People don’t always consider Pilates as a weight loss program, but I always say those are the ones that have never tried it! 😉 Pilates is an exercise system that focuses on building strength and flexibility. It elongates the body to create long lean muscles, improves posture and balance, prevents injuries, and is used for rehabilitation for surgeries, chronic illness, and pain.
Committing to Pilates will help you lose significant weight and inches, give you a trimmer appearance, burn calories, and helps build muscles without bulking. Doing Pilates while changing your diet to incorporate more whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and lean proteins allow you to see quicker and more effective results.
Pilates builds core strength focusing on the abdominals or “powerhouse.” When the abdominals are strengthened, they improve your posture to help you stand up straighter and pull your belly in. Straightening your posture allows you to elongate the body, giving the illusion of being slimmer and actually taller, by emphasizing length and good alignment. Just by standing up straight and pulling your belly in alone, can give the illusion of losing 5-10 pounds! Our continual bad posture from long days in cars and many hours of sitting at a computer cause our shoulders to round forward, our bellies to protrude, giving the effect that we are actually heavier than we truly are. By learning to pull your “belly button to your spine” (this is what you will hear a lot in Pilates class) and by deepening the abdominals, this in turn helps them to become stronger more quickly.
Pilates promotes lateral breathing, focusing on breathing through the lungs and rib cage instead of the diaphragm, strengthens the abdominal wall, engages the core, and flattens the belly.
Although Pilates is not aerobic exercise, most people incorporate cardio work to maximize weight-loss. Pilates is a building exercise, starting at a beginner level, as you begin to learn the correct positions and flow, you increase the intensity of the workout to intermediate and advanced positions. Adding small equipment can also help build muscle and burn more calories. There is also large equipment; reformers, Wunda chairs, cadillacs, and ladder barrels all increase the intensity of a Pilates workout to increase the results of your workout.
Here’s the catch for Pilates though, by decreasing resistance you actually have to work harder to maintain control and balance, focusing more on the core! Pilates is also great because it can be done anywhere, home, studio, hotel room, and parks, even on the beach! And it’s perfect for men and women, young and old, people with Parkinson’s, MS, hip replacements, pregnant women, even athletes. Just be sure to do your research first and find a certified instructor that specializes in what you plan to focus on.
Pilates Exercise: Chest lifts
- Start by lying on your back. Legs hip width apart, heels in-line with your sits bones. There should be a small hand space between your lower back and the mat. So it should feel like you’re balancing on the knotty bones of your hips. (this is called neutral pelvis) You don’t want your lower back smashed into the mat, this causes the abs to turn off and the glutes to engage and take over.
- Interlace your fingers and place them behind the knotty part of your neck and head are going to rest in your hands. Elbows are out wide.
- Take an inhale to prepare and deepen your abs. (sink your belly button to your spine)
- Exhale as you lift your head and chest up into flexion. Remember to stay in neutral pelvis, engaging your abs is going to give you the strength to lift yourself into the position. Remember to keep elbows out wide so not to pull on your neck.
- Now take an inhale and flatten your belly again. Exhale as you slowly roll back to the starting position again. Focusing on your breath will deepen your core and close down your rib cage. Causing your abdominals to fully engage. Go slow and at your own pace. Slower with resistance (against gravity) shows more results. Small range of motion and focus is where you see results. Repeat for up to 10 repetitions.