Pilates as a full body workout

Pilates , a gentle mixture of  yoga  and gymnastics, is becoming more and more common among the sports programs offered by adult education centers and fitness studios. The training is particularly gentle on the joints and is suitable for anyone who wants to be sporty and fit, including people with back problems. Concentration and control are the main characteristics of the exercises – but don’t expect a Schwarzenegger figure from them.

Josef Pilates

“It’s the mind that shapes the body”: The full-body workout according to Josef Pilates strengthens the core core muscles and improves posture, but this only goes hand in hand with mental relaxation and concentration. Born in Mönchengladbach, Pilates was often ill as a child and rather weak, which he tried to compensate for with sport and yoga. Later he was a gymnast, diver, bodybuilder, circus performer, worked in England as a professional boxer and coached officials at Scotland Yard.

As a German, he was interned at the beginning of World War I, where he also trained his fellow prisoners. After his return, he became increasingly dissatisfied with the political and social conditions in Germany. In 1923 he emigrated to New York, where he opened his first Pilates studio. He lived to the age of 86 and died in 1967 a famous coach in New York.

Pilates compared to other sports

In contrast to  Tai Chi  and Qi Gong, which are derived from Asian martial arts and require a relatively large amount of standing movement, most Pilates exercises are performed lying or sitting on the floor. The sports have in common the emphasis on  flowing movement  and conscious  breathing.

However, the Pilates training is easier overall and therefore also suitable for the untrained and older people, but the exercises also become more complex in advanced courses.

The Pilates philosophy

 The holistic philosophy of Joseph Pilates is based on exactly  seven principles :

  1. breathing
  2. concentration
  3. Relaxation
  4. flow of movement
  5. precision
  6. control
  7. centering of all movements

All movements are performed from the center of the body as flowing movements.

Example exercise: spinal stretch

The spine twist is an exercise that works the back muscles and increases stability. You sit on the floor with your legs slightly apart.

  • When you sit upright, stretch your neck up and “stretch out”.
  • As you inhale, bring your arms horizontally to your sides, as if you had wings.
  • Slowly rotate the straight, long torso to the right while bending the right arm and exhaling.
  • Rotate back to the center: inhale and extend both arms again.
  • Exhale and turn to the left, etc.

However, if you have spinal problems, you should discuss this exercise with your therapist or doctor beforehand.

Training Effects of Pilates

The interplay of breathing and flowing movements means a rather  calm controlled training;  however, the repetitions have a  muscle- relaxing and building-up effect over time.  Similar to yoga, the exercises are never about speed, but about  precise execution.

Großer Wert wird auf die Atmung gelegt: Beim Ausatmen in der Bewegungsphase konzentriert man sich auf die Brustatmung, man atmet durch den Mund aus. Beim Einatmen durch die Nase sollte sich der Brustkorb auch seitlich dehnen.

Mit der Pilates-Trainingsmethode wird nach und nach die gesamte Körperhaltung verbessert und die Bewegungen harmonisiert. Verspannungen lösen sich, die Muskeln werden flexibler. Dadurch, dass auch die Tiefenmuskulatur trainiert wird, kann man gut den Problemzonen wie Bauch und Po zu Leibe rücken. Ein guter Trainer wird großen Wert auf die Entspannungselemente legen, die zu Beginn und am Schluss der Übungen gemacht werden.

Powerhouse als wichtigstes Element

500 Gymnastikkombinationen hat Pilates kreiert, ein sehr abwechslungsreiches Training lässt sich daraus gestalten. Doch das wichtigste Element ist die Aktivierung der körperstützenden Muskelgruppen zwischen Beckenboden und unterem Brustkorb, die Pilates als “Powerhouse” bezeichnete: Gemeint ist das stabile Zentrum, die Muskulatur der Körpermitte, zu der die Bauch- und Beckenbodenmuskeln sowie die Rückenstrecker gehören.

Eine gut entwickelte Stützmuskulatur ist der beste Schutz gegen Rückenprobleme wie Bandscheibenvorfälle, aber auch vorbeugend gegen Inkontinenz.

Powerhouse aktivieren – so geht’s!

Man aktiviert das Powerhouse, indem man sich Folgendes vorstellt: Man schlüpft in eine zwei Nummern zu kleine Jeans – das Problem kennen fast alle Frauen. Der Reißverschluss und der Knopf lassen sich nur schließen, indem man den Nabel nach innen zur Wirbelsäule zieht. Bei Hochziehen des Reißverschlusses zeiht man den Nabel auch leicht nach oben. Das Becken darf man dabei nicht kippen. Die Beckenbodenmuskulatur trainiert man ebenfalls durch Anspannung – jeder, der nach vielen Tassen Kaffees nicht gleich eine Toilette findet, kennt das.

Diese Vorstellung kombiniert mit der Vorstellung eines langsamen Aufzuges nach oben – so werden nacheinander die Muskeln angespannt – stärkt diese Muskelgruppe.

Pilates-Training: wie oft?

Training for at least half an hour is recommended two to three times a week. If you can, you should attend a course or buy a good exercise book with a CD, otherwise mistakes in the precise exercise quickly creep in.

Body awareness improves after just a few hours, and concentrating on breathing makes it easier to switch off and relax. As Joseph Pilates put it, “After 10 sessions, you’ll feel the difference. After 20 sessions, you’ll see it. And after 30 hours of practice, you’ll have a whole new body.”

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