At some point or other in our lives, many of us fall prey to poor posture and forget to put time and energy into strengthening our core. We're constantly on our iPhones, slumped over at our desks, or sitting on a couch at a coffee shop with a laptop on our laps. With a modern world that lends itself to constant hunching, working on strengthening our core is the key to improved confidence, overall strength, and injury prevention.
Pilates has been around since founder Joseph Pilates invented it in the early 1900s. He brought his tried and true method to the States in the early 1920s, and people quickly fell in love with it as an injury-prevention method.
The cornerstone of Pilates has to do with controlling our core movements. A strong core means a strong back, which leads to fewer injuries. As we strengthen our core, our posture improves as a result—because our core is directly related to the health of our spine. Joseph used to say, “You’re only as young as your spine is flexible."
Practice these Pilates moves regularly and you’ll have a stronger core and infinitely better posture. When you sit and stand taller, you have access to your core power, and you'll find that you're more centered, productive, focused, and you'll have a longer, leaner body to show for it.
Start with the 100s
Lie on your back, extend your legs out at a forty-five degree angle with the heels together and toes turned out. Lift your head and neck, extend your arms forward, and pump the arms up and down, five times on an inhalation and five times on an exhalation. Repeat pressing the arms up and down 10 times for 100 hundred pumps. This is great for developing strength in the transverse abdominals.
Next, lie flat with your arms overhead and legs extended out in front of you. Inhale as you roll yourself up off the mat using the abdominals. Exhale, curl over the legs, and scoop the abs in and up. Slowly roll down with control, one vertebrae at a time, until your reach the mat. Repeat this 6-8 times. This is such an effective move for strengthening the entire core region and stretching out the back and shoulders.
Spine stretch forward
Sit nice and tall as you lift out of your lower back. Extend your arms in front of you like Frankenstein, scoop your belly in and up, and round over an imaginary beach ball. Inhale back up to sit tall. Repeat this 3-4 times.
This move helps us practice using our abs to sit up nice and tall. Keep the front ribs relaxed when you’re upright with your shoulders soft. Keep engaging the pelvic floor and lower abdominals.
From an upright position, extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Twist to your right and imagine sawing off your pinky toe with your right pinky finger as you extend your left arm back behind you and twist deeper. Inhale up to sit, and exhale to the opposite side. Repeat the saw to each side 4-6 times.
Finish with a glute and hip strengthener. Lie on your side with your knees bent. Open and close the top leg, working the outer hips and glutes and concentrating on your turnout while also keeping the abdominals engaged. Repeat 20 times, then switch sides. This is a good one to do while watching TV at night or surfing the web. Our hips and glutes are important for keeping us upright; and weak or tight hips can cause lower back pain and weakness.
Try these moves three to four times per week, and check in throughout the day and notice when you’re slouching or rounding forward. Soon enough, you'll have your strongest core ever.
Want more advice on how to strengthen your core? Here are five moves from Reiki master and barre instructor Kelsey Patel.