Pilates is an excellent way to build strength and flexibility without bulk, and is gentle enough to be used by almost everyone. However, many people believe the only way to properly learn Pilates is through professional classes. A good Pilates exercise program can be designed at home, and since the exercises are easy to understand, professional classes aren’t really needed. Printable instructions are available online for free for almost any exercise.
Design your Pilates exercise program to suit your individual needs and your abilities. For example, if you suffer from lower back pain, add moves such as knee bends and the child’s pose to your routine, but avoid moves that place pressure on the lower back, like chest lifts. If you need to strengthen your arms and shoulders, try the classic arm reach and pull, and add a medicine ball to your routine.
Since Pilates focuses on core strength, almost any exercise will strengthen the abdominals and back.
Before deciding which exercises you want to try, go through the movement descriptions carefully, and visualize yourself doing them. If any move seems too awkward to try, feel free to skip it and come back to it later. You should focus on creating a balanced program that works all muscle groups, and in the beginning choose moves that will gradually increase your flexibility instead of requiring that you stretch an unused muscle all at once. Visualization is important while doing the moves themselves, as well. Proper visualization and breathing techniques will help you get the most from your workout as well as prevent injury.
One disadvantage to a home Pilates exercise program is the lack of feedback from an instructor. This problem can be easily solved by working out with a mirror or finding a partner to exercise with. Be honest with yourself about how well you are keeping proper form. If you feel yourself starting to lose form, either bring yourself back to center and try again, or stop doing that particular move. Many times improper form is the result of fatigue and weak muscles, not carelessness. If one exercise or group of movements gives you problems consistently, practice that movement set throughout the day to gradually build up your stamina and improve your form.
Another thing to consider when designing your routine is the amount of equipment you will need. While Pilates exercises typically are based on using controlled movement and body weight, some moves require the use of weights, bands, stability balls, and so on. If your budget doesn’t allow you to purchase this equipment right now, find alternate movements to work the same areas without equipment.
If the thought of designing your own exercise routine is too overwhelming, consider purchasing a book on Pilates and following the routines recommended for beginners. Unless you have done Pilates before, your overall fitness level is not that important. It takes time to learn proper form and muscle control, so even very fit beginners should start with the beginner’s exercises.
strongerseniors.com The Stronger Seniors Core Fitness is a chair-based Pilates program is designed to help seniors develop strength and enhance their ability to function better in daily life. Pilates incorporates core exercises to strengthen the lower back, abdominals, and pelvic floor – training the body from the inside out. Modified for the chair, the principles of Joseph Pilates, Pilates exercises develop a strong “core,” or center of the body. The core consists of the deep abdominal muscles along with the muscles closest to the spine. Control of the core is achieved by integrating the trunk, pelvis and shoulder girdle. No other exercise system is so gentle to your body while giving it a challenging workout. Since most of the exercises are performed in sitting positions, they are no-impact. Stronger Seniors Pilates and Pilates Resistance Band is so safe, it is used in physical therapy facilities to rehabilitate injuries.
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