Nothing will cure what ails you like quite a daily Pilates practice. By adding just a couple of choice moves into your routine, you can undo back pain, feel more mobile and flexible, and even give yourself a much-needed mid-day boost of energy.
That’s because Pilates is way more than just a full-body workout, says Whitney Berger, a certified yoga instructor, personal trainer, and founder of WhitFit NYC. The wide range of exercises can help ease back pain by strengthening your core, while also loosening tight muscles and improving your posture, she tells Bustle.
Better mobility and stability in the form of an improved range of motion is another major perk. “As we age, we start to feel the little snaps and tightness in the body,” Berger says. “The controlled movements in Pilates are a safe way to train mobility to prevent future injuries and help with overall stability.”
Just like yoga, it’s safe to do a few Pilates moves every day. You can try one or two in the morning as a way to wake up, pop down throughout the day to loosen up sore muscles, or add a few to your usual workout routine. According to Marisa Fuller, a trainer and owner of Studio Pilates, the benefits of Pilates movements develop gradually. As you continue to practice, you’ll keep noticing more benefits, and you’ll keep feeling better.
With that in mind, these are the 10 best Pilates moves to do every day, according to trainers.
According to Fuller, planks are one of the most beneficial moves you can do. “Planks not only work all your abdominal muscles, but they also help with your posture, strengthen your back, and work your quads and glutes,” she tells Bustle.
- Start on all fours.
- Position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Extend your legs back and come onto your toes.
- Roll your shoulders back.
- Keep your chest up high.
- Press into your palms.
- Make sure your shoulders, hips, and knees are aligned and your pelvis is slightly tilted in.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
This torso rotation is a great way to wake up your upper body, and it also improves hamstring flexibility, says Sandie Hendrix, CPT, a certified Pilates instructor and owner of Personal Touch Pilates. Try it while you watch your fave reruns.
- Sit with your legs extended in front of you in a V shape.
- Reach your arms out at your sides with palms facing down.
- Inhale and rotate your upper body.
- Exhale as you reach across to your opposite foot.
- Stretch forward, then come back to center.
- Inhale as you twist to the opposite side.
- Exhale and reach towards your opposite foot.
3. Rolling Ball
Next up, try rolling like a ball, especially in those moments when you’re feeling sluggish. “This move feels really great on the back and spine, like a massage,” Berger says. It will also immediately perk you up and give you an energy boost by getting your blood flowing, she notes.
- Sit on your mat.
- Lift your legs up.
- Wrap your arms around your knees to form a ball.
- Let yourself rock backwards.
- Keep your chin tucked in.
- Roll forward to return to the seated position.
- Continue to roll back and then up again.
- Repeat 10 times.
4. Superhuman Variation Pose
This pose will stretch your shoulders and lengthen your spine, all while strengthening your glutes, back, core, and legs, says Berger. Try it if you’ve been sitting at your desk for too long or if you’re struggling with tech neck.
- Lie on your stomach.
- Bring your hands behind your back.
- If you can, clasp your hands.
- Feel your shoulder blades pull together.
- Lift your legs off the ground and point your toes.
- Keep them hip-width apart or bring your toes together to work your inner thighs.
- Lift your torso off the ground.
- Keep your core tight.
5. Glute Bridge
Helen O'Leary, a physiotherapist and clinical director at Complete Pilates, is a big fan of daily glute bridges. “This is a great move to do regularly as it will help promote spine mobility and get your legs and glutes working,” she tells Bustle.
- Lie on your mat with your feet hip-width apart.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Press down into your feet to lift your hips off the floor.
- Come up until you are in a relatively straight line from your knees to your ribs.
- Pause at the top.
- Pull your heels towards your glutes as you come all the way back down again.
To undo that annoying back pain that builds up throughout the day, O’Leary recommends popping down to the floor for a round of cat-cows.
- Start on all fours.
- Press down into your arms.
- Tuck your tailbone under and round your back.
- Pause at the top and exhale, trying to tuck your tailbone under a little more.
- Unravel your tailbone, lift your chest and gaze, and arch your back.
- Allow your stomach to drop towards the mat.
- Do this about eight to 10 times.
7. Book Openers
“This is a brilliant one to unwind your spine at the end of the day,” O’Leary says. “It will make you feel freer in your movement, and using your breath to stay in the position and stretch will also calm you down.”
- Lie on your side with your head supported, knees bent, and arms out in front of you.
- Reach the top arm up towards the ceiling and drop it over behind you, allowing your body to rotate as well.
- Pause and breathe into the sides of your ribs, expanding them in and out.
- Try to breathe through your nose and take slow long breaths.
- Use an exhale to move your arm back up towards the ceiling so your body follows and you are back on your side.
- Do a couple on each side.
Mermaids are a good choice whenever you want to stretch the muscles on your sides and lower back, Hendrix says.
- Sit with both legs bent to your right.
- Hold your ankle with your right hand while your left arm reaches up.
- Slowly bend toward your right side.
- While stretching over to your right side, rotate your body and hover your chest over your legs.
- Feel a stretch in your obliques and lower back.
- Repeat on the other side.
9. Bird Dogs
To build up your balance over time, Hendrix recommends adding bird dogs into your routine.
- Start on all fours.
- Extend your left leg back behind you, making sure your hips stay square to the mat.
- Engage your core to stay steady.
- Extend your right arm in front of you.
- Switch sides.
To give yourself a quick core workout, try Pilates 100s.
- Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Exhale and lift your torso up. If you can, lift your legs — you can keep them bent or extend them out straight.
- Reach your hands forward.
- Quickly pump your arms up and down as you inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds.
- Repeat until you reach 100 reps.
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Phrompaet, S. (2011). Effects of pilates training on lumbo-pelvic stability and flexibility. Asian J Sports Med. doi: 10.5812/asjsm.34822.