We all know how important it is to have a proper exercise routine. A healthy and balanced diet, while extremely necessary for a fit body, is not the only factor in achieving your desired fitness goals. Controlling your portions, eating fresh produce and refraining from sugars are obviously important but do not yield much if they are not accompanied by a proper workout routine. However, it’s difficult to figure out what kind of workout is best suited for an individual. Not everyone will have the same requirements and goals, and an individual-oriented approach helps you to get the best out of your routine. One way to figure this out is of course to join a gym and consult a trainer; but these options are, more often than not, really expensive and time consuming. Not everyone will have the time to go to the gym or even the finances to afford a membership.
This doesn’t mean that you give up on your fitness goals and accept defeat even before beginning. With a little bit of dedication and discipline, a home workout routine yields the same results as any premier gym membership. Home workout routines don’t require any heavy equipment and can be done according to your own convenience; this is exactly why they’re becoming so popular.
Pilates is a form of working out that mainly engages your body’s core muscles and help in building stronger, more sculpted muscles without any excess bulk formation. This form of exercise employees controlled movements of your body’s muscles and helps to improve strength, flexibility and your posture. There are two ways of doing Pilates- you can either do it with the help of gym equipment or on a mat. The mat method is easy and simple, it lets you practice Pilates at home without any hassle; the only thing you need is a good yoga mat and basic sportswear so that you’re comfortable while working out.
Pilates was actually invented by Joseph Pilates, a German fitness coach, in the 1920s. As a child, he was always very weak and sick, suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Battling these illnesses for a large part of his life, he was determined to make himself fit and increase his strength. Combining his father’s gymnastic exercises and the healing philosophy of his mother, Joseph came up with Pilates in the process of rehabilitating himself. He went on to become a successful boxer and gymnast, and also acquired skills in skiing and swimming.
Pilates exercises strengthen your core, back muscles, and increase muscle flexibility. Unlike other workout routines that leave you feeling sore, doing Pilates actually makes you feel energized because it increases core strength and takes off pressure from the back. The combination of breathing exercises and strength training exercises will leave you feeling invigorated. Pilates is also perfect for athletes and gymnasts for maintaining flexibility, or for anyone looking to increase their athleticism. It also helps to increase your focus; and the combined action of breathing and motion makes your mind and body attuned and connected to each other.
Lots of people tend to confuse Pilates with yoga due to the similarity in the movements and postures. The main difference between the two is that while yoga is primarily focused on relaxation and mental well-being, Pilates is more about toning your core. However, with the right instructor similar results can be achieved from both forms because of the similarity in the basic style. Both of them require you to be present and to use your entire body, and focus on each and every part of it.
Now that you know what Pilates is all about and why it’s so great, here are some routines for doing Pilates at home, at your own pace and without the hassles of a gym membership.
- The Glute Bridge
People have started opting for squats for toning their glutes or else they usually rely on heavyweights. While lifting heavy weights is important for building those strong muscles, using body weight moves will let you really focus on engaging and activating the right muscles. The Glute Bridge is possibly the best exercise to develop a strong, sexy and powerful butt. For this you need to bend your knees and put them flat on the ground, so that your fingertips can graze your heels. Bend your elbows to 90° and make sure that only your upper arms are touching the ground. After this, drive up your upper back as high as possible and lift your glutes off the ground. Hold this position for a few seconds, you should feel the pressure on your hamstrings and glutes and not on your lower back.
- Side lying leg circles
You need to start this exercise by first lying on the floor on your side. Keep your elbow right under your shoulder and stack up your legs, one on top of the other. You also have to keep your rib cage raised upwards to stabilize your core and raise the leg on top up to a few inches while you circle the foot. Make small circles with your leg in one direction for as many reps as you want to and then change the direction of rotation. Change to your other side and follow the same instructions, and remember to consciously control your breathing throughout to engage your core further. This exercise is great if you are aiming for leaner and stronger legs because it focuses on your lower body muscles.
For this exercise, you have to first lie on your stomach with your forehead facing down and your pubis anchored to the mat. Your inner thighs need to be held tightly together. Stretch your arms forward, keeping your palms down on the ground and your feet pointed. The final step is to lift your arms, legs, chest and head up at one go and hold that position. Keep your breathing normal as you alternate lifting your right arm and left leg, and vice versa, without having them come in contact with the mat. Do not be in a hurry to complete each rep, count slowly and lift yourself up higher with each progressive count, and also trying to hold it for longer. While Pilates is great for improving posture and body flexibility, exercises like these also help a lot in burning off calories!
- Single Leg Stretch
This might come as news to you, but Pilates, if done correctly, can actually help activate abs and it is way more effective than ab crunches. The Single Leg Stretch exercise is great if you’re looking to build some abs. You need to lie facing upward, and then lift your head and shoulders off the mat. While doing this, pull one knee into your chest, and keep a hand on either side of the shin. Rise the other leg at a 45° angle, keeping the toes pointed and the abs engaged. Inhale, then exhale as you hold this position and then repeat the same process with your other leg. You can also try the Double Leg Stretch, in which you basically have to get to the initial position of the Single Leg Stretch, and then lift both legs at a 90° angle and hold them together. Your arms should also be stretched slightly above your head and next to your ears.
- Side Plank
This exercise is great for improving your balance, shoulder strength and lateral torso control, but it can be slightly difficult for beginners. If done incorrectly, it could lead to shoulder pain and injuries, so I’d advise you to try it once you’ve settled into your Pilates routine and your body is prepared for it, and not at the very beginning. Start with being seated on the right hip and keep knees slightly bent apart. Keep the weight on the right arm, with fingers pointing away from the body. Make sure that the elbow is bent and the shoulder is pulling away downward from the ear. Deeply inhale and pull down under the shoulder to lift the rib cage, hips and thighs off the mat. Use the other arm for support by lifting it upwards in a T formation. Keep your pelvic floor engaged for torso stability. Activate the muscles of the supporting leg to help lift the hip higher. Hold your position and breathe; bend the elbow and pull the shoulder down first before you begin to lower your hip to the mat.
Suggested read: How to Be Fit and Fab with the Right Pilates Clothes and Gears
So, now you know that Pilates at home is not rocket science. All you need is a mat and the willpower to stick to your routine. Initially, you might be tempted to skip a few days in the beginning but that will only hamper your growth because your body needs to be accustomed to the movements before you can move on to more complex exercises. Pilates is great for weight loss as well, and also perfect if you’re just looking to improve your body fitness a little.