5 Pilates Tips to Improve your Workout

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Here are 5 Pilates tips that will improve your workout.

It's almost the end of January, and we are still seeing a steady stream of new clients coming into Real Pilates. Since I see so many newbies taking classes and privates, I thought I would give everybody five easy ways to improve your Pilates workout.

1. Don't press your lower back down constantly.

I know, you hear the words "scoop your belly" or "navel to spine" and it seems like you should be flattening your lower back all of the time.

Not true!

Your spine has a natural curve, and the lumbar vertebrae are built to curve slightly forward, towards your navel. So when we Pilates teachers say "pull you navel to your spine," we mean for you to keep that natural curve and just pull your abs closer to your spine - not flatten your curves!

2. Breathe consciously and often.

Most people I know tend hold their breath when exercising. This actually makes things harder instead of easier, and can put you more at risk for injury. Your ribs, which comprise a full half of your spine, move along with your breath. Your abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm and ribs to take full breaths, and I view breathing as a primary, basic abdominal exercise.

Since Pilates helps with spine mobility and abdominal strength, the breathing part is crucially important to the system as a whole.

If the prescribed breathing pattern doesn't work for you, ignore it and just breathe.

3. Keep it simple.

Most good Pilates teachers will offer several versions of an exercise, each a little more complex than the last. If the basic exercise is ridiculously hard, don't move on until the basic version feels do-able. Doing too much too soon can cause injury.

4. Work your back.

If you went by how people tend to characterize Pilates, you would think it is all abs and no back work.

Not so!

Joseph Pilates knew that all of the muscles in the body need strength. A weak back is just as bad as a weak front, and puts you at risk for injury.

5. Work your butt.

I see so many folks who have extremely weak gluteal muscles (butt muscles). Our glutes help to extend our hips (so important for proper gait in walking), support our legs, and keep our lower backs stable.

Use them! If your hamstrings always cramp when you bridge, for example, I guarantee that you are using your legs too much and not your glutes.

Keep these tips in mind during your next Pilates class, and you will have a more efficient and effective workout.