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What is Mat Pilates

author image Sha Buckines
Sha Buckines is a freelance writer, fitness and nutrition expert based in Atlanta. She has trained celebrity clients as well as business professionals since 2001. She obtained her B.S. in exercise science from Georgia State University, is American College of Sports Medicine certified and teaches group fitness classes.
What is Mat Pilates
Three people do core exercises on mats in pilates class. Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Adding new types of exercises and fitness classes to your workout program can keep you from getting bored and help you see continued progress. Exercises that focus on the mind-body connection help you get more centered and relieve stress. They also help you strengthen your body without the joint stress of exercises like running and weights. Mat Pilates is a type of mind-body exercise promising the regular participant a longer, leaner body. If you're an avid exerciser trying a class or adding a mat Pilates DVD to your exercise library, it could be a refreshing change to your workout.

Pilates History

Pilates was created by German-born fitness enthusiast, Joseph H. Pilates in the 1920s. Pilates developed a device and a series of exercises during World War I to help bedridden patients maintain body strength. These exercises are what we know today as Pilates mat and apparatus exercises. In 1926, Pilates and his wife moved to New York city to open a studio near the New York City Ballet. Pilates developed a following among dancers for his ability to rehabilitate them from injury and create long, lean bodies without added bulk. Though performed in studios and among the elite, mat Pilates exercise didn't gain widespread recognition until the 1990s.

Mat Pilates Equipment

The mat Pilates exercise routine is performed on the ground using an exercise mat. Over the years, mat Pilates exercise has evolved to include small pieces of equipment such as resistance rings, balls and bands. Traditional mat Pilates exercise is still performed with body weight alone. Even without added equipment, the workout is challenging and provides great toning benefits.

Pilates Breathing

The key to performing mat Pilates exercises well is to focus on breathing. Pilates mat exercises require you to perform belly instead of chest breathing. Your lungs expand and contract without too much movement in the chest. You can mimic Pilates exercise breathing by placing your hands around your lower torso and ribs. As you inhale, you can feel your ribs expand, filling your lungs with air. As you exhale, your ribs contract. This type of breathing stabilizes the spine and ensures that the abdominals are challenged correctly during mat Pilates exercise.

Mat Pilates Exercises

The exercises in mat Pilates focus on strengthening the muscles of the hips, back, abdominals, and glutes or what is known in Pilates as the powerhouse. The exercises look simple but require stabilization of the torso and focused effort to keep the abdominals contracted and working throughout the exercises. Popular exercises like the hundred strengthen the abdominals by holding a curled abdominal position while pumping the arms.

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