Busy traveling between meetings or working late and are unable to get in on your workouts? While we may not always have access to a gym or studio we can always work around that to still get our body moving. Try this 15min set of core-focused Pilates exercises to get your body realigned, stretched, and strong at the same time. At the same time, they’ll help you unwind and rest your mind after a long day in the office if you’re unable to get to the gym.
1. Cat stretch
This is a great stretch for the back muscles and spinal mobility that would feel great after a long flight long walks or just sitting in the office all day. On a quadruped position, maintain your shoulders above your wrists and knees under your hips at all times. Starting with a neutral spine, exhale to pull the abs in and curl your body away from the ground starting from the tailbone up to the crown of the head. Think of reaching your sitting bones to the back of your knees, your heart away from the floor, and the crown of the head in between your hands. Inhale, start from the crown of the head to lift and arch your spine. Present your heart to the front, crown of the head, and tail up to the sky. Maintain abdominal connection at all times. Repeat for 6-10 reps.
2. Telescope arms
This stretch helps to open the chest and is a great one for any tightness in the back as well. Start by lying on your side, head supported, spine neutral and legs folded at the hip, top arm straight and reaching to the front. Inhale to bend the top arm, reaching your hand to the shoulder. Exhale to rotate your upper back, reaching and extending the top hand behind. Keep your eyes on the top hand as it moves & maintains the hips stable and stacked above each other. Repeat 5-8 times before changing sides.
This is a classic Pilates exercise every Pilates practitioner will know of. It challenges abdominal endurance or what is commonly known as core strength. Start by lying supine with your lower back imprinted on the ground (beginner’s version), tabletop legs, and hands long by the side. Inhale to prepare. Exhale to lift head, shoulders, and arms off the ground while reaching your fingers away from the shoulders. Keep your arms straight and pump your arms up and down while you inhale and exhale for 5 counts each. Continue 10 times before lowering your body down upon completion. Maintain lower back imprinted at all times (or neutral pelvis if that’s what you start with. There should be no increase of arch in the lower back at any point).
Additional challenge: Extend legs straight and away from the torso
Regression: Have one hand supporting your head if you feel a strain in your neck (ensure that you’re resting on the tips of your shoulder blades)
4. Straight leg bicycle
Another awesome abdominal exercise with additional coordination in torso rotation and leg movement. Begin in supine with hands behind your head, elbows wide, and tabletop legs. Exhale to lift head and shoulders off the ground, inhale to extend legs straight to the sky. Throughout the exercise, exhale to lift shoulders off further from the ground to reach the armpit towards the opposite knee. Scissor legs in tandem with the rotation. Inhale as you switch sides. Repeat for 10-20 reps.
5. Side-lying leg circles
This exercise focuses on strengthening the glutes and the side obliques to stabilize the torso while mobilizing through the hip joint. Starting lying down on one side, hips stacked above one another, spine neutral with bottom waistline off the ground. Keep the top leg straight as you kick it forward before circling it up to the sky and back around to the start point. Repeat 10 times before circling the opposite direction and changing sides. Focus on keeping your torso stable, imagine your torso in a toaster. Move leg from the hip, think of elongation of the leg away from the joint and into your toes. Keep toes pointed at all times.
A wonderful exercise focusing on stretching the front of the body and working on the back extensions instead. Start lying prone on the front with hands by the shoulders. Inhale, lift your head off by reaching the crown of the head ahead and up to the sky. Exhale, keep shoulders wide, slide shoulder blades into the back pockets of your pants and press your hands gently into the ground to push your body away. Come up to an even extension of the spine, resting on your pubic bone or your thighs. Return the body down to the ground sequencing from belly to head in a full breath. Repeat 10 times. Maintain abdominal connection throughout so you don’t sink through your lower back. Avoid pushing your ribs forwards or navel to the ground.
7. Side bends
A great exercise to stretch the sides of the torso while strengthening your obliques, glutes, and shoulders. Seated on the left hip, place your left hand away from the hips with fingers pointing away and cross your right foot in front of your left. Ensure that hand, hip and ankles are aligned to one another. Exhale to prepare. Inhale to lift the hips up, pushing into the left hand and right foot to side bend the body. Exhale to return down to start position. Repeat 8-10 times before switching sides.
8. Thigh stretch
One of my favorite exercises for the legs because it truly helps to build muscle balance by lengthening and building eccentric control of the quadriceps and hamstrings. Start in a kneeling position, ensure that shoulders, hips & knees are aligned to one another. Prepare with an inhale, reaching arms in front of the body. Exhale to lean back as far as you have control, moving from the knees. Inhale, return back to start position. Maintain core stability throughout without arching through the lower back. Repeat 10 times.
9. Mermaid with rotation
End off the workout with this lovely stretch for the torso. Start in a Z-sit (right leg folded outwards, left leg folded inwards). Inhale to raise right hand and elongate the spine. Exhale to bend the body out to the left to stretch the right side before reaching the right hand and upper body gently forwards. You will feel a good stretch on the lower back in this position. Inhale to undo the stretch & return to the start. Repeat 5 times before changing sides.
This should help get your quick workout in when the day gets busy to align yourself mentally and physically! To learn more about Pilates, speak to our pilates instructors at any UFIT Clinic.