Who knew that a method of rehabilitation for soldiers and dancers from decades ago would become such a popular exercise? Like many useful inventions – centrifugal pumps, computers, cars – it’s little wonder why; Pilates improves posture, flexibility, core strength, and balance as well as alleviates stress and tension. Of course, these benefits can only be enjoyed if the exercise is done right so here are 4 mistakes you may be making in your Pilates workout to watch out for.
Not Focusing on Your Breathing
Not focusing on your breathing during a workout limits the effectiveness of the exercises because it means tension in the body. Instead, you want to use a type of breathing called lateral thoracic breathing which is when you inhale into the sides of your rib cage rather than just the front of your chest.
Further, it’s important to coordinate your breath with movement, breathing deeply through your nose during the preparation phase of the exercise and exhaling fully through your mouth as you perform the movement. For example, inhaling as you prepare to lift your leg and exhaling as you lift the leg.
Forgetting to Stretch
Pilates is similar to any other exercise in that it’s a good idea to stretch first. Otherwise, there’s an increased risk of injury, tension, soreness, and even a limited range of motion.
To stretch properly:
- Focus on major muscle groups including legs, hips, back, shoulders, and neck
- Perform dynamic stretches by moving through a range of motion such as leg swings, arm circles, and spinal twists
- Add static stretches by holding a stretch for an extended time such as hamstring stretches, quad stretches, and spinal stretches
- Find a comfortable space where you can focus
Rushing Through the Exercises
Again, Pilates, like a lot of workouts, is more about quality than quantity, with emphasis on performing each move with precision and control.
To avoid rushing, try concentrating on each current movement and how your body feels performing it instead of thinking about what’s next. You can also try working out in front of a mirror so that you can stay aware of your body and movements. Then, if you feel like you’re rushing through an exercise, take a break or modify the exercise to make it easier for you to do it properly.
Not Engaging Your Core Muscles
Engaging your core muscles is essential for proper alignment and stability during Pilates exercises. When you don’t engage your core muscles, you risk putting unnecessary strain on your lower back, hips, and other parts of your body.
To engage your core, you can try:
- Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat
- Bring your attention to your lower belly where your deep abdominal muscles are
- Inhale deeply then exhale while gently drawing your lower belly in toward your spine
- Keep your abs engaged as you keep breathing by maintaining the connection between your lower belly and your spine. You should feel a gentle contraction
It’s important to keep in mind that while engaging your core is important, you don’t want to overexert yourself. If you find movements challenging, try simpler exercises, like pelvic tilts.
When done properly, Pilates has numerous benefits so be sure to focus on your breathing, stretching, slowing down, and engaging your core.