Whether you're looking for a new type of exercise or you just want to add some variety to your existing workout plan, Pilates exercises offer numerous benefits. In particular, they can help to lengthen and loosen your muscles, improving flexibility and core strength. Pilates exercises are generally simple, and most don't require any equipment, using only your own body weight as resistance.
Try the Ab Prep
The ab prep is one of the most effective Pilates exercises for the abdominal muscles, helping to lengthen and tone your midriff. Lie on your back, legs bent, feet flat on the floor and arms extended down at your sides. Engage your core by tucking in your lower abdomen, then slowly curl your head and shoulders up off the mat. Hold for a moment, then lower yourself back down to your starting position.
Form a Bridge
The bridge exercise targets the lower body, primarily the butt and thighs. It also helps you strengthen your core. Lie flat on your back on the floor, your legs bent, feet about hip-width apart and flat on the floor. Position your arms straight down at your sides. Keeping the rest of your body rigid, lift your hips toward the ceiling, forming a straight line from your ribs to your knees. Hold for one count before returning to your original position.
Pretty as a Swan
To lengthen your abdominal muscles and glutes, try the swan exercise. Lie face down on the floor, forming a straight line with your body, toes pointed away from you, palms flat down on the floor next to your shoulders. Raise your torso up off the floor, resting your weight on your hands, arching your back and looking up. Hold in place, then return to your original position.
Serve Up Some Length
To lengthen the muscles in your arms, including the biceps and triceps muscles in your upper arms, the serving tray is an effective Pilates exercise to try. Stand straight up, arms bent on a 90-degree angle, palms flat and turned up. Engage your core and extend your arms straight in front of you, keeping your palms up. Slowly draw your arms back in, returning them to their starting position.
Maximize the Lengthening Benefits
To maximize the benefits of your Pilates workouts, complete a single set of 15 to 20 reps of each exercise, fitting your workout in at least three to four times a week. Also, always include at least five to 10 minutes of stretching afterward. Even though most Pilates exercises are already stretching the body, this additional time spent stretching will give your body time to cool down after your workout and enhance the results of the exercises. Stick to static stretches, which are most effective post-workout.