Teaching Pilates classes five days a week, I’ve met a lot of people with different alignments, levels of flexibility, and strength. Learning the general Pilates “flow” is essential as each exercise prepares you for the next, more challenging one. Pilates will never be easy! Once you master one exercise, there are countless others to further challenge you!
Pilates can do wonders for your flexibility! Keeping your body flexible can help you reach your optimum fitness level and may play a role in injury prevention. When muscles are less sore, working out is easier and more enjoyable.
How flexible do you need to be? Not as much as you might think! The general rule is that you need to be as flexible as your age and lifestyle dictate. (Of course, if backbend or splits is not your fitness goal)
There are a number of exercises that you may practice regularly to improve your flexibility. The following is one of my favorites that will help you both test and improve your flexibility.
- Kneeling stretch (Hips Shift)
Test how flexible your hips are.
How to do it:
- On a soft surface, get to the all-fours position (kneeling position with your spine parallel to the floor, your hips on top of your knees, your shoulders on top of your hands)
- Spread your knees as wide as is comfortable while maintaining your shins parallel and back flat.
- Push your buttocks back toward the floor like you’re trying to sit back onto your hips.
- Hold for two breaths. Return to the starting position and repeat for approximately 10 repetitions. See if you can sit deeper with each repetition.
You need to improve flexibility if:
- You can’t get your knees wide enough to do the stretch at all.
- Your hips are barely moving when you try to sit back the first time, and you hardly make any progress after the tenth time.
What causes this:
- Your lifestyle is too sedentary.
- You lack hip mobility.
- You have a tendency to activate your quadriceps while decreasing activation of your glutes during workouts (example: improper squat technique with a tendency to lean forward when squatting.)
Move more and move in different ways. If you’re sedentary, just walking more will help. If you’re a regular at the gym but struggle with flexibility, add in exercises you don’t normally do.
Pilates exercises that will help:
Mat: kneeling hip flexor stretch, butterfly stretch, straddle stretch, single leg stretch and etc.
Reformer: lunges, feet in straps, stomach massage, and etc.