Top 5 Pilates Exercises for a Great Warm-Up

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Using Pilates exercises in your warm-up brings awareness to your breath and stability to your core, two elements that are often the first to be forgotten in a particularly tough exercise. Start your workout on the right track with mat Pilates.

5 Arm Circles

Just like it’s important to mobilize your hip joints, it’s also important to mobilize your shoulders. Laying on your back, bend your knees so they are pointed up to the ceiling, feet flat on the floor and hip-distance apart; rest your arms by your sides. Inhale, reach your arms to the sky and rotate overhead; do not lose your abdominal connection, and keep your lower ribs on the mat. Your arms might not go back as far as you expect; everyone’s shoulder mobility is different. As you exhale, circle your arms around to your hips. Repeat five times, then reverse the direction.

4 Hip Rolls

Mobilize your spine with your hip joints to complete the core warm-up. Lying on your back, bend your knees so they are pointed up to the ceiling, feet flat on the floor and hip-distance apart. Press equally into both feet and engage the abdominals, glutes, and hamstrings as you exhale; peel the tailbone off the mat, articulating the spine until your weight rests on your upper back and your hip joints are extended. Do not over extend your lumbar spine; maintain an abdominal connection to protect your lower back. Inhale at the top and exhale as you articulate the spine back down to the mat. Repeat three to five times.

3 Hip Release

Although it’s one of the most mobile joints in the body, the hips can often be overlooked. Lying on your back, bend your knees so they are pointed up to the ceiling, feet flat on the floor and hip-distance apart. It’s important to maintain pelvic stability in this exercise, so engage the core to prevent rocking the pelvis. On an inhale, release one leg by letting your knee fall to the side. Extend the leg on the floor using your baby toe to draw it out. Exhale, rotate the knee inward, then bend it back up dragging your foot on the floor. Don’t cheat your hip rotation, and take your time. Complete three repetitions, then reverse the direction before repeating the exercise on the other leg.

2 Spinal Rotation

It’s important to mobilize the spine in all directions before you begin a workout. Lying on your back, bring your knees up to tabletop position, inner thighs pressed together, arms out to either side like a T. On an exhale, keep pressing your legs together and rotate your lower torso so your legs lower toward the mat while keeping your shoulders and arms glued to the floor. Inhale and hold. Exhale, engage your abdominals, and rotate your legs back to the starting position. Repeat three times on each side; try to lower your legs closer to the mat each time.

1 Cat Stretch

Start with your palms on the floor underneath your shoulders, and your knees hip distance apart on your mat. Keep your pelvis and spine in a neutral position as you inhale to prepare. On your exhale, round your back up to the sky, initiating the movement from the pelvis as your tailbone tucks under like a bad dog. Feel your abdominals engage as your vertebrae move sequentially into flexion like a Halloween cat. Allow your head to complete the curve of your spine and protract the scapula without tensing the upper shoulders and neck. Next, on an inhale, articulate the spine into extension supported by your abdominals, letting your belly dip below the hips and reaching the heart through your shoulders. Repeat five times and always end back in neutral.

A proper warm-up before any exercise helps reduce injury and mentally prepares you for the duration of your workout. It also helps pump oxygen-rich blood into your circulatory system and prepares your muscles for the intensity and physical demands of each exercise. Warming up with Pilates gives you stability before mobility.
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