Summer’s here and your regular workout routine has gone haywire! The kids are home, each one in a different Summer camp which means various drop off and pickup times. Vacations are planned and you miss your usual Pilates classes. Not to worry, you don’t have to wait till Summer’s over to get back to Pilates. All you need is a little space and a mat and voila!
Here are a few of my favorite, very effective mat Pilates exercises that you can do at home.
To increase abdominal strength:
1. Hundred Lying on back, knees in tabletop position, arms by sides. Inhale to prepare. Exhale to roll head, neck and shoulders off the floor, maintaining axial elongation. At the same time, reach hands along the floor to hover just off mat. Keep knees bent or extend legs to 45 degree angle. Inhale for five counts, exhale for 5 counts while pulsing arms. Repeat breathing pattern 10 times and lower back to starting position. Focus: Keeping the lumbar spine on the mat during flexion of the trunk
2. Single Leg Stretch Lying on back, knees in tabletop position, both hands on right knee. Inhale to prepare. Exhale to roll head, neck and shoulders off the floor extending the left leg forward, while maintaining lumbar spine contact with mat. Alternate flexion and extension of legs, hands on bent knee. Focus: Keeping the lumbar spine on the mat during flexion of the trunk
3. Criss Cross Lying on back, knees in tabletop position, hands interlaced behind head. Inhale to lengthen the crown of the head away from the shoulders and exhale to curl up, lifting head, neck and shoulders. Inhale to prepare and exhale to rotate upper torso to the left, extending right leg out. Aim the shoulder to the knee. Maintain upper torso off the mat, inhale to pass through center and exhale to the other side. Perform 6 repetitions to each side, 12 total. Focus: Keeping the lumbar spine on the mat during flexion and rotation of the trunk
4. Double Leg Stretch Lying on back on mat, knees in tabletop position, hands on shins. Inhale to prepare. Exhale to roll head, neck and shoulders off the floor. Inhale and press shins into hands to increase thoracic flexion. Exhale, reach the arms overhead and legs forward. Keep head lifted and legs pressed together. Inhale, circle the arms, and draw the knees to the chest, hands to shins. Repeat 6 times. Focus: Keeping the lumbar spine on the mat when the arms and legs are extended
5. Roll Ups Lying on your back, legs extended, arms reaching back overhead. Inhale to lengthen the arms and torso. Exhale and float arms toward ceiling. Inhale and rollup to Chest Lift position. Exhale to roll the rest of the way, one vertebra at a time. Continue into a fully flexed position, arms parallel to the floor. Inhale and exhale to roll down to starting position. Inhale and float arms overhead and repeat roll up 6 times. Focus: Maintaining neutral pelvis, emphasis on contacting the lumbar spine with the mat
To stretch hamstrings and strengthen hip adductors:
1. Frogs Lying on the back with knees at tabletop position. Inhale to extend legs to 45 degree angle in external rotation, pressing heels together. Inhale to bend knees towards hips and exhale to extend legs back to 45 degrees. Repeat 12 times. Focus: Abdominal stabilization
4. Circles (both directions) Lying on the back with knees at tabletop position. Inhale to extend legs to 45 degree angle. Exhale to circle legs outward for 6 repetitions and then reverse circles for 6 repetitions. Focus: Hamstring and adductor control, Abdominal stabilization
5. Side Kicks (hip mobility and core strength) Lying on side, head on extended arm, maintaining axial elongation on both sides of waist. Upper arm on floor in front of rib cage. Inhale, move the top leg forward with foot flexed, exhale and move leg back into hip extension, with toes pointed. Repeat 12 times each leg. Focus: postural awareness and abdominal stabilization
To improve Spinal Articulation and strengthen hamstrings:
1. Bridging Lying on the back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor hip distance apart. Inhale to prepare tilting pelvis upwards, then exhale to lift hips, rolling spine up and then roll spine back down to starting position. Focus: Hamstring strength and control. Finding the articulation of the lumbar spine
To strengthen back extensors:
1. Spine twist Seated atop sitting bones, legs extended, shoulder distance apart, arms stretched out to the sides. Inhale to lengthen the spine, exhale to rotate the upper torso to the right. Inhale to return center. Exhale to rotate to the left. Perform 6 repetitions to each side, 12 total. Focus: movement coming from spine, not arms or head
2.Swan Lying on your front on the mat, legs extended, hands beside chest. Inhale to prepare, exhale to press up with arms, peeling front of body off the floor and bringing spine and hips into extension, lower abdominals engaged. Focus: Not allowing the abdominals to sink forward
1. Side to Side Lying on back, knees in tabletop position, arms on floor at 45 degree angle out to side. Inhale as the legs and pelvis rotate to the right. Exhale and rotate back to center. Inhale as the legs and lower torso rotate to the left. Exhale back to center. Repeat 6 times each side, 12 total. Focus: Posture, spinal and hip mobility, trunk strength
2. Spine Stretch Seated atop sitting bones, legs extended, arms on floor at sides. Inhale to lengthen the spine, exhale to nod the head and curl forward into flexion, maintaining the pelvis vertical in the starting position. Inhale and exhale to roll up to starting position by drawing the abdominals in, stacking the vertebrae up segmentally. Focus: Spine flexion
3. The Saw Seated atop sitting bones, legs extended, shoulder distance apart, arms stretched out to the sides. Inhale to widen across the chest and exhale to rotate the torso and begin to flex forward from head as the front hand reaches to the outside of the opposite foot. The back arm reaches long behind. Inhale to return to starting position and rotate torso to the other side. Exhale to flex forward. Repeat 6 repetitions on each side, 12 total. Focus: Spine flexion and rotation
4. Standing Roll Down Standing tall, inhale to prepare and exhale to begin roll down by nodding head forward and continue rolling segmentally until in full flexion. Exhale and begin roll up from tailbone, stacking vertebrae segmentally until in starting position.
Happy and healthy summer!