Pilates mat exercises strengthen your entire core, which includes the muscles of your abdominal wall and lower back. Choosing specific exercises to place particular emphasis on the powerful extensors that make up the arch of your back can improve their function and appearance. Incorporate at least one set of eight to 10 repetitions of these exercises into your existing strength training program for best results.
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Swimming--The Flutter Kick
For the flutter kick, lay face down on your mat with your arms extended out in front of you, thumbs up and palms facing each other. Your legs extend straight out behind you. Lift your upper and lower body off of the ground simultaneously so that you are balancing on your stomach and the front of your hips. Lift your right arm and left leg a little higher, pause, lower them back to their starting positions and then repeat on the other side using the left arm and right leg.
Swimming--Breast Stroke With Heel Beats
For this exercise, begin from a prone position, laying face down on the mat with arms and legs extended. Lift the upper and lower body off of the ground. During the breast stroke sweep your straight arms out and then in to your sides, pressing them tight to your body while clicking your heels together four times. Return to the starting position by reaching your straight arms forward again while clicking your heels together four more times.
The Swan Dive
In this exercise you will rock back and forth on your belly with your arms and legs extended off of the ground. Start by lying face down on the mat and then pushing just your chest off of the ground, then reach both arms out quickly into the air. As you rock forward, extend and lengthen your legs off the floor behind you. To rock back, reach your arms and head forward and up while contracting your back muscles.
Double Leg Kick
From a prone position face down on your mat, clasp your hands and let them rest palms up on the small of your back. Keeping your legs together, bend your knees and strongly kick both feet in towards your buttocks three times, then extend them straight out behind you, simultaneously lifting both your upper and lower body off of the ground. Pull back strongly with both hands to help lift your chest and pause for a moment before returning to the start position.
Leg Pull Prone
This exercise begins from a plank position, or the top of a push-up. Keep your hands under your shoulders and your elbows slightly bent. Pull your stomach muscles in toward your spine to stabilize your torso. Kick your straight right leg off of the ground as high as you can while keeping your hips level and toes pointing down, then return to plank. Repeat the leg pull on the other side.
- "The American College of Sports Medicines Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription"; ACSM; 2006
- "Pilates & Yoga"; Smith, Kelly and Monks; 2006