Standing Pilates exercises are great practice for beginner as well as advanced students. They improve balance and posture, stretch your back and your hamstrings, strengthen your core and the larger muscle groups of your body. Here are three standing Pilates exercises that you can do at home or anywhere. They will define your lower body, give you strength in your core, teach you balance and help you stand taller.
Standing Pilates Lunge
The Pilates lunge is a favoured exercise to strengthen the quadriceps muscles, gluteal muscles and hamstrings muscles. It also aids in hip stabilization and knee strengthening. Moreover, this routine also helps you gain a better sense of balance and an increased awareness of your body.
1. Start in a position where your right heel touches the inside of the left foot, your right knee should be looking to the right.
2. Take the right leg out diagonally in a wide stance and lower the hips to come into a lunge position. This will bring the bent leg into a 90-degree angle. Allow the back leg to stretch out with your foot and heel on the floor.
3. Bring both arms to stretch above you next to your ears. The body now is in one straight diagonal line from the fingers down to the heel of the back leg.
4. Hold this position for 5 counts then push up from your right bent leg and take the leg diagonally behind you, do a curtsey taking the body down.
5. Push up and come to standing third dance position. Repeat 3 times with each leg.
6. Do not allow the knee to go beyond the toes; keep the knee in line with the ankle when in a lunge position.
Standing Leg Stretch & Roll Down
Often used as a warm-up and cool-down exercise to relieve tension, restore body balance and stretch your legs. The rolling motion strengthens the abdominal muscles and improves blood circulation throughout your body. It also stretches and increases mobility in the back, spine, neck and hamstrings and works on improving your posture.
Begin by standing with your feet hip-distance apart and your spine in neutral position. Your legs and feet should be parallel to each other. Let your arms relax along the sides your body. Inhale and lengthen your spine as you prepare to move. Scoop in your abs; you will keep them pulled in throughout the exercise. In the exhalation, tuck your chin under and lengthen the back of your neck. Nod your head forward and let your shoulders drop forward as you start bending your upper back. Bend your knees slightly and continue rolling your entire spine forward and down, one vertebra at a time. Roll down as far as you comfortably can go while keeping your neck, head, and shoulders relaxed. Your arms should dangle from your shoulders. Keeping your abs scooped and your body draped forward, inhale and tuck your pelvis slightly. Then exhale and begin to reverse the movement, slowly rolling back up, one vertebra at a time. Keep your navel pulled in deeply as you roll your torso back upright. Return to your starting position. Then repeat the move 5-10 times.
Standing Pilates Squat
This exercise aims to tone leg muscles and provides a great workout for the core muscles and the entire lower body. It looks simple but should be executed with control and awareness. It can be made more challenging by incorporating small weighted Pilates balls, which will work to tone the shoulders as well.
1. Stand up straight with the feet about hip-width apart and the toes pointing forward. Tighten the abdominal and buttocks muscles. Stretch the arms out to the side, shoulder height with the palms facing down.
2. Bend the knees and come into a squat. Stick the hips back as if you are about to sit on a chair.
3. Press your heels into the floor, stand back up and lift your right leg up. The toes should be facing forward. Do not turn the leg out or in.
4. Lower the right leg slowly and with control so that the toes touch first and the heel last. Make sure you do not just drop the leg back down.
5. Squat down again and this time, lift the left leg as you stand back up.
6. Go back and forth for 8 to 12 repetitions. Do this with control.
7. To make this exercise more challenging, hold a weighted Pilates ball in your hand. As you lift the right leg, lift your right arm up to shoulder height, palm facing down as you hold the ball. Squat and lower both arms down. Pass the ball to your left hand. As you stand up and lift the left leg, lift your left arm up shoulder height.
Claudel Kuek, Pilates Director of PowerMoves Pilates in the Park at Bishan Park, Dempsey Hill and Rochester Park in Singapore; click here to find out if Pilates is what you really need to create the makeover in you!