Pilates exercises develop improved mind-body awareness while building greater strength in the abdomen, back, hips and shoulders. Designed originally to help rehabilitate soldiers recovering from injuries during World War II, the exercise system termed “Controlology” by its developer Joseph Pilates became a favorite workout of dancers and gymnasts. Performing just a 20-minute routine several times per week can help you achieve better posture, back health and overall power.
A 20-minute Pilates routine should include the fundamental exercises of Pilates. Begin with a light warm-up that includes total body movement such as marching and squats and some stretching for the neck, shoulders and back. A skilled practitioner will help you learn how to imprint the spine and to breathe to enhance the workout. Finish the warm-up with the exercise known as the “hundred.” A 20-minute routine might also feature roll-ups, the five-part ab series (single leg stretch, double leg stretch, single straight leg stretch, double straight leg stretch and the criss-cross) and a back exercise such as “swimming.” You will likely have time to also perform leg circles, the spine twist and leg kicks. Practice your 20-minute routine at least three times per week — more often if time permits.
These primary Pilates movements improve posture, core strength and flexibility. In just 20 minutes, you increase blood flow through the “hundred”; create mobility at the hip joint and stretch the hamstrings with leg circles and kicks; and increase spine strength, flexibility and mobility with the spine twist and swimming. Finally, the abdominal series and roll-ups strengthen all of the abdominal muscles, particularly the deep internal transverse abdominus, which is not usually addressed with traditional crunches.
In the past decade, Pilates popularity in the gym and studio setting has skyrocketed. Exercisers recognize the benefits to their everyday lives and athletic performance that a regular Pilates practice may provide. Pilates helps you move and hold your body properly, making you less vulnerable to injury. A 20-minute routine featuring the primary exercises helps tone your entire body without creating bulk. You will learn to better connect to how your body is feeling, which helps you function in daily life and in athletic endeavors. Movement becomes more graceful and effortless with improved coordination.
Pilates is a low-impact exercise and appropriate for all ages. Even if you only plan on doing Pilates 20 minutes a few days per week, it is best to seek guidance from a professional instructor to be sure your form is pristine. If you suffer from neck or shoulder problems, or have back issues such as excessive lordosis or scoliosis, it is critical you check with a medical professional before embarking on any Pilates exercise program.
A 20-minute Pilates session does not burn significant calories and will not, in itself, cause you to lose weight. Pilates helps you learn to move more gracefully and stand taller — providing the illusion of longer muscles and a leaner body. One Pilates session will not significantly strengthen your core and improve your back. You must commit yourself to a consistent practice to experience results. Some people believe, because you spend much of a Pilates routine supine, that the exercises are easy. If you perform the exercises correctly, however, you will find that even a modest 20-minute workout challenges and fatigues your core.
- American Council on Exercise: Pilates Primer
- The Pilates Body; Brooke Siler; 2000
- Better Health Channel: Pilates and Yoga - Health Benefits