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Prepare for Pilates

Pilates exercises can strengthen and elongate your muscles without bulkiness. They can increase your flexibility and help prevent back injuries. Personal trainer, Sherry Nassif gives you a step-by-step guide on Pilates

Although Pilates is a recent trend in the world of fitness, it has actually been around for a long time. Joseph Pilates, a German refugee who migrated to America, developed these unique exercises for the first time in the 1920's. Pilates work the deep ‘core' muscles of the torso and back.

While some exercises require the ‘Reformer' a piece of apparatus which works the whole body, others may be performed on a mat. Here are a few of the basic Pilates moves that you can incorporate into your fitness programme.

Pilates Pointers

  • The exercises are slow and controlled.
  • Correct breathing and alignment are essential.
  • Don't let your abdominal muscles ‘pop up' during the exercises. Keep them pulled in. Professional instruction is always a good idea. Check out your local health club for a Pilates class
Pilates Breathing
Try to keep your breathing in your chest, not your stomach. That means keeping your abdominals pulled in as you breathe and letting your rib cage expand. Breathe deep and slow, try a slow count of four as you inhale and four as your exhale.

Single Leg Extensions
Lie down and press your spine into the mat. Breathe in, then, as you breathe out, lift your head and shoulders off the mat. Bring your right leg into the chest, left leg just off the floor.

Breathe in again and switch legs. Keep your back on the floor and your tummy scooped in. Do five switches.

The Hundred
Lie down, raise the legs and the upper body at the same time. Arms straight by your sides, palms down. Lower your legs as much as you can without letting your back come off the floor and keep them pressed together. Keep your abs pulled in tight. From the shoulder and keeping the elbows straight, pulse the arms up and down. Inhale five counts exhale five counts for one hundred repetitions. If this is too challenging you can keep one or both legs bent and on the floor.

Swimming
Lie on your tummy stretching the legs and arms in opposite directions. Pull your abs in so your navel is off the floor. Then, maintaining that position, exhale and raise the head and the opposite arm and leg. The lengthening is more important than the height. Breathe and change sides. Swap 10 times.

Roll Up
Lie on your back, stretch in both directions. Keep your pelvis neutral. Inhale and lift your arms straight up to the ceiling, then exhale and peel your back off the floor, vertebra by vertebra until you reach forward for your toes. Breathe in and slowly roll back down. Do 10 repetitions.

Lie on your back, stretch in both directions. Keep your pelvis neutral. Inhale and lift your arms straight up to the ceiling, then exhale and peel your back off the floor, vertebra by vertebra until you reach forward for your toes. Breathe in and slowly roll back down. Do 10 repetitions.

Extend & Reach
Lie on your back, arms out to the sides, and bring your knees into the chest. Keeping your abs contracted inhale and roll the knees over to the right hand side. Then exhale and extend the legs. Breathe in again and then exhale and lift the left arm to touch the left ankle. Inhale and
return to the starting position. Repeat 10 in each direction then switch sides.


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