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Friday, March 16, 2012

4 best pilates exercises for a strong core.

Pilates attracts many on the Hollywood A-list for the tummy tightening, core strengthening, bathing-suit-ready results it can produce. Celebrities from Jennifer Lopez to Pippa Middleton swear by their regular Pilates exercises do more than just help you bare your midriff; Pilates can help improve core strength, improve posture, and decrease back pain. Here are 5 great Pilates exercises to help you create a core that’s ready for anything!  Here's our experts' favorite pilates exercises for your core:
Criss cross
Roll Up
  1. Criss cross – Begin by lying on your back, legs lifted in the air with your knees bent to a 90 degree angle and placed directly over your hips in table top position. Interlace your fingers and place your hands behind your head, elbows out to the sides. As you exhale, slowly lift your shoulder blades off of the floor and keep them in this lifted position. Inhale at center and as you exhale, twist to the left, and bring your right shoulder towards your left knee. Inhale as you come back to center, exhale to switch sides. For an added challenge, as you bring your right shoulder towards your left knee, extend the right leg and reach it long, at a 45 degree angle from the floor. Take care not to pull on the neck and maintain a neutral position at your lower back.  Repeat for a total of 10 – 12 repetitions. 
 2. Roll Up – Lie on your back and extend your legs long on the floor. Place a small folded towel under your lower back to help you maintain a neutral position. Reach your arms overhead without allowing your ribcage to lift and reach to the sky. In other words, engage your abdominal muscles and keep the ribs down on the ground. Inhale and draw the arms forward. Once your hands begin to reach towards your toes, exhale and gently release your chin towards your chest and begin to slowly roll up, curling your body into a C shape. It should feel as though you are peeling one vertebra at a time from the floor, as if you were lifting a pearl necklace off of a table, one pearl at a time. Pause any time you need to take another inhalation and resume the lifting movement with your exhalation. Once you come to a tall seated position, begin to roll down one vertebra at a time. Complete 5-10 repetitions. 

3. Swimming – Lie on your stomach, with arms reaching forward (thumbs up toward the ceiling) and your legs extended out behind you. Draw your abdominal muscles in and attempt to lift your belly button away from the floor, as if an ice cube was placed directly under your navel. Now, lift your arms and legs off of the floor so that they’re hovering just an inch or two above the floor. Continue reaching your arms and legs in opposite directions and keep your abdominal muscles engaged. Begin to drop opposite arm and leg toward the floor and then switch sides. Allow your breath to be steady, as you continue to lower and lift opposite arm and leg toward the floor. Repeat these movements for 10 breath cycles. 

  1. Pilates Push-Ups – Slowly make your way to a standing position. On an inhale, stand very tall. As you exhale, begin to roll down one vertebra at a time, bringing your arms close to the floor. Bend your knees as much as you need to allow your hands to come all the way to the floor. On an inhale, begin to walk your hands forward into a plank position (this is the same position you would be in to start a push up). Try to do this without allowing the hips to wobble side-to-side. On an exhalation, slowly bend at the elbows, lowering your body to the height of your elbows, hovering above the floor, and then push back up. Keep your elbows in by your sides at all times; this emphasizes the triceps muscles (back of your arms) and is different from the more traditional push-ups you may have done. Take care not to allow your hips to “sway” or “dip” towards the floor and keep your shoulders away from your ears. Feel free to bring your knees to the floor at any time to decrease the intensity of the move and allow you to maintain a neutral spine. After pushing back up into a plank, inhale as you pike your hips in the air. As you exhale, draw your abdominals in deeply and begin to walk your hands back towards your feet. Slowly roll up one vertebra at a time to bring your body back to starting position. Complete 3-5 repetitions.
And, guys, Pilates isn't just for the ladies! These exercises are great for the inner athlete in all of us and many pro athletes include Pilates in their training. Click here to read more about the benefits of Pilates!

All the information presented by HEALTHeME is for educational purposes only, intended to help you make informed decisions about fitness issues. This information is NOT a substitute for any advice given to you by your physician. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any nutrition or exercise program. Use of the programs, advice, and information from HEALTHeME is at the sole choice and risk of the reader.