I have to be honest with you all, I sometimes feel like a traitor. I am a Pilates instructor and when Clients notice the changes I have made in my body one of the most common questions I get is “So do you only do Pilates to get those results?” The truth is I almost never do a strictly Pilates workout. What I really do when I work out is a small amount of cardio combined with weight training.
But that doesn’t mean I have thrown Pilates to the wayside or that I don’t practice what I preach. In fact, Pilates methodology is the foundation for all of my workouts and I think anyone could benefit from learning some Pilates techniques. Pilates methodology teaches a way of movement that focuses on your core. It’s about moving your body in a mindful way, targeting specific parts of the body without creating compensations. Its all about using control and mindfulness to get the most out of every exercise, while at the same time strengthening and protecting your spine.
The problem is that many people look at exercise that they are not familiar with, with prejudice. Bodybuilders often look down on Pilates as exercise that is not going to change your body and Pilates enthusiasts think bodybuilding involves bulking up to look like a man. I want to share 6 key principle of Pilates that I feel could help change the way you work out.
1. Pelvic Floor: A large focus in Pilates is on the pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvic floor is deeply connected to your core and by engaging your pelvic floor you help support your internal organs and create a stronger base for all of your exercises. Try kegeling during the exertion phase of your exercise, or for a more subtle engagement, think about drawing your sits bones together to sit up taller.
2. Shoulder Girdle: One of the critical connections in Pilates is between your ribcage and scapula. The goal is for your scapula to float smoothly on your back without winging or pulling up. You can see this principle when someone does a plank and lets their shoulder blades cave together, allowing their chest to drop. Don’t be that person! The connective tissue supporting your shoulders is delicate so it is important to strengthen and stabilize your shoulder girdle, this means not letting your shoulders pop up when releasing a lat pull down and not letting shoulder blades wing during push-ups.
3. Neutral Pelvis- Try arching your back, then tuck your tailbone, then find a comfortable balance between those two positions. That is neutral pelvis. Many people compensate with their lower back by arching their back or tucking their tailbone when really they should be engaging their glutes. If you find yourself with a sore back after squats, deadlifts or other glute exercises, you need to work on maintaining neutral pelvis and strengthening your core. Try finding that neutral position and then pull your abs in tight to lock that position in place before you start an exercise.
4. Heel-Glute Connect- This is so important for bikini competitors. Like I said in my last point, a lot of people compensate with their lower back when they should be using their glutes. The heel-glute connection helps you focus on targeting glutes. In any exercise you are trying to focus on glutes, try to press through your heel. This will automatically help you recruit more of your glute muscles.
5. Golden Triangle- Inner thighs, sits bones and lower abs make up the golden triangle. Any time you want to engage your core more deeply think about drawing inner thighs, and sits bones together while pulling your belly button back to your spine. This guarantees a greater engagement in your core, which will also help stabilize and protect your spine.
6. Belly Button to spine- Have you seen weigh lifters with bugling bellies? Chances are they have a diastasis. This usually occurs because people tend to let their abs pop out when they are lifting heavy weights. Try doing the opposite, envision pulling your bellybutton back to your spine when you are exerting effort. This will help you engage your transverse abdominal and help you create a smaller waist.
Pilates has meant so much to me in my fitness journey. It truly is a great foundation for any type of exercise. These are just a few principles that have helped me but there are many more. If you haven’t tried pilates yet. Give it a try. You might learn something.
Have you tried Pilates? What did you think?