Pilates and planks have becoming super-popular over the last few years, and for good reason too! They give you a great workout and can be performed in a group, which is a great way to stay motivated and meet new people! So, what are they exactly, and what makes these exercises so good?
What is Pilates?
Contrary to popular belief there is more to Pilates than developing iron strong abs or a killer core. Pilates is an exercise system that focuses on stretching and strengthening the whole body to improve balance, muscle-strength, flexibility and posture. It was created by German-born Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s and incorporates elements of yoga, martial arts and Western forms of exercise.
Initially adopted by professional dancers in the US as an effective form of recovery after injury, Pilates has steadily grown in popularity around the world, and includes many famous followers including sports stars. A consistent program of Pilates exercises will reward you with a strong sense of centre and balance. Every workout will leave you feeling revitalized and moving with ease.
Many people do Pilates to tone their muscles, improve their posture and help them lose weight. Creating lean muscle mass, as Pilates does, is one of the best ways to increase your calorie burning potential.
Pilates increases your flexibility and mobility of the joints. Our lifestyles have radically decreased our bodies’ flexibility with the lack of movement and constant action of sitting in a car or at a desk. Pilates exercises work to release muscle tightness so don't give up, your flexibility will improve with time.
Pilates is a conditioning system for the whole body and for all systems in the body. It can help improve your lung capacity by teaching proper breathing and this in turn can improve your circulatory system. Pilates builds strength, endurance, and flexibility in the muscular system, which helps to restore balance to the skeletal system. Pilates can improve mental awareness of how you move your body and where your body is in space. Most importantly, Pilates practised correctly will overflow from your practice into your daily life. In essence, Pilates is a lifestyle centred on the desire and need to live a healthy life.
One of the most popular moves in Pilates is “The Pilates Plank”, a classic exercise used to strengthen and elongate arm and abdominal muscles. The Plank can be modified in many ways and is easy to do, making it an effective exercise for anyone, even if you don't practice Pilates you can still use this simple and effective exercise to increase core strength. We have a beginner plank for you to try below!
Instructions for the Plank
- Lie facedown on an exercise mat, legs extended, and place your elbows under your shoulders, resting your forearms on the ground, palms facing each other in loose fists.
- Curl your toes under and push up through your abdominal muscles onto the toes and balls of your feet, creating a straight line from the top of your head to your feet.
- Distribute your weight evenly between your forearms and feet. Keep your ab muscles engaged, lengthen your neck and relax your shoulders to keep your body stabilized.
- Extend your arms, pulling up onto your hands in a full plank, as you would if you were starting a push-up. Maintain the length of the spine.
- Hold plank for 10 to 20 seconds, working up to a minute as you improve.
So there you have it! Now you know enough about Planks and Pilates to get out there and give it a go for yourself – remember to take it easy on your first try and do your stretches!