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Tuesday, May 26

Pilates for Core Strength

Until the mid 90’s the core conditioning routine that I had consisted of the typical sit up benches and military training I previously did. In an effort to expand my “toolbox” of knowledge, a Master trainer had a class certification available that included Mat, Chairs and Barrels, Reformer and the Cadillac. I was in a class with mainly women and few other guys. I stood out as the “bodybuilder” –“military bearing” posture body type upon assessment protocol.

When demonstrations were needed, looking back, it became obvious that my strength with larger muscles than my class mates, made some movements easy…but most other movements that required finesse, very difficult. To further “close me on the deal “ of Pilate’s certification, the master trainer promptly signed up with me to do some regular one on one session’s in the gym. He easily blew through the workout…with unreal total body strength. My little ego was challenged, but I signed up for the class. Several thousands of dollars later I can honestly say that Pilates is and was a very welcome add to my fitness education journey.

Many who have not experienced Pilates firsthand compare it to Yoga, and while there are some similarities with the mind-body connection, Pilates is a much more active exercise. While Yoga revolves around poses and stretching, Pilates truly relies on using your body weight for strength and conditioning moves that focus on, you guessed it, your core. Each movement is slow and controlled and will focus on the particular muscles of every part of your body. Most movements are compound in nature so that rather than focus on simply your biceps for example, an arm movement may incorporate the biceps, triceps, and shoulders as well. Some of the leg lifts, while incredibly simple in appearance, provide an amazing workout for your upper thigh and hip area, helping to further strengthen this often neglected area of your core.

There are two main types of Pilates you can choose to participate in. One is mat Pilates, which by far the most popular in which you use your body weight to move through graceful yet challenging movements to develop overall body and core strength. The other is on the Reformer, a machine with springs and pulley’s on a rolling bed supported by a rail like frame, which you use a to take you through a series of movements for shoulder and pelvic stabilizers . Both forms are incredibly challenging and provide a workout unlike any other. While performing Pilates, your body and mind can go into a meditative relaxed state because of the fluid and grace of the motions, but make no mistake, you are doing some serious exercise, and if you forget while you are doing it, your body will remind you the next day.

Because every movement in Pilates is slow, controlled, and requires steady breathing throughout, your abdominals and lower back will receive a fantastic workout. Many who try Pilates become hooked and notice immediate changes in both their strength and flexibility as well as the definition in their midsection. Originally, Pilates became a popular warm-up and stretching and strengthening tool for ballet dancers, but now, millions of people from all walks of life have taken up the practice of Pilates including martial artists, boxers, and even some of the top names in the sports of football and basketball.

One of the most beautiful things about practicing Pilates is that the gentle nature of the exercise makes it perfect for people of any age to practice. It is incredibly safe and will provide results for those ages 8 to 80, and even beyond. If core strength and development is what you are after, sit in on a Pilate’s class and discover what millions of others have: Pilates is one of the most effective core strengthening exercise programs ever developed. -Emile A. Jarreau

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