PILATES EXERCISE HANDOUT

I have devised this handout just to give you an outline of some of the exercises we do which can be practised at home or over any periods when we break from the classes.

Just a couple of pointers before you begin:

 - Mobilise the joints from the neck to the ankles.

- Set the body up.  Lengthen through the neck and spine and tuck the chin back, focus on the horizon.

- Draw the shoulders up towards the ears and place them down and back, as if placing them into the back of the ribs.

- Find your neutral spine by tilting the pelvis forwards and back until the pelvis rests level at the front and you have a natural curve to the lower spine.  For lying with the knees bent, tilt until index fingers and thumbs are in line.

- Engagement of the core muscles – Pull the belt to notch number 10 (draw the navel right back towards the spine), let it out to notch number 5 and then to number 3.  Zip up the pelvic floor as far as it will go, let it down half way and then about half way again.

- Lateral Thoracic breathing – through the rib cage.  Inhale as the fingers part and the rib cage expands, exhale as the fingers come back together.  Make sure the core muscles stay engaged as you breathe and the abdominal area is still.

REMEMBER – Before you commence the exercise set the body up, inhale to prepare and engage the core muscles, exhale as you begin the movement.

I have outlined a few of the most popular exercises and the most beneficial.  It may help to do the exercises in front of a mirror, so that you can keep a check on your position and posture.  Feel free to print and insert any diagrams!!

The 100 – Lay on the back, knees bent.  Hip distance between the feet and grapefruit gap between the knees. Stabilise the shoulders and find neutral spine. Inhale to prepare engage the core muscles.  As you exhale raise the first leg, knee in line with hip shin parallel to the ceiling, on your next exhale raise the second knee. To make it harder extend the legs.  Aim to hold for ten breaths (inhale to the count of five, exhale to the count of five = 1 breath).  Aim of the exercise is strengthen core abdominals and lumbar (lower) spine.  A full body stretch to release.

NB:  Keep core muscles engaged through out, focus on breathing through rib cage.  Imagine a glass on each knee and keep the shins level and still.  Picture a plate of marbles on the lower abdomen; keep the marbles still.  Don’t allow knees to come over hips.

The Plank – Lay on the front, feet hip distance apart.  Elbows under shoulders palms together or forearms on the floor.  Inhale to prepare, engage core muscles.  Exhale as you push the pelvis forwards and raise the hips into your plank position.  Keep core muscles engaged and breathe naturally. Aim to hold from 30 seconds – 2 mins.  Aim of exercise is to strengthen core and lumbar spine.  Stretch into child’s pose to release.

NB: Keep core muscles engaged throughout.  Hips raised and bottom down.  Keep the neck in line with the spine and feet hip distance.  Shuffle the elbows slightly forwards if any pressure in shoulders.  This can be done as an extended arm plank.

Swan Dive - Lay on the front, toes together and heels turned out.  Arms bent at 90 degrees, elbows in line with shoulders, palms flat on the floor.  Inhale to prepare and engage the core muscles, think about ice cube under tummy button, draw the navel away from the mat. Exhale as you raise shoulders and upper chest slightly from the mat, forearms can hover a few cm’s also. Imagine you have an orange under the chin; raise away from the orange keeping the neck in line with the spine.  Lengthen forwards as you come up.  Not too high as you will feel discomfort in the lower back.  Inhale at the top point, exhale as you lower or extend the arms; inhale as the arms come back to centre (elbows bent and in line with shoulders), exhale as you lower.  This exercise will mobilise the thoracic (mid) spine.  Repeat about 10 times. Repeat Cat Stretch three times to release.

NB: Keep core muscles engage throughout.  Lengthen forwards as you come up.  Remember to raise away from the orange and keep the ice cube under the tummy button.  Check elbows in line with shoulders all the time. 

Shoulder Bridge - Lay on the back with the knees bent.  Feet hip distance, grapefruit gap between the knees and the heels closer to the bottom.  Find neutral spine and stabilise the shoulders. Inhale to prepare as you engage the core muscles, exhale as you peel the spine away one vertebrae at a time (imagine the string of pearls being lifted one by one) until lower and mid spine away from the mat and you are in bridge position.  Inhale as the arms go over the head; exhale as you lower the spine one by one.  Inhale as the arms come over and the spine is placed back into neutral.  Exhale as you peel the spine away….., repeating the movements with the breath.  Slowly and controlled with one movement flowing into the next.  This exercise will mobilise the spine and strengthen the core muscles.  Add the leg extension if you wish when the arms go over the head as you inhale, exhale extend the leg, inhale and slowly lower.  Repeat on the opposite side then exhale lower the spine one by one, inhale as the arms come back over.  Keep the hips raised and level if adding the leg extension.  Repeat about 10 – 15 times.  Bring the knees in to the chest and rock from side to side to release.

NB: Keep core muscles engaged throughout.  Squeeze the grapefruit as you raise and lower into your shoulder bridge adding work to thighs and bottom.  Don’t come up to high on cervical (top part) spine and neck.  Keep the hips level at all times and grapefruit distance between knees and hip distance between feet.  Slow, controlled movements throughout.

The Roll Up - Sit tall on the sit bones and focus on the horizon.  Hip distance between the feet and grapefruit gap between the knees or legs extended.  Hands rest gently on thighs or arms extended in line with the shoulders (keep the elbows soft).  Inhale to prepare, engage the core muscles; exhale as you roll back.  Movement is from the lower spine; imagine making a C shape as you curl and uncurl the lower spine.  Inhale at your furthest point or as the arms go over the head; exhale as you roll back up. Repeat 10 – 15 times. This exercise will strengthen the core abdominal muscles and the rectus abdominus (muscles at the front of the abdomen closest to the surface).   A full body stretch to release.

NB:  If the tummy domes, avoid going back as far.  Keep the feet flat on the floor at all times; imagine they are stuck to the floor.  Use the curling of the lower spine movement to roll your self back up and the strength of the core; do not use momentum or the hands to pull yourself back up.

Alternative: Arms in Cosack position (arms crossed, finger tips on the elbows) exhale as you roll back, inhale at the furthest point rotate the spine and squeeze the elbow behind.  Keep the elbows in line with the shoulders all the time.  Repeat 8 – 10 times each side.

The Dart – Lay on the front, feet together, face towards the mat.  Lengthen through the neck and spine, arms by the sides with the palms facing the ceiling.  Inhale to prepare and engage the core abdomen muscles.  Exhale as you raise the shoulders and upper chest from the floor rotating the palms to face the floor.  Inhale at the top point, squeezing the shoulder blades together (imagine a coin between the shoulder blades).  Exhale as you slowly lower and rotate the palms to face the ceiling.  Repeat 10 – 15 times.  This exercises strengthens the core abdominal muscles, the back, shoulders and upper arms.  A Cat stretch to release.

NB: Keep the arms close to the body throughout the exercise.  Keep the face towards the mat so that you continue to lengthen through the neck and spine.  Keep the tummy button drawn away from the mat (imagine the ice cube).  Keep the feet together and on the floor and avoid raising to o high.

Spine Twist – Sitting tall on the sit bones, legs apart and toes pointed.  Bring the arms up to shoulder level, elbows soft and in line with shoulders.  Keep the shoulders down and level; imagine a glass balanced on each shoulder.  Inhale to prepare and engage the core muscles.  Exhale as you slowly rotate to the side, inhale come back to centre, exhale as you rotate to the other side.  Repeat 8 – 10 times each side.  This exercise will mobilise the spine and also strengthen the arms and inner thighs.  Sitting side stretch to release (reach up and over, hold for 15 secs and change sides).

NB: Sit tall as you come through the centre and keep the core muscles engaged.  Keep lengthening through the neck and spine; focus on the horizon.  Elbows to stay in line with the shoulders and the shoulders stay down and level.

Alternatively, can be done with the arms in Cosack position or with a bend; as you exhale and rotate, inhale reach towards the toe, exhale come up, inhale return to centre.

Can also be done with elbows bent to 90 degrees; as you exhale and rotate, squeeze the elbow behind.

Toe Dipping – This can be done at two levels.  Level one dipping one toe down or level 2 alternating both legs.  Begin by lying on the back with the knees bent, set the body up.  Inhale to prepare and engage the core muscles, exhale as you raise the first knee to come in line with the hip.   Inhale again and as you exhale, begin to dip the toe down into an imaginary bucket of water (try not to make contact with the floor).  To make this harder, lengthen the leg so that the heel is going towards the floor.  Repeat 10 times and then change legs.  Level 2, begin with both knees raised, inhale to prepare, exhale as you lower the first leg, inhale as the leg comes slowly back and the same time the other toe begins to dip down; thus you have a scissoring action with the legs.  To make harder, again extend the legs.  This will strengthen the core and lumbar spine, also work the thighs and mobilise the hips as the movement is coming from the hip.  At the harder level aim for 7 – 8 each side.  Full Body stretch to release.

NB:  Keep the core muscles engaged throughout; imagine the plate of marbles on the tummy.  Make sure the knee comes back in line with the hips; never over the hip and the shins come back parallel to the ceiling.  All movements must be a slow and controlled as possible to make the exercise more effective.  Keep the shoulders stabilised and rib cage into the floor.  For level two you need to have the scissoring action; don’t leg one leg come up then the other go down, the legs are moving at the same time.  Use your mirror to check!

Single Leg Stretch with an Oblique Curl – Lay on the back with the knees bent, set your self up in this position; stabilise the shoulders and find your neutral spine.  Bring one knee in at a time; knees together, shins parallel to the ceiling, big toes together and gently pointed and the heels slightly turned out. Finger tips behind the ears and keep the elbows wide.  This is your start position and must be the position you return to.  Inhale to prepare and engage the core muscles, exhale as you extend the right leg, raise and rotate the right shoulder to point to the left knee, which is raised.  Inhale as you return to start position, exhale as you extend left leg and raise and rotate left shoulder to right knee (which is raised with shin parallel to the ceiling).  Repeat 7 – 10 times each side.  If this level is too strong, place one foot on the floor with the knee bent and work one side extending the leg and then the other, always bringing the knee back in line with the hip, lower leg in line with the knee. A full body stretch to release.

NB:  Keep the core muscles engage throughout.  Keep the shins raised and fully extend the leg.  Keep the elbows wide all the time and don’t be tempted to bring elbow to knee.  Avoid pulling the neck up, keep it relaxed with the finger tips behind the ears and gently raise the head.

There is a combination of strength and mobility exercises and all of the above are beneficial to all parts of the body.  Practice all of the above or any combination but only when you have practiced them in the class and seen them demonstrated.  Obviously, the more you practice, the more beneficial it will be.  Hope it helps!  Any questions, then please ask me.

 

       For more details or to book a class, please contact Aime       Tel: 01509 673525, Mobile: 07879 841079, email: aime@aimelallopilates.co.uk