We can all use an exercise program, regardless of our physical condition. There are so many programs out there that it may difficult to choose one. Pilates exercises have gained prominence in recent years and deserve a closer look to see what they offer. In this article, we would like to highlight the Pilates exercises that most participants like to include in their workouts.

What Is Pilates?

woman doing yoga

Image via Pexels

Definition

Pilates is an exercise program that incorporates several fitness regimens into an extremely workable system. These consist of gymnastics, yoga, and physical therapy techniques. The word Pilates has no root meaning. The program is named after its creator, Joseph Pilates. Over recent years, Pilates exercises have become increasingly popular.

History of Pilates Exercises

Although its popularity seems to have mushroomed in recent years, development of Pilates exercises began during World War I. Joseph Pilates had emigrated from Germany to Britain in 1912. When the war started, he was interned by the British as an enemy alien. With his interests in gymnastics, bodybuilding, and Eastern disciplines such as meditation and yoga already in existence, Pilates had the opportunity to bring together elements of these physical pursuits to design a whole new way of exercising.

This evolved further when he became a nurse as the war continued. He worked out a system whereby bedridden patients could exercise with springs attached to the bed. Resistance training and the reformer unique to his exercise program were born. Pilates dubbed his technique Controlology, and he opened his first Pilates studio in 1923 in New York.

What Are the Benefits of Pilates Exercises?

woman in black pants doing yoga

Image via Pexels

There are many benefits that come with doing Pilates exercises, which is why this form of exercising has become so popular. These exercises do not heighten the risk of injury like many others. In addition, they are simple yet very effective exercises, making them suitable for fitness levels of all types. The range of Pilates exercises makes it easy to find ones that you can do with ease and you enjoy doing. You can develop a very effective workout by mixing and matching different Pilates exercises.

Outlook

Joseph Pilates looked upon Controlology as physical and mental conditioning. He was fond of using a quote from philosopher Friedrich Schiller, who said, "It is the mind itself which builds the body." This is consistent with his involvement in yoga and meditation, both of which depend on mental concentration for their success. Thus, the practice of Pilates exercises can be mutually beneficial to the mind and body.

Benefits

Some physical benefits of Pilates exercises include improvements in bone density, core strengthening, flexibility, posture, and cardiovascular endurance. Pilates exercises have been found to help build impressive abs and can be used as part of your cross-training agenda. With several substantial workouts per week, a person goes a long way toward burning enough calories to assist with weight loss.

It is common to achieve weight loss of a pound a week by reducing food intake and/or by burning calories through activity in the amount of 500 per day. By doing Pilates in the number and intensity of the workouts described above, it enhances the chances of losing weight. Back pain can be reduced or resolved with Pilates due to strengthening the core, stretching the muscles and restoring alignment. With all the work on flexibility, balance and strength training, Pilates helps participants avoid injuries to which they would have been prone previously.  

Top Pilates Exercises to Try

three women exercising

Image via Pexels

There is a large selection of Pilates exercises. It should be mentioned that some are variations of basic ones and some are known by different names. We are providing the most common names by cross-checking multiple sources.

The Hundred

Basics: Lie flat on your back on a mat. Raise your head and legs, extend your arms forward and move them slightly up and down while alternately inhaling and exhaling in five-second intervals until you have done ten rounds of each for a total of 100 seconds. This exercise is good for core muscles.          

Roll Up

Basics: Lie flat on your back on a mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat. Raise your head and shoulders. Reach forward with your arms as you exhale. Slowly roll the head and shoulders back down to the mat while inhaling. Do repetitions of this. Improves the core, stretches the back and legs.  

One Leg Circle

Basics: Lie flat on your back on a mat with your legs extended. Lift one leg high, having your toes pointed upward. Inhale and move the leg across the body, then downward in a semi-circle. Exhale, moving the leg upward and back to the original side of the body to a full circle. Reverse directions and make another circle with the same leg. Stretches the hips and hamstrings as it works the core and quadriceps.  

Rolling Like a Ball

Basics: Sit on a mat with your knees bent and your feet off the floor. Roll back, controlling your descent, onto your spine as you inhale. Exhale as you roll yourself up to the starting position. This one works the abs and helps with your balance.

woman doing yoga pose

Image via Pexels

One Leg Stretch

Basics: Lie flat on a mat, then lift your head along with your knees at a 90-degree angle. Extend one leg forward as you inhale and grab the shin of the opposite leg. Exhale and pull the extended leg back. Then inhale and extend the second leg while grabbing the shin of the first leg. Repeat the moves. This enhances endurance and builds that core.  

Double Leg Stretch

Basics: Lie flat on a mat, then raise your head and shoulders as you pull your knees to your chest with your hands. Let go, reaching back and up with your arms while moving your legs to a 45-degree angle. Follow that up with pulling your knees to your chest again and moving your hands back to holding your knees or shins. That's another one for the core and it helps with flexibility.    

Spine Stretch (Forward)

Basics: Sit on a mat with your legs extended in front of you a little wider than your shoulders. Exhale and lean forward slowly, deliberately, with your arms stretched forward. Keep leaning forward until you reach as far as you comfortably can. Then inhale, followed by an exhale as you lean back to the erect position. This exercise helps loosen the muscles of the back, shoulders, and hamstrings.    

One Leg Kick

Basics: Lie on a mat with your elbows propping you up. Pull your stomach in, rounding your back so your hips and abdomen are elevated somewhat. Bend one leg at the knee with a quick motion that propels your foot toward your buttock. Repeat. Return the leg to the original position. Perform the same motions with the other leg. Strengthens the lower back, upper body, and hamstrings. It also stretches the hips and quadriceps.          

woman kicking

Image via Pexels

Side Kick

Basics: Lie on your side with your legs on top of one another. Have your head elevated with one arm and hand. Kick forward with the top leg with toes pointed in the direction of the kick. Slowly pull the foot back to the original position. The torso should not move during the kick. Turn over and kick with the other leg. This is an exercise that improves your muscle tone in your legs and obliques.    

Swimming

Basics: Lie on the mat face down, with your arms extended forward. Inhale as you lift your arms, legs, head, and chest off the floor. With only your stomach and hips in contact with the mat, lower your left arm and right leg to the floor as you exhale. Inhale, raising the arm and leg. Exhale, lowering the right arm and left leg to the floor. Continue to alternate these motions. This Pilates exercise strengthens your back and gluteal muscles as well as your hamstrings.  

Seal

Basics: Sit on the mat. Bend your knees up toward your chest. Reach down inside your legs, placing your hands around the bottom of your heels. You are bent forward at this point. Holding your feet, rock backward and allow yourself to roll all the way to your neck. Then roll forward to the original position. This is considered a massage for your spine.

Conclusion

The Pilates exercise program is a comprehensive one. It promotes overall body conditioning with strength training that addresses muscle and bone, cardiovascular workouts which help our hearts and lungs, plus stretching elements that keep us limber as we grow older. These are not just for people who are out of shape. Many professional athletes use them to improve their conditioning in ways that their specific sports do not allow them to. 

The Pilates method helps them prevent serious injuries by preparing their bodies to better handle the rigors of the games they play. When you combine all that Pilates does for the physical body with its mental and spiritual benefits, you realize this is truly a lifestyle choice that can lead to a happier, healthier you.