Pilates exercises are gentle on the joints and spine, and really effective when it comes to strengthening and toning those feminine areas that tend to need a little more focused attention to keep in shape. Try these five, and incorporate your favourites into your exercise routine!
All you’ll need to do these exercises is motivation and an exercise mat! Focus on your abs throughout the sequence, imagining that you have a corset on, pulling your abs in towards the midline as if you were tightening that corset.
The leg lift works on your love handles beautifully, and it’s great for toning them, and eliminating a muffin top completely. Your hamstrings will get a workout, as will your quads, abs, glutes and obliques!
To do the standing leg lift, stand with your legs together, then shift your weight to one leg. Put your other leg out towards the back a little. With your arms vertical, out in front of you, soften the front knee. Lift your back leg off the ground, holding it up and then flexing your foot in short burst. Do this for one minute, then change to the other leg.
This is classed as an advanced exercise, but most able-bodied people who have exercised recently shouldn’t have a problem with it! It’ll work your abs and your glutes.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Breathe deeply for a moment, and lightly press the backs of your arms into the mat. Bring your knees up to your chest, and roll your hips up and off the mat, so you’re in an upside down ball! Your weight should be on your shoulders. Put your elbows down and your hands on your mid-back for stability.
Now the exercise starts. So imagine there is a vertical line between your legs, running from the floor to the ceiling. From that line, separate the legs: one moving towards your head, and the other towards the back of your body. Once they have travelled apart an equal distance each, exhale twice, gently bouncing the legs apart just a little more, then have them change places, with the other leg moving towards your head or to the back of your body. Do this for two minutes, then slowly come down and rest on your mat, one vertebra at a time.
Start this exercise by lying on your side (see image below). Align your body with the edge of the mat. Draw your abs in and up, and keep your spine long, supporting head on your elbow and your other hand on the mat in front of you. Now lift both legs up and place them slightly forward. Next, lift the top heel up to hip height, then kick it forward twice, with the heel flexed. Kick, kick. Then point the toe and reach that same leg behind you, kicking once. Keep going with these little kicks. Twice to the front, once to the back. Keep breathing. Inhale to the front and exhale to the back if you like. Do a couple of minutes on each side, taking breaks where necessary.
Sit on your bottom with your legs bent and slightly out to one side, stacking them underneath you as well as possible, while keeping your hips and shoulders square (see the image below). Open up your arms to the sides, then start leaning over to the left, putting your left arm on the mat and stretching the other arm up as you inhale. Lift the underside of your waist as you do this to give more of a stretch on the upper side. Now come back up, and do a little counter stretch on the other side, raising the left arm as you exhale. Repeat three times.
Repeat on the other side three times.
For best results…
…do these exercises every day, or every other day. Try doing them for a month and seeing how you go. If you feel like you want to get a better feel for how to do the exercises really well, but can’t afford to go to a local studio for classes, or simply don’t have the time, try looking for videos of each exercise online. The most critical part of Pilates is how you use your core, and most teachers with videos online explain this really well.