10 Essential Pilates Exercises for a Strong Core
Pilates is a fantastic type of exercise to strengthen the core. The core muscles include the abdominals, back, and pelvic floor, and are essential for good posture, balance and stability.
Pilates exercises can help improve core strength, flexibility and coordination while promoting relaxation and reducing stress. In this post, we'll cover 10 essential Pilates exercises that we use at Heal’r regularly.
This exercise works the core, back and shoulders. Begin with your feet shoulder width apart, resting on your elbows and lift your pelvis off the ground. Hold this position.
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Energise through your feet as you roll your pelvis up off the ground. Hold this position for 2 seconds and drop back down. Glute bridges are great for strengthening your gluteus maximus, an essential muscle for stability.
Put a resistance band just above your knees. Bend your knees slightly and take big steps sideways, as if you’re creeping around. Try to keep your hips and shoulders parallel to the ground at all times. This will strengthen your outer glutes, which are extremely important for stabilising your pelvis.
A classic exercise, and done in almost every workout for a reason. Squats are a fantastic core exercise. When performing a squat, similar to the crab walk, your hips and shoulders should be parallel to the ground at all times. If you suffer from knee pain, when squatting down try to imagine that you are sitting back in a chair, and stop your knees from shooting past your toes.
Lie on your back with your legs in tabletop position and your hands pointing straight towards the ceiling. Straighten one leg while you raise the alternate arm behind your ear. Don’t let your arm or your leg touch the ground. Bring them back to table top position and repeat with the other side. This will greatly improve your core stability, while also challenging your left and right coordination.
Bear Crawl Hold
This is a great exercise for full body strength, particularly the shoulders and core. Start in a four point kneeling position (hands under shoulders, knees under hips) while resting on your toes. Energise through your shoulders and core as you lift your knees a few centimetres off the ground. Hold this position for as long as you can. This exercise can be varied or progressed in many different ways, this is why it’s one of our favourites!
This exercise is very similar to the Dead Bug, but performed in a kneeling position. Start in a four point kneel and extend one leg behind you as you raise the alternate arm forwards. This can be progressed by adding a resistance band around your thighs. Alternatively it can be combined with the bear crawl hold (by lifting your knees off the ground) for an extremely challenging core exercise.
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your hands resting by your side. Perform a half crunch by lifting your shoulders off the ground, then hold this position. From here, reach to the side with one hand and try to touch the outside of your ankle on the same side. Then repeat on the other side. This exercise will challenge your obliques (outer abs) as well as your midsection. It’s very important to ensure that your neck stays relaxed throughout the exercise to reduce the risk of neck pain.
Lie on your stomach with your legs straight and your hands resting by your side (palms up). Exhale as you retract your shoulder blades and lift your ribs up from the ground. If you want to progress the exercise, you can also start to engage your glutes and lift your legs up from the ground. This exercise will help to hold you in an upright posture, and is great for people with lower back pain.
This one might sound too simplistic, but walking is a fantastic core exercise. When walking, your body utilises all of your core muscles to hold you upright and move you forward. To further enhance the effect, you can focus on engaging your core whilst walking, or walk carrying weights.
These are just a few examples on a very long list of great core exercises. If you want to learn more, a Pilates class would be a great way to expand your knowledge.