People often say to me - "how often should I be doing Pilates" and I recommend two classes per week if you really want to create a fantastic, toned physique, develop your Pilates technique and create a flowing routine.
BEGINNER'S PILATES CLASSES
Beginner's Pilates classes teach you how to do the basic exercises correctly and safely and this where balance, coordination, control and breathing are learnt:-
The Principles of Pilates:
You really don't need to do more than one class per week as a beginner because you will be rapidly building strength, learning the exercises and technique or the Pilates Method. There is no flow or transition from one exercise to another in a beginner's class because you are still learning to balance and co-ordinate your limbs. Pilates is hard work for those new to it because it is demanding on the body and you do have to take breaks or pause between each exercise to collect your thoughts and breath.
PILATES FAMOUS QUOTE
"In ten lessons you will feel the difference in your body
In twenty lessons you will see the difference and in
Thirty lessons you will have a whole new body"
It is around the ten lesson point that the exercises become slightly easier because you know what to expect, you start seeing results, you are getting used to the class and the teacher and you are probably enthusiastic to do and learn more.
You can decide to do two classes per week and your Pilates technique, skills and strength will continue to develop. Your routine will begin to flow or transition from one exercise to another.
However, If you continue at just one lesson a week you probably 'plateau' after a few months and then your lessons will be maintenance.
INTERMEDIATE PILATES CLASSES
At my classes I cater for all levels from beginners to advanced by 'layering' the exercises up or down to suit abilities. Some Pilates exercises are harder, more complex and challenging than others. The beginner's exercises such as The 100, Shoulder Bridge, Spine Twist, Lying Side Raises, Swimming and Single Leg Circles can all be adapted to intermediate and advanced by adding more repetitions or variations.
WHAT IF YOU CAN'T GET TO YOUR PILATES CLASS?
Well, here is a solution:
FIVE SIMPLE BUT EFFECTIVE EXERCISES TO DO BETWEEN CLASSES:
1). TOE TAPS:
This is great exercise for working your core and you can do it with a ball in the base of your spine or just flat on the mat.
Start by on your back on your mat, make sure that your spine is in neutral (slight gap under the arch of you back and the mat) and you can do this by sliding your hands under your back and feel for the gap. Keep both legs flat on the mat, shoulders flat and arms to the side of the body. Then bend both legs at the knees, hip distance apart, (think of your legs bent over a coffee table), then take your right toe and foot down to the mat for eight counts, then take your knee back over your hip but still keep the left knee over the hip. Then do the same with the other leg. Think of your toe being put into hot water so you just tap the mat with your toe and bring it back up level with your knee.
Perform eight times with eight counts on each leg.
2). THE CURL UP/ROLL UP
This is a great exercise for strengthening the Powerhouse (core) while lengthening the spine and legs.
Start by lying on your back with legs flat, hip distance apart and feet pointed. Start by raising your arms over your head and reach them away from from your feet. Make sure that you have not arched your back so that your ribs pop up and create a 'chicken carcass'. To stop this happening try to push your ribs down and concentrate on keeping the Powerhouse engaged. Inhale and bring your straight arms over the shoulders until they are level with the floor and still flexing the ankles. Still working the Powerhouse, bring your chin to your chest and exhale slowly as you roll your spine off the mat - one vertebrae at a time. Still maintaining the Powerhouse, continue into the Roll Up. The goal is to reach the toes but still keeping the knees and legs flat to the mat. The temptation is to bring the knees and legs up to assist with the Roll Up but then the power is being transferred to the legs.
Next is to reverse the exercise by rolling back - one vertebrae at a time - and inhale as you roll back onto the mat. You should point your toes as you roll down. Take your arms back over your head as you roll back.
If the Roll Up is too difficult at first you can just try lifting your head and shoulders off the floor whilst raising your arms up and then bringing your head back to the mat.
Perform this six times.
3). ROLLING LIKE A BALL
This exercise massages the spine, builds and strengthens the Powerhouse, develops your sense of balance and works the lungs.
Start in the sitting position and place your hands on the floor next to your hips. Bring your buttocks close to the back of your ankles as you bend your knees. Next, take hold of your ankles and gently lift your feet off the floor. At this point you may begin to wobble so switch on your Powerhouse and try to balance on the bones in your buttocks. Still try to keep your lower back steady, curve your upper back and bring your chin into your chest, trying to get your head between your knees. Next, draw your thighs against your chest. Continue to work and pull in your Powerhouse as you inhale and roll backwards towards the mat, with control. Unroll the length of your spine but keep your neck off the floor as you exhale. Still keeping your Powerhouse pulled in, roll back up to the original position.
Perform this six times.
If you have neck, shoulder, back or hip problems take care or leave this exercise out of your routine.
4). SINGLE LEG CIRCLES
This exercise works the legs, hips, lower back and the Powerhouse (core)
Start by lying on the floor or mat, raise your right leg to the ceiling with your toes pointed or to make it more challenging - turn your toes out from your hip. Keep the left ankle flexed or extended and the left leg flat on the floor. Start to exhale as you bring your right leg across your left leg until it is parallel to the floor. This will bring your right hip off the mat but keep both shoulders on the mat, square and away from you ears. When your right leg passes over your left leg, begin to inhale, Keeping your Powerhouse in, circle your leg back up to the starting position.
Another variation is too keep the knees bent in the 'Coffee Table position and just circle the knee through the hip or keep the hip flat to the floor as you circle the leg across the body. If you have hip problems then try with the knees bent and progress to the flat hip version.
If you have hip or lower back problems then keep the range of motion small.
5). SHOULDER BRIDGE
A great exercise to strengthen the legs, hips, buttocks and back whilst opening the chest and hip flexors.
Start by lying on your back, bend your knees and bring your feet nearer your bottom, keeping your feet flat. Keep your arms extended alongside your body with your shoulders flat to the mat, away from your ears. Inhale as you gradually drive your hips up towards the ceiling and exhale and you drop your pelvis down towards the mat. Don't forget to squeeze your buttocks at the top of the move, keep your hips lifted, even and stable at all times. Keep your chest lifted and open. Remember to keep your chin off your chest.
If you are new to Shoulder Bridge you can just put your hands on your hips in the bent knee position and just rock your pelvis backwards and forwards. These are called Pelvic Tilts are a great alternative to the Bridge for those who suffer from lower back pain.
Once you have the idea of how the Bridge works you can start by slowly rolling your hips forwards towards you so that there is a dip between your ribs and hips where the navel is. Imagine you are stacking your vertebrae off the floor one at a time. When you reach as far as you can go gradually stretch upward so that you can feel your hip flexors start to pull. Then gradually roll down, one vertebrae at a time, tipping your pelvis towards the navel until you reach the mat and create Neutral Spine. Don't forget to breathe as you roll up into the Bridge and exhale as you roll down.
Repeat six times