Whether your favorite activity is golf or running, bowling or softball, no matter your skill level, strengthening your core can greatly improve your game. One way to improve core strength (or the strength of your abdominals, low back, gluteals, and hips) is with pilates.
Pilates is an exercise program that can increase your strength, range of motion, flexibility and posture; and decrease back, neck and joint pain. Considering 60-80% of us will experience low back pain at some point, we all need to work at improving our core strength.
Over the next few months, I'll be instructing you in a three part Pilates series. This month's move: The Chest Lift.
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Make sure that your legs are parallel. Keep your spine in a neutral positon- this is, with the natural curve of your spine making as slight gap off the mat.
2. Keep your shoulders down and your neck long as you bring your hands behind your head. Keep your elbows open wide throughout the exercise. (variation: keep your arms down at your sides, reaching toward your ankles)
3. Exhale: Slowly pull your belly button in toward your spine, allowing your spine to lengthen out and the lower back to come down to the mat. (You will often hear me refer to this as "tummy tight position"). Now, with a long neck, slowly lift the upper spine off the mat and focus your gaze on your belly button. There is a deepening feeling under the bottom ribs as you lift your head. Remember: do not pull on your neck with your hands, keep the elbows open.
Pause at the top and count to 3. Draw the abdominals down in deeper.
4. Keep the abdominals drawn in as you slowly lower back to the mat.
5. Release the abdominals and return to neutral spine.
6. Repeat 10 times with slow, controlled movement. No momentum is used. Progress from 1-5 sets of 10 repetitions each.
Check back each month as we explore 2 more Pilates exercises to increase your core strength, improve your game and prevent back injury.