Are you currently stuck at home like the rest of us? Working from home, obtained a new side-career as a part-time teacher now the kids are on google classroom, the dog doesn’t stop barking and the neighbour has decided to build an extension since they are no longer working as well. Tension is high and you can’t even go to the gym, you’ve got no exercise equipment, just some balls and toys the kids have lying around the house…you need…
Why do I need Pilates, you may ask?
Pilates has many benefits:
- Pilates is a full-body workout which promotes strength and balanced muscle development. It also helps lengthen and tone.
- It is very adaptable for all fitness levels, every exercise can be progressed or regressed and tailored specifically for you.
- It is a high-intensity workout but low impact, those battling injury or other physical circumstances can participate without limitations.
- Reduce stress levels and increase endorphins (the happy drug, which we all need right now). Exercise has been shown to improve sleep and brain function.
What’s the difference between Mat and Reformer Pilates?
Easy, simple, all you need is a mat and your body weight, of course you can use resistance bands, balls or small weights, if you have them that’s great, if you don’t that doesn’t matter you can still participate.
Mat-based exercises are highly focused on the deep core and pelvic muscles, most pilates classes begin with learning how to control you T-Zone. More to come on the T-Zone later, once you can control the T-Zone, exercises will involve your bodyweight against gravity, this is a very effective way to train the correct muscles through specific movements. For example lying on your side, stabilizing your core by squeezing your T-Zone, lifting your leg up towards the roof should activate the Glute Medius, if this is weak you may feel the exercise working through the front of the thigh or tension in your lower back. Pilates can help re-train your muscles to do the movement they were designed to do.
If you suffer from back pain, are not flexible or need to develop your core and pelvic floor muscles, Mat Pilates is for you!
Reformer Pilates is done using the reformer machine as pictured above, this is generally more intense and more dynamic than mat based Pilates as it adds resistance to exercises. However, it can be really good for beginners as well as you can reduce the resistance too.
Reformer Pilates works on core stabilization which is vital to any athlete as well as muscle endurance, lactate tolerance, peripheral joint stability, muscle strength, balance and co-ordination. Very beneficial for athletes and injury prevention!
Reformer Pilates is great for rehab purposes too as it allows the client to exercise in a horizontal plane of motion and not weight bearing through the injured area. For example if a client has had knee surgery or a knee injury, this horizontal plane enables you to strengthen the muscles of the leg through a larger range of motion using a lighter resistance than body weight, speeding up their recovery through controlled movement. Very beneficial for post-surgery clients!
If you like variation and a low impact, yet high intensity workout, Reformer Pilates is for you!
The Basic of Pilates
Here I am going to teach you the first essential step in Pilates, engaging your T-Zone.
What is the T-Zone?
It refers to the activation of two muscles.
- Transversus abdominus
- The pelvic floor
This is referred to as the T-Zone because when we activate these two muscles, we imagine a capital letter “T” drawn on the front of the pelvis. The vertical line of the T represents the pelvic floor muscles drawing up, and the horizontal line of the T represents the transversus abdominus drawing across and in.
Mastering the T-Zone!
To activate the T-Zone, simply lie on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Find the front of your hip bones, place your fingers on the hip bones and move 2cm in and press firmly. Now imagine you have a letter ‘T’ drawn on the surface of the stomach as pictured above.
Now engage the pelvic floor by imagining you are stopping the flow of urine midstream, drawing the deep muscles upwards along the vertical line of the T. You should feel some tension under your fingertips.
Now we want to recruit the transversus abdominis at the same time. Whilst doing the above step, imagine that horizontal line on the surface of the stomach that connects the hip bones together and focus on flattening that line and drawing the belly button downwards towards the spine.
Repeat the activation of these two muscles until you master it. Once you have mastered this and strengthened these muscles this is where we add an exercise.
Toe Tops – Core Exercise
Start with lying flat, place fingertips 2cm within hip bones, lift both legs to 90 degrees, breathe out, draw the pelvic floor up the vertical line of the T and draw the hip bones in along the horizontal line of the T, feel the T-Zone become tight under your fingertips, keeping the T-Zone activated, slowly straighten one leg tap on the mat then return to starting position and complete on the opposite side
Tip: To regress this exercise keep the leg bent and don’t extend the leg the whole way, to progress try doing both legs at the same time.
Pilates can be used for a variety of rehab goals, let me take you back to my previous blog the “Boxer’s Muscle“, this explained what needs to be done to perfect your punch and improve your technique to prevent injury and improve you performance! How does pilates fit in here…working on activating the correct muscle in this case the serratus to stabilise the shoulder and assist in forward translation of the arm to gain that further inch. A pilates-based exercise as mentioned in my previous blog is the serratus push up, so you have just learnt to activate your T-Zone now we are going to practice incorporating that with strengthening the serratus to get you punching again!
Let’s put this into practice, try this!
Position yourself in a high plank position with your palms shoulder width apart, arms straight, bottom tucked, draw that T-Zone in (as we practiced), sink the chest forward keeping the arms and back straight and press up rounding the shoulder blades slightly and repeat.