out in 10 minutes or less.

1. Bridging

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, hip width apart. Relax your body weight into the ground and release all the tension from your shoulders and butt.

Feel an imaginary string pull your pubic bone towards your belly button. Try to do this from your belly rather than your butt.

As you breathe out, peel your back away from the ground as though you are lifting a precious bracelet up: link by link. You are creating a diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees. Tension through your lower back means you have gone up too high.

Return to the ground as though you are pouring your body into a mould, one row of ribs at a time. Exhale to help you move with suppleness on the way down.

Repeat 6 times!

Spine Stretch

With your knees bent, sit with your spine as lengthened as possible, as though your back is resting against a wall. Slowly straighten your legs as much as you can without slumping into your lower back. You can sit on a rolled-up towel with your legs straight, if it is more comfortable. Float your arms up into the air at shoulder height with your palms facing inwards and your shoulders relaxed.

Again, imagine that wall behind you, and peel each segment of your spine away. Start from the top and work your way down until you make a horseshoe shape with your body. Keep lifted and tall through your lower back even though your upper back is rounded. Breathe in to the back of your body. Your lungs are at the back of your body too!

As you breathe out, restack your spine as though you are building a Lego tower, one block at a time. When you reach the top, think about an open chest, and the most beautiful view you have ever had the pleasure to see!

Repeat 4 times!

Leg Pull

Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you and arms propped up behind you. Have your fingers pointing towards your legs if comfortable. Open your chest and send your gaze out long… imagine the sun shining on your chest!

Keeping your arms straight, reach your toes to the floor and lift your hips off the ground. Keep your arms strong, chest open and hips level. Aim for that diagonal line again.

Use a hinging movement at your hips to lower yourself back down without changing the shape of your back. If you’re up for the harder version try hovering one leg off the floor while up in the top position. Your goal is to keep your hips level, not kick the leg high. No more than 3 lifts per leg.

Repeat 4 times!


Side Lift

Lie on your side and prop yourself up on your forearm. Your elbow should line up right under your shoulder with your bottom leg bent so that you can create force from your shin. Reach your top leg long with the inside edge of your foot resting on the ground.

Lengthen your spine as much as you can in this position. Yep, it is hard! Imagine that there is a balloon attached to your head helping you to maintain this lift.

Press down through your bottom arm and leg to hover your hips off the floor. It’s not a big movement, create a diagonal line rather than pushing your hips right up to the ceiling.

If you’re up for a challenge, float the top leg off the floor while your hips are lifted. To prevent twisting, imagine that you are the bread inside the toaster!

Lower your hips to the floor without losing strength in your upper body.

Repeat 3 times on each side!

Dart

Lie on your stomach with legs outstretched and arms by your side, palms up or down –  your choice.

Draw the skin of your lower belly (the space between your hip bones) away from the mat as though it is very cold. Keep this gentle connection throughout the exercise.

Roll an imaginary marble away with the tip of your nose and continue to peel the front of your body off the mat. Stay low: we’re working the muscles only as far as your bra strap. Reach your fingertips along the mat as your body moves and let them hover off the mat until the back of the arms and shoulder blade area feels awakened.

Notice your chest open with wide collar bones. If your lower back does not feel relaxed, come down lower.

Melt back down to the ground with your spine feeling longer than it did in the previous repetition.

Repeat 6 times!