Pilates as a Developmental Program for Total Body Training

A Multiplanar Pilates Workout to Try

Two women doing pilates
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Whatever workout you enjoy, it should accomplish more than movement in a single plane, done repetitively to the exclusion of all other movement planes. Effective exercise prepares the body for whatever may come. Pilates is one such effective exercise following a developmental and multiplanar formula for total body training.

The Developmental Sequence

Babies go through a developmental sequence from the time they are born, graduating through a variety of organized movement. They begin on their backs, flip to their stomachs, and propel themselves upward to kneel, sit, and ultimately stand.

There is wisdom in this sequencing. It's driven by the strength and motor control of particular anatomical parts. A baby can not roll over from back to stomach without first activating some degree of rotation in the torso. They must be able to take an arm or leg across the midline of the body to effect a sideways roll and the obliques are called to action right away.

No movement in development is accidental. Watch a classical Pilates routine and you'll be surprised to see a similar sequence play out. No moves are accidental. Each activity builds on the prior one and prepares for the following one. 

Progress and Prevention

The below routine demonstrates the classical Pilates trajectory and how it takes the body through an intelligent sequence building on prior skills. Although Joseph Pilates included hundreds more exercises than these, this sampling will educate your mind as well as your body about the full spectrum of Pilates.

The Pilates system trains the body in all possible directions, in what is termed multiplanar exercise. Rather than exercise with a single repetitive motion, you'll get to bend forward, back, side to side, and every other plane of movement that the human body can achieve.

Does it matter? Indeed. You can not know what movement will be required of you on a given day, so training your body for all possible scenarios isn't just progress, it's prevention.

The Multiplanar Pilates Workout

The mat exercises outlined here do not scratch the surface of the myriad of training possible on the reformer or Pilates chairs, barrels or the Cadillac but workout this way and you will experience the progressions of movement in an intelligent and organized way.

Lie down for the first classical Pilates move—the hundred. Although this is done flat on your back, you'll need a high degree of abdominal strength and a good deal of stamina. This is your warm up and your power move to propel you through the rest of the routine.

Lie flat. Curl up, lifting your head and shoulders, and look into your abs. Extend your arms long and straight and your legs out to 45 degrees. Begin pumping your arms strongly up and down as you breathe. Inhale for 5 pumps and exhale for 5 pumps. Perform 100 pumps and then hug your knees into your chest.

Flip over on your Stomach for the swan. Place your hands under your shoulders and palms flat on the mat. Keep the legs drawn together. Press your body up with arms as straight as you can manage. Hold your abdominals strong and release your arms forward into the air as you rock the body forward and back in a sweeping see-saw motion. Move briskly and energetically.

Flip back onto your side for the Side Kicks. Prop your head up on your hand and stack your legs at an angle in front of you at 45 degrees. Place your free hand on the mat in front of your waist. Work the top leg kicking front and back for two pulses each way. Keep the leg slightly rotated with the knee and foot facing the ceiling. Repeat 5 kick cycles including front and back for each set. Repeat on the other side. 

Come upright to sitting for the spine twist. With your legs straight and held together extend the arms side to side. Hold your spine tall and your waist strong as you pivot one way. Twist the waist growing taller and gazing toward your back arm. Return to center and switch sides. Continue alternating picking up the pace and adding a double pulse to each twist as you go.

Lower onto one side of the body into a side plank with a straight bottom arm and two stacked legs. Balance on the edge of your bottom foot as you press your hips up in the air. Rest your top arm along your body and look up towards your top shoulder. Lower and lift your hip with control, bending at the waist to execute this move known as the Side Bend. Repeat 5 to 8 times and switch sides.

Upright Kneeling

Rise up onto your knees for the kneeling thigh stretch. Separate your legs into parallel and extend your arms chest height. Rest one hand atop the other, lower your chin towards your chest, and hinge backward, keeping your torso stock still. Pause at the lowest point, squeeze your seat, and return. Repeat 5 times.

Standing Up

Come upright to standing for what is hailed as a life-saving move. Cross your arms and legs and with a slow controlled movement, lower yourself from standing to sitting on the mat. From seated, cross your legs more tightly and try to rise back up to standing. Repeat several times, improving your control and balance each time.

Remain standing and let's graduate your movements into something less static. In a dedicated Pilates studio you work with moving elements and more dynamic exercises. Pilates push ups are a good example of how we use complete range of motion to accomplish basic moves.

Stand tall in Pilates stance with your arms raised overhead. Round over, reaching your hands to the floor. Walk your hands out along the floor in four measured "steps." Perform 3 tricep push ups by piking your hips up and walking your hands back to your feet and rolling up to standing. Repeat 2 more times.

Try this workout as a warm up or a cool down or in place of a cardio workout one day and see how you feel in your other workouts and activities for the rest of the week.

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