If you’ve been attending physio therapy, you might recognise some of the following exercises, as Pilates moves are being incorporated into physio therapy more and more. Some physio therapists are also Pilates instructors—a very helpful combination when helping clients rehab and develop good exercise habits for life.
During Pilate exercises, we always want the abs to draw in, never to extend outwards. This is the case for every motion, forward, back, side to side, and twisting. The Pilates exercises here are designed for beginners, but they are by no means easy.
These utilise your deep core abdominal muscles, increase mobility in the hips, and gently massage your lower back.
Abdominal muscles consist of four paired muscle groups. The deepest is the transversus abdominis, which wraps around your body like a corset and supports the spine. When you suck in your belly to squeeze into jeans, these muscles are doing the work.
The internal obliques attach from your hips to your lower ribs. These muscles allow you to side bend, rotate and assist in forward bending. Above these muscles are the external obliques, which also permit side bending and rotation and assist in flexing the spine forward.
Rectus abdominis, also known as the six pack, is the closest to the surface of your body. Even though the majority of people don’t have a sculpted six pack, the structure of three parallel muscles sets are still present. Its main function is to flex or pull your spine forward. When Pilates exercises are done correctly, rectus abdominus helps to compress the belly down.
Start on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms down at your sides. Your hips need be in neutral alignment, meaning that you’re not pressing your lower back into the floor nor are you arching your lower back.
On exhaling, gently pull your abdominal muscles in without gripping hard, and then tip your hips toward you, curling your tailbone up through your legs. As you do this, your lower back touches the mat. This is a very small movement. The hips do not lift off the floor. Slowly return the hips to neutral (the natural curve in your lower back returns). Repeat several times.
Your deep core abdominal muscles (transversus abdominus) hugs around your body like a corset. If you place your hands around your centre and cough, you’ll feel these muscles and side ab muscles pull inward. Engaging your pelvic floor (the muscle you use to stop the flow of urine) will help you connect with your deep core muscles.
Modified Roll Down
The aim of this exercise is to strengthen your deep core abdominal muscles; your side abdominals assist. Start seated with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart, but not too close to your bottom. Whilst your elbows out, sit tall on your sitting bones (knobby bones at your bottom).
Pull your belly in and start to curl back (articulating one vertebra at a time as you draw your tailbone underneath you). Elbows remain wide. Look at your belly, roll down to your lower back, inhale, then slowly curl back up, returning to a tall position. Repeat five times.
These reinforce your abdominal and back muscles and stretch the front of your body. Start face down, arms along sides with palms up, legs slightly apart in parallel position. Abdominals are pulled in, pubic bone slightly pressing down into mat.
Exhale while you straighten your arms, lift your upper back up, and lift your legs about an inch off the floor. Hips remain down. Ensure to pull your pelvic floor and belly in and slightly draw your tailbone through so you do not arch your lower back. Repeat five times.
If the movement causes your lower back pain, do not lift your legs.
This strengthens side abdominals (obliques) and improves mobility in rotating the spine.
Start seated with legs crossed and arms crossed in front of your chest and slightly lifted. Sit tall.
Inhale to prepare, drawing your belly in as you exhale and twisting to your right. Return to centre and repeat to other side. Do five repetitions to each side, alternating each time.
This strengthens side muscles (obliques) and creates flexibility in the spine while side bending.
Begin with your legs crossed and arms down at the sides. Keeping your legs relaxed, inhale to prepare, then exhale as you lift up and stretch to the side, using your arm to support your weight. The other arm lifts and reaches over your head. Slightly look up at the ceiling. Pause to inhale, then exhale to return to center. Do three repetitions. Recross your legs and repeat.