10 Pilates Moves To Get Toned For Summer

Summer is just around the corner, the time to dig out the bikini is looming, so I recently enlisted the help of my wonderful friend Hayley from Project Revive to get me in shape for holiday season. Below, we share 10 easy-to-follow Pilates exercises that will tone and strengthen your body from head to toe. With a little extra attention to the tummy and the bum area, this is a real blaster for the body to get you looking and feeling great! Over to Hayley…

1. Toe Touch

Lie down on your back. Hold the ball up with long arms and keep it in line with your chest. Reach your right leg to the ceiling and lengthen your left leg along the floor (another option is to keep your left leg bent with your foot on the floor). Inhale to prepare and as your exhale press your low back and the back of your lower rib cage into the floor as you lift your head, neck and shoulders up off the floor, reaching the ball towards your foot. Slowly release your spine, shoulders, neck and head back down to the floor. Make sure to keep lengthening the back of your right knee to stretch out the hamstring. Here is a little helpful tip – as you lift up and reach the ball towards the toes do not bring the right leg closer to you. The movement comes from your upper body. This will prevent you from over recruiting from your hip flexors.

To advance this exercise lower the right leg down as your head and shoulders rest back down. Lift the right leg back up as you reach the ball back up towards the foot. For an extra punchy feeling, hold the ball towards the foot for some pulses. Yikes, that will blast the abs!

toe-touch

2. Single Leg Balance

Stand up tall and lean into your left leg. Hands are down by your side. Have a slight bend in your left knee as you lean into the foot. Float your right knee up in front of you. You are now balancing on your left leg. Take an inhale here, as you exhale reach your arms out in front of you, almost parallel to the floor, and at the same time lengthen your right leg back behind you. Keep the small bend in the left leg and keep lengthening the back of the right knee to the ceiling. Draw the arms and knee back in as you come back to the starting position and repeat without dropping the right leg. This is a great bum burner exercise!

To advance this exercise: hold the arms and leg out. Create the shape of the letter ‘T’ with your entire body. For another punchy feeling, come back to the starting position and pulse up and down on the left standing leg. Sink the thigh bone forward and back.

Repeat on opposite side.

single-leg-balance

3. Side Plank

Come onto your right hand side. Place your right hand onto the mat directly underneath your shoulder. Reach your legs away from your body. Ideally you want your left shoulder, hip, knee and ankle in one straight line. Your hip bones are evenly stacked. Draw your shoulders back, allowing your collarbone to open. Press down into your feet. As you apply pressure into the feet, press your right hand down into the floor and push the floor away from you. Lift the right side of your body up off the floor, keeping everything in line. Lengthen your top left arm to the ceiling. Use the leg muscles and the glutes to help you stay strong as you hold this.

To advance this exercise you can lift your top leg and hold it (as demonstrated by the super strong Louise).

Repeat on opposite side.

side-plank

4. Scissors 

Lie down on your back. Reach your finger tips down to your heels. Lengthen the back of your neck towards the mat . Lift your legs into a tabletop position. Reach one leg to the ceiling and one leg away from your hips at approx 45 degree angle or wherever feels good for you and your back. Swap the legs keeping your hips and pelvis happy. Repeat this whilst using your breath to help control the movement. Don’t go too low with the legs if you feel like the spine will be compromised. Listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

To advance the scissors; press the back of your rib cage into the mat and lift your head neck and shoulders, bringing your collar bone over your ribs. Allow your low back spread into the floor. Reach your arms forward without straining the neck. Good spinal flexion is needed for this advanced version.

scissors

5. Pilates Tricep Kickback

Come onto all fours. Allow the front of your rib cage lift to the spine. Do not let the head collapse. Draw the back of the neck to the ceiling. Hold the weight in your left hand. Press your right hand down into the floor and push the floor away from you. Keep the upper left arm tucked along the side of your ribs, your elbow will be pointing towards the ceiling. As your upper arm stays alongside the body, kick your fist with the weight up to the ceiling. Tense the upper arm as you do this to activate the top of the tricep muscle. Draw the fist back in towards the front of the shoulder and repeat. A helpful tip is to focus on keeping the upper arm still and close to the side of your rib cage as you disassociate at the elbow joint.

To advance this excersie: lengthen the opposite leg out to challenge your balance. Do not let the spine collapse. Remember to lift the front ribs to your spine.

pilates-tricep-kickback

6. Pilates Press Up

Come onto all fours. Allow the front of your rib cage lift to the spine. Do not let the head collapse. Draw the back of the neck to the ceiling. Reach your right leg back and press the ball of the foot into the floor. Push the floor away from you with both of your hands and lift out of your arm pits.  Send your left foot back and press the ball of the foot into the floor. You are in plank! Gently squeeze your glutes to support your lower back. Wrap the elbows back towards your ribs. As you send the elbows back, take a breath in and bend them backwards allowing your body to come down towards the mat. Exhale to push yourself back up. Really push the floor away from you as you come back up. Do not come down too low if your lower back is compromising. Listen to your body, you are your best teacher. Work to your own limits. To modify this exercise drop down onto your knees. Knees and feet will be side by side.

pilates-press-up

7. Lunge 

Stand on your mat. Step your left leg forward and plant all four corners of your foot down. Then step your right foot back and plant the ball of the foot into the floor with your heel lifted. Make the stance quite big. Drop your right thigh bone and knee towards the floor as your left knee bends. To help steady your pelvis and keep your lower back happy, draw your pubic bone up towards your navel. This will alter the shape of your pelvis. Inhale as you drop down into your lunge and exhale as you push back up. Here is a little helpful tip..as your drop into the lunge, imagine you are trying to drag the floor back with the left foot and at the same time draw your right knee towards the left heel.

To advance this exercise: sweep your arms over your head as you drop into the lunge. You can add some weights. Hold the lunge at the bottom with arms over your head and pulse it!

Repeat on opposite side.

pilates-lunge

8. Bridge

Lie down with your feet and knees hip distance apart. Remember that your hip bones are never as wide as you think they are which is good news! Relax your arms down by your side and reach your fingertips towards your heels. Lengthen the back of your neck towards the mat (you might feel like you have a few chins here but don’t worry that is all ok). Breath in through your nose and when you breath out through your mouth press down through all four corners of your feet. The heavier you press into the floor with your feet the lighter your hips and pelvis will become. As the hips become lighter you will notice how your hips and spine will lift away from the floor. You will often hear a pilates teacher say ‘peel’ your spine piece by piece off the floor. Though that has its benefits, recent research shows that in order to create space for the body and its joints, bring your focus to your thighs and reach your thighs and knees forward as you lift up. You might feel like your knees are reaching over your ankles and toes. This opens your hip flexors and helps to lengthen the front of your body, taking pressure off your lumbar spine. Breath in again at the top. Breath out and sink your chest, upper back, rib cage, stomach and hips back down onto the mat.

To advance the bridge;  add in some bent leg single leg work, or straighten the leg. Always ensure that your hip bones are nice and even.

pilates-bridge

9. C Curve

Sit up tall on your sit bones (the bony parts of the bum). Have your knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. Reach your arms out in front of you. Draw the shoulders back, finding space across your collar bone. Gently roll off your sit bones allowing your lower back to come into flexion (roundness). It’s easy to let the upper back lean back quite quickly here but try to avoid doing that and focus on moving from your pelvis and lower back area first. Look at the front of your rib cage and sink your front ribs towards your lower back. The space between your rib cage and your hips will shorten as your back lengthens. Your spine will eventually appear to be in the shape of the letter ‘C’. Take an inhale while you are down there, as you exhale, sink your rib cage down and ask your abdominals to work to pull you forward, reaching your forehead towards your knees and your fingers towards your toes. Once you are there, sit back up onto your sit bones, back to the starting position.

To advance this exercise: roll all the way down onto the floor, reach your arms over your head, take a deep inhale and then exhale and reach your arms back over your body and roll all the way back up using your abdominals to articulate the spine.

c-curve

10. Ab Crunch With Back Extension

Place the ball just below your shoulder blades at the centre of your spine. Rest on the ball with your feet and knees hip distance apart. Let your hips sink down into the mat. Bring your hands behind your head and reach your head back to the floor behind you. Stretch out the trunk of the body here. This is a beautiful back extension exercise. Breath in , as you exhale press the back of your rib cage into the ball and float up into flexion. Bring your collar bone over your ribs. Inhale as you return to the starting position and repeat.

To advance this exercise lengthen one leg away from you and lift the leg as you come into flexion. Lower the leg as you release your head back to the starting position and repeat.

ab-crunch-with-back-extension

Project Revive is a new, bright and airy Pilates studio in Ranelagh (above Urban Health on the triangle). Hayley (below, literally!) and Annie run weekly classes, and this Saturday April 22nd, they’re holding a Pilates workshop from 11am – 2pm in the White Room, Union Cafe, Mount Merrion. Join them for a great session of power Pilates and delicious food by Urban Health! Found out more info on their event page here, or Facebook page.

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