Side Bend and Side Bend Prep
Side Bend is such a beautiful exercise. It looks elegant and graceful all while strengthening your obliques, inner thighs and more!
For both exercises, start seated on one hip, facing the side. Your legs will be bent with your top foot right in front of the bottom leg’s ankle. Bottom arm will support the body, but make sure you are not sinking into that shoulder. You should feel as if you are lifting up away from the mat before you even start. Your top arm should be reaching to the side, palm up.
For the Prep, inhale and lift your hip off the mat by putting weight into your bottom knee. Squeeze your buns and push them forward as you lift up. As you do this, reach your top arm over your head. On your exhale, control the return of your hip to the mat so that you are not flopping back down. Lower your arm to the side.
For the full Side Bend, instead of keeping your bottom knee down, on your inhale, squeeze your legs together and lift up into a side plank but reach up and over your head allowing your body to bend to the side making an arc shape with your body. On your exhale, control your return to the mat into your starting position and bring your arm back to the side.
Perform 3-5 repetitions on each side.
The Seal is a fun exercise! Much like Rolling Like a Ball, you will strengthen your abdominals and give yourself a back massage. Who doesn’t want that? The thing that makes Seal fun, is that you tap your feet together like a seal as you roll back and forth.
To begin, start in a seated position with your weight behind your sit bones and your spine in a C curve. Legs will be bent with your knees apart and your feet together. Your arms will go through your legs and support your feet on the outside of your ankles.
On your inhale, begin to roll back to just the shoulder blades (never roll on to the neck) and tap your feet three times. Keeping the shape in your spine, exhale and roll back to your starting position and balance. While balancing, tap your feet together three more times.
Perform 8-10 repetitions.
Leg Pull Front & Preps
More planks! The Leg Pull Front Preps are great for getting strength for planks because the Leg Pull Front exercise is a plank with movement. It’s a full body exercise!
All of these exercises begin on your hands and knees. Your hands should be under your shoulders and your knees under your hips with your toes tucked under. Legs should be together. Your back should be flat with your abs pulling up to your spine. Shoulders should be stabilized by pulling them down and back.
For the first prep, you will inhale before you move, and on your exhale you will pick your knees up off the mat. The knees should only come off the mat an inch or two. Hold the knees up for the length of your exhale, then place them down as you inhale. You could also lengthen the time you hold your knees up by inhaling and hold the knees up, then exhaling and placing them down. Repeat this 5-10 times.
For the second prep, you will also inhale before you begin, and on your exhale you will pick your knees up off the mat just an inch or two again. Hold this for your inhale. On your next exhale, lift one leg up off the mat without letting anything change in your back or hips. On your inhale, place that leg down but keep the knees up. Repeat this for the other leg. Perform 3-6 repetitions on both legs.
For the full Leg Pull Front exercise, you will begin in a full plank exercise on your hands and feet with your legs straight and together. On your inhale, lift one leg up off the mat with a pointed foot. On your exhale, flex both feet and shift your weight back towards your feet. On your inhale, point your feet and shift your weight towards your hands. On your exhale, lower the lifted leg back to the mat. Repeat this with the other leg. Perform 3-6 repetitions on both legs.
Swimming is a good exercise for strengthening the whole back side of your body. Who doesn’t want that?
Start by lying on your stomach with your arms and legs extended. Arms will be shoulder distance apart and legs will be hip distance apart. Pull your abdominals up away from the mat and squeeze your buns. Keep your shoulders pulled down away from your ears.
Before you begin take a breath in. On your exhale, lift your arms and legs up off the mat. Keep your head in line with your spine and look down at your mat. Your next inhale will be for 5 counts as you paddle your arms and legs gently as if swimming. Then, exhale for 5 counts and continue to paddle.
Perform 3-5 sets of inhales and exhales.
This can be a really fun exercise if you get the hang of it. You’ll have to practice the preps first, then when you’re ready, you’ll enjoy Swan Dive!
Start by lying on your stomach with your legs straight behind you. Feet should be apart with toes pointed and turn your legs so that your big toe is on the mat and the little toe isn’t. Arms will be bent by your sides with your palms down by your shoulders.
For the first prep, begin by inhaling and lifting the upper body off the mat. You can press into your arms a little to lift up but try to use your back and your abs more than your arms. You’ll need to squeeze your buns and press your hips into the mat. Keep your head in line with your spine so you won’t want to lift with your chin and bend your neck. Look straight ahead. Make sure you slide your shoulders down your back as you lift. Then, on your exhale, lower your body back to the mat.
The second prep starts the same way by lifting the upper body off the mat on the inhale, but when you exhale and lower back to the mat, keep squeezing your buns and lift your legs as your upper body lowers. So, you are trying to keep that arc shape in your back as your upper body lowers to the mat. On your next inhale, you’ll lift your upper body up again and lower the legs. It creates this slow rocking motion. When you want to finish, just exhale and lower your upper body to the mat without lifting your legs.
The third prep has a “rock & catch” that takes practice and coordination to master. It starts the same as the preps, and it is the same as the second prep in that as you lower your upper body you will keep the shape in your back and lift your legs. However, as you lower, your arms will reach out in front of you briefly and then you will bring them back to “catch” you as you lift your upper body back up. It gets better with practice so don’t give up!
Choose the prep that is best for you and perform 5-8 repetitions.
Teaser Preps and Teaser 1
The Teaser is a famous Pilates exercise probably because it is so hard to do correctly! I’ve broken it down and will be explaining how to do it in stages so if you aren’t strong enough to do the full exercise, you can practice the preps and get stronger.
The best way to do the Teaser if you have never done it before is to do it with your feet on the mat. So start lying on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the mat. Your arms will be lifted up over your head, but keep your shoulders stabilized by pulling them down out of your ears. Also, it is easy to let the ribs pop here, so keep them pulled down as well. It also helps if you are slightly squeezing your legs together.
On your inhale, start to reach your arms to the ceiling and nod your chin. On your exhale, reach for your feet and try to sit up. You won’t end up sitting tall on your sit bones; you’ll be just behind them. Inhale and bring your arms back by your ears. Exhale and roll back down to the mat with control.
Now, the next step in this progression would be to do this same thing with one or both legs in table top. You could start with holding one leg up and doing a few repetitions on each side. If that seems easy then try both legs in table top. The next step in the progression would be to roll up with the legs in table top, and then extend the legs after you are all the way up. Then you would bend the knees again before your rolled back down.
The Teaser 1 exercise is performing the exercise with the legs lifted off the mat and straight at a diagonal. You want to hold them in a place where you can maintain your back against the mat. Otherwise, the exercise is performed just as the preps. You could change it to a 2 breath exercise where you inhale all the way up and exhale all the way down. This will also make the exercise more challenging.
Pick the version of the exercise that you can perform with the best form and complete 3-5 repetitions.
Spine Stretch Forward
This isn’t what it looks like! If you were not watching this closely, you would think this is a seated hamstring stretch. While your hamstrings are getting some stretch, this exercise is actually great for strengthening the abdominals!
Start by sitting tall on your sit bones as if your back was against a wall. Your legs will be straight and about hip distance apart (if you can sit tall with them straight, otherwise bend them a little), and your arms will be resting inside or outside of your legs – whichever is more comfortable for you.
Start with an inhale holding your starting position. On your exhale, nod your chin and start to peel your spine away from that imaginary wall you are sitting against. You don’t want to lean your body forward over your legs; you want to flex your spine and bend “up and over” as if rounding over a beach ball. Keep your abdominal muscles pull in the whole time! On your inhale, just hold this flexed forward position. On the next exhale, slowly start to sit up tall again as if you were placing your spine against that imaginary wall one vertebra at a time.
Perform 3-5 repetitions.
Side Leg Lift Series
This is a fun group of exercises. There are 5 exercises that you will perform lying on your side before switching to the other side. These are great for inner thigh and core work.
Your starting position is lying on your side with your legs together and straight in a long line. Your bottom foot can be flexed a little to help you balance on your side. Your bottom arm will also be straight with your palm down and you will rest your head on it. Top arm will be in front of you with finger tips on the mat for stability. Pull up the abdominal muscles to engage them for stability.
- The first exercise you will inhale and lift your top leg with pointed toes. On your exhale, flex your foot and squeeze your leg down to the other leg. Really use your inner thighs here to squeeze the legs together. Perform 5-10 repetitions.
- The second exercise is leg circles. Start by inhaling and lifting your top leg to about hip height. Then, exhale and circle the top leg and finish the circle with your inhale. These circles are not big! You want to maintain stability in your torso. Perform 5-10 circles in each direction on each leg.
- The third exercise is called Staggered Legs. On your inhale, lift your top leg to hip height. On your exhale, squeeze the bottom leg up to meet the top leg. Then, lower both legs together. Perform 5-10 repetitions on each side.
- The fourth exercise is lifting both legs together. Before you move, inhale. On your exhale, keep the legs squeezing together and lift them off the mat. Inhale and lower the legs. Perform 5-10 repetitions on each side.
- The last exercise is the same as the fourth exercise except you will also try to lift your upper body off the mat, making a banana shape with your body. Begin by taking a breath in. On your exhale, keep your legs squeezing together and lift them off the mat as you lift the upper body off the mat. The top arm is reaching down the side of your legs and the bottom arm is sliding palm down along the mat. On your next inhale, lower your body to the mat. Perform 5-10 repetitions on each side.
Usually you would perform all five exercises on one side and then switch to the other side.
Side Kick is more challenging than it looks! You have to keep your body still while balancing on your side and your leg is swinging forward and back. It takes tons of core control!
Start by lying on your side. Legs should be straight but angled slightly ahead of you so you are in the shape of a hockey stick. Feet should be flexed. Your bottom arm will be straight, palm down and your head will be resting on it. Your top arm should be in front of your body with finger tips on the mat to help stabilize. Make sure you pull your abs in for support. Lift your top leg so it is hip height.
On your inhale, bring your top leg in front of you and pulse twice with your breath keeping your body still and stationary.
On your exhale, take your top leg behind you, but not so far the your ribs pop forward and your back bends. You torso should stay still and stationary. As you take your leg back, squeeze your buns and point your toes.
Perform 8-10 repetitions on each side.
Obliques Roll Back
This is one of my favorite exercises because it works your abs, it feels good, and it is fun to do!
Start by sitting tall with your legs about hip distance apart and knees bent. Reach your arms over you legs, keeping your shoulders down and back.
Before you move, inhale. On your exhale, pull you belly in and tilt your pelvis back and roll half way back away from your legs. At the same time, rotate your shoulders to one side and reach the arm on that side down and back as if reaching to the back corner of the room.
As you inhale, keep your abs pulled in as you rotate back to center coming back to your sitting tall position while you bring your arm forward.
Repeat on the other side.
Perform 3-5 repetitions in each direction.