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Beginners Exercises

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Beginners exercises should be undertaken by those new to pilates. Before you start it is important that you have read the underlying principles of pilates and understood how to find the neutral spine and engage the core muscles. Click on the short cuts below to select the required exercise:

Exercise

Part of the body worked Difficulty level (out of 10) 
The Hundred  Abdominals and Lower Back Scale 1 1/10
Shoulder Bridge Abdominals, Hamstrings and Lower Back   Scale 2 2/10
Swimming Hamstrings, Gluteals and Lower Back Scale 2 2/10
Double Leg Stretch Upper Back, Chest and Shoulders Scale 2 2/10
Abdominal Curl Abdominals and Hip Flexors Scale 3 3/10
Oblique Curl  Abdominals and Obliques Scale 3 3/10
Side Kick Abdominals and Obliques Scale 3 3/10
Single Leg Stretch Quadriceps and Hip Flexors Scale 2 2/10
Spine Twist Middle Back and Obliques Scale 2 2/10
Scissors Quadriceps and Hip Flexors Scale 4 4/10
Leg Pull Abdominals, Shoulders and Chest Scale 5 5/10
Roll Down Abdominals, Back Scale 2 1/10
Swan Spine Scale 2 2/10

Hundred L1


P
rimary Movers:
 

Hamstrings, Gluteals, Pectorals, Deltoids, Latissimus Dorsi


Stabiliser Muscles:
  Tranverse Abdominals, Lumbar Multifidus, Obliques

Level of Difficulty:   (1/10)  

Scale 1

Frequency:
     
  Hold for 8-10 breaths then alternate leg 

 Instructions  
  • Lie on your back in the set-up position. 
  • Inhale to prepare and gently lift one leg off the floor bringing the knee to rest directly above the hip 
  • The thigh should pointing uptowards the ceiling with the leg relaxed. 
  • Hold the position for the required amount of breaths ensuring neautral spine is maintained. 
  • Inhale to prepare and then gently lower the leg to resume the starting position. 
 Teaching Points  
  • Keep resting leg stable 
  • Ensure the upper body remains relaxed 
  • Keep the knee at a 90degree angle with the shin parallel to the floor 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Shoulder Bridge L1


P
rimary Movers:
 

Hamstrings, Gluteals, Pectorals, Deltoids, Latissimus Dorsi (upper back)
Stabiliser Muscles:
Tranverse Abdominals
Level of Difficulty:   (2/10)  

Scale 2

Frequency:
      
  8-10 Repetitions

  Instructions

  • This exercise strengthens the lower back and works your hamstrings and bottom muscles. 
  • From the set-up position as youinhale slowly raise your bottom off the floor by releasing neutral and tilting the pelvis. 
  • Raise your hips so that an imaginery straight line can be drawn from your shoulders through to your knees. 
  • Once at the peak of the position exhale and return to the set-up position 
 Teaching Points  
  • This exercise strengthens the lower back and works your hamstrings and bottom muscles. 
  • From the set-up position as youinhale slowly raise your bottom off the floor by releasing neutral and tilting the pelvis. 
  • Raise your hips so that an imaginery straight line can be drawn from your shoulders through to your knees. 
  • Once at the peak of the position exhale and return to the set-up positon 

 

Swimming L1

 

                                                                                                                         
P
rimary Movers:
 

Hamstrings, Gluteals, Quadriceps (thighs), Trapezius
Stabiliser Muscles:
Tranverse Abdominals, Lumbar Multifidus, Obliques                                                                                        
Level of Difficulty:   (2/10)  

Scale 2

Frequency:
      • 
8-10 Repetitions

  Instructions

  • As well as working your core muscles, this exercise also works the hamstrings, buttock and thigh muscles 
  • Lie on your front with your forehead resting on your hands. 
  • Adjust your pelvis so that the neutral spine is adopted. 
  • Inhale to prepare and then as you enhale slowly lengthen and lift one leg off the floor. 
  • Inhale and then return to the starting position 
 Teaching Points  
  • As well as working your core muscles, this exercise also works the hamstrings, buttock and thigh muscles 
  • Lie on your front with your forehead resting on your hands. 
  • Adjust your pelvis so that the neutral spine is adopted. 
  • Inhale to prepare and then as you enhale slowly lengthen and lift one leg off the floor. 
  • Inhale and then return to the starting position 

                                                                                 

 

Double Leg Stretch L1

                                                                                                         
P
rimary Movers:
 

Pectorals (chest) Latissimus Dorsi (back), Deltoids
Stabiliser Muscles:
Tranverse Abdominals, Multifidus, Obliques, Rotator Cuff                                                                                               
Level of Difficulty:   (2/10)  

Scale 2

Frequency:
     •
  8-10 Circles and then change direction

 Instructions

  • From the set-up position inhale to prepare and as you exhale lift your arms up so that your hands are pointing to the ceiling. 
  • Inhale and circle the arms in opposite directions, firstly moving towards the body. 
  • Exhale and continue to circle the arms in opposite directions circling out away from the body. 
  • Visualise your hands drawing perfect symmetrical circles on the ceiling.  
 Teaching Points  
  • From the set-up position inhale to prepare and as you exhale lift your arms up so that your hands are pointing to the ceiling. 
  • Inhale and circle the arms in opposite directions, firstly moving towards the body. 
  • Exhale and continue to circle the arms in opposite directions circling out away from the body. 
  • Visualise your hands drawing perfect symmetrical circles on the ceiling.                                                    

Abdominal Curl

                                                                                                                    
P
rimary Movers:
 

Hip Flexors, Rectus Abdominals
Stabiliser Muscles:
Rotator Cuff, Transverse Abs, obliques, Lumbar Multifidus
Level of Difficulty:   (3/10)  

Scale 3

Frequency:
     
  8-10 Repetitions

  Instructions

  • From the set-up position place your hands on your thighs.

  • Take a breath to prepare, as you exhale slowly lift your head, shoulders and spine so that your hand slide up towards the knee.

  • Once you have gone up as far as you comfortably can inhale and then slowly return to the set-up position.

  • It’s important to use the core muscles to aid the movement keeping both the TVA and pelvic floor engaged.

  • Some people might find it easier to support their head by placing their hands on the back of the head.

 Teaching Points

  • Keep a 'C' shape in the spine 
  • Initiate movement from the torso not the shoulders 
  • Avoid rounding the shoulders 
  • Keep eyes looking up and forward   

 

Oblique Curl

                                                                                                                       
P
rimary Movers:
 

Obliques, Hip Flexors, Rectus Abdominals
Stabiliser Muscles:
Rotator Cuff, Transverse Abdominals
Level of Difficulty:   (3/10)  

Scale 3

Frequency:
     
  8-10 Repetitions

  Instructions

  • From the set-up position place your hands on your thighs.

  • Take a breath to prepare, as you exhale slowly lift your head, shoulders and spine and take your right hand across to the outside of your left knee, causing a slight twist of your torso.

  • Once at the top of your range of movement, inhale and resume to the set-up position.

  • Repeat the exercise on the other side taking your left hand to your right knee

 Teaching Points

  • Reach your arm to the outside of the opposite knee 
  • Initiate movement from the torso not the shoulders 
  • Avoid rounding the shoulders 
  • Keep eyes looking up and forward 

 

Side Kick L1

                                                                                                                     
P
rimary Movers:
 

Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum, Abdominals, Obliques
Stabiliser Muscles:
Tranverse Abdominals, Obliques, Lumbar Multifidus
Level of Difficulty:   (3/10)  

Scale 3

Frequency:
     
  Hold for 8-10 breaths

  Instructions

  • Position yourself on your side with your body in a straight line and your bottom arm lengthened and your head resting comfortably. 
  • Move your top arm so that it is resting in front of the body with your hand supporting the lateral position. 
  • Ensure the shoulders are back and the TVA and pelvic floor muscles engaged. 
  • Inhale to prepare and then exhale and lift legs off the floor to around 3-5 inches. 
  • Maintain the position for the desired amount of time 
  • Inhale to prepare and then exhalle slowly bring both legs to the floor  

 Teaching Points

  • Use abdominals to maintain legs off the floor 
  • Imagine your big toe skimming across the surface of some water  
  • Keep shoulder blades down 
  • Ensure you remain on your side and do not lead forward or backward 

 

Single Leg Stretch L1

                                                                                                           
P
rimary Movers:
 
 
Quadriceps (thigh) Hip Flexors
Stabiliser Muscles: 
Tranverse Abdominals, Lumbar Multifidus, Obliques
Level of Difficulty:   (2/10)  

Scale 2

Frequency:
     
  8-10 Repetitions

  Instructions 

  • Lying in theset-up position, inhale to prepare and as you exhale slowly slide and extend one leg along the floor. 
  • Keep extending the leg, but its important that the neutral spine is maintained. 
  • If neutral has been lost you have extended the leg too far. 
  • Inhale and slowly return the leg to the set-up position. 

 Teaching Points  

  • Lying in theset-up position, inhale to prepare and as you exhale slowly slide and extend one leg along the floor. 
  • Keep extending the leg, but its important that the neutral spine is maintained. 
  • If neutral has been lost you have extended the leg too far. 
  • Inhale and slowly return the leg to the set-up position. 

Spine Twist L1

                                                                                                                      
P
rimary Movers:
 
 
Obliques, Erector Spinae

Stabiliser Muscles:
 
Tranverse Abdominals, Lumbar Multifidus, Obliques, Rotator Cuff
Level of Difficulty:   (2/10)  

Scale 2

Frequency:
      
  8-10 Repetitions on each side

  Instructions 

  • This exercise mobilises the thoracic spine (mid section). 
  • Sit down with your legs crossed (alternative could be soles of feet together, knees bent) and spine as close to neutral as possible. 
  • Engage pelvic floor and TVA muscles. 
  • Place your hands and fingers together and place your thumbs on your sternum and you index finger under the chin. 
  • Keep your elbows out to the side. Inhale to prepare, as you exhale rotate the torso around to the side moving your upper body, arms and head at the same time. 
  • Inhale, and then exhale to return to the starting position 

 Teaching Points  

  • Keep your posture upright with your shoulders back 
  • Maintain neutral spine 
  • Ensure the head moves with the chest 
  • As you inhale avoid the shoulders lifting 
  • Keep lower body still 

   

 Scissors L1

                                                                                                                       
P
rimary Movers:
 
 
Quadriceps (thigh) Hip Flexors

Stabiliser Muscles:
 
Tranverse Abdominals, Lumbar Multifidus, Obliques
Level of Difficulty:   (4/10)  

Scale 4 

Frequency:
     
  8-10 Repetitions

  Instructions 

  • Lie in the set-up position and activate the pelvic floor and TVA muscles. 
  • Take a few lateral thoracic breaths before commencing the exercise. 
  • When ready inhale to prepare, and then as you exhale slowly lift one leg off the floor to bring the knee to rest directly above the hip. 
  • Inhale to prepare, and then as you exhale slowly lower the elevated leg to the floor, at the same time lift the opposing leg up. 
  • The legs should cross midway maintaining a 90degree angle in the knee. 
  • The movement comes from the thigh whilst maintaining a neutral spine at all times 

 Teaching Points  

  • Initiate the movement from the hip 
  • Keep the leg at 90degrees 
  • Keep the leg in contact with floor still 
  • Maintain neutral and lateral thoracic breathign 
  • Keep the pelvis stable 


 

Leg Pull L1 


P
rimary Movers:
 
 
Deltoids (shoulders), Pectorals (chest)

Stabiliser Muscles:
 
Transverse Abdominals, Rotator Cuff
Level of Difficulty:   (5/10)  

Scale 5

Frequency:
     
  8-10 Repetitions

  Instructions 

  • Lying on your front raise your chest and bring your forearms to rest on the floor underneath with the elbows sat beneath the shoulders. 
  • Activate the pelvic floor and TVA and take a breath to prepare. 
  • As you exhale lift the hips off the floor by pressing the pubic bone against the floor. 
  • When ready gently lower to starting position 

 Teaching Points  

  • Use your core strength to hold the position 
  • Keep tension out of the lower back 
  • Use a normal breathing pattern 
  • Keep the hips still 
  • To make the exercises easier drop your knees onto the floor 
  • Ensure that a straight line exists from the heels through to the shoulders     

Roll Down L1

                                                                                                                                          
P
rimary Movers:
 
 
Deltoids (shoulders), Pectorals (chest), Triceps (arms),

Stabiliser Muscles:
 
Transverse Abdominals, Obliques, Lumbar Multifidus

Level of Difficulty:
   (2/10)
 

Scale 2

Frequency
     
  8-10 Repetitions

  Instructions 

  • Begin by standing, with your feet hip width apart and your knees slightly soft (bent). 
  • Shoulders should be down and relaxed with your arms by your side. 
  • Engage pelvic floor and TVA muscles and take a breath to prepare. as you exhale slowly roll down the spine leading with the head and slide your hands down the front of the thigh. 
  • Once you feel a stretch in the hamstring take a breath to prepare, exhale and slowly roll back up to the starting position. 
  • Visualise the segments of your spine returning into the starting position. 

 Teaching Points  

  • Get the arms hang from the shoulders 
  • Maintain a good posture  
  • Imagine your spine as building blocks 


 
                                                                                                              

Swan L1  


P
rimary Movers:
 
 
Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum

Stabiliser Muscles:
 
Transverse Abdominals, Obliques, Lumbar Multifidus, Rotator Cuff

Level of Difficulty:
   (2/10)
 

Scale 2

Frequency:
     
  8-10 Repetitions

  Instructions 

  • Lie on your front with your forehead touching the mat 
  • Position your arms on the mat so that your elbows are bent and in line with your elbows. 
  • Keep your palms facing the mat and your toes pointing slightly inwards 
  • Inhale to prepare then slowly raise your chest of the mat  
  • As you do so lengthen through the middle part of the spine. 
  • Inhale at the top of the movement and gently lower to return to the starting position. 

 Teaching Points  

  • Pretend your are holding a tennis ball between the chin and the chest  
  • Keep your face looking on the floor 
  • Do not push the stomach into the floor 
  • Maintain lateral thoracic breathing
     
                                                                                                                    


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