Saturday, January 26, 2008


How to Strengthen Your Back With Pilates
Achieve a well-defined, beautiful back by following this Pilates workout four times a week. In just a month, you will begin to notice a difference in how you look and feel. Get rid of those back aches and pains forever!

[edit] Steps

Cat Stretch
Prepare for the Cat Stretch. This Pilates exercise will be performed in four breaths. You will inhale deeply through the nose to prepare, aiming the breath towards the back of the rib cage and exhale deeply through the mouth.
Start by positioning yourself on all fours on your mat or towel. Adjust your hands so they rest directly under your shoulders and avoid overextending your elbows. Have your knees directly under your hips.
Have your spine in a neutral position. Your neck needs to follow this line naturally.
Inhale to prepare. As you begin to exhale, think of flattening the abdominal region; imagine gently pulling your belly button towards your spine. Pull in your lower abdominal muscles and curl the lower back, middle back and upper back towards the ceiling.
Relax your neck at the end. Picture an 'angry cat'.
Inhale and stay. As you exhale, reverse the movement, articulating back from the neck, upper back, middle back and lower back, returning to neutral without losing the control in the abdominals.
Repeat this four times. Always concentrate on curling up and down through the centre of the spine.

Opposite Arm and Leg Reaches
Prepare. The breathing is the same as in the previous exercise, but here we will perform the movement in 2 breaths.
Stay in exactly the same position as in the cat stretch.
If your wrists are beginning to tire, relax for a few minutes and gently circle them round.
Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, lift the right hand and left knee off the floor, fully extending both out in opposite directions.
Inhale to return to all fours again. Then exhale, and do the same on the other side.
Repeat. Repeat this six times in total - three times each side.
Pay particular attention to the supporting arm and leg. Do not allow them to collapse taking the body out of line.

Upper Back Extension
Prepare. The breathing is the same as in the previous exercise but here it will be performed in four breaths.
Change your position to lie face down on your mat. Have your feet and legs together and the tip of your nose lightly resting on the mat. Place your hands either side of your shoulders, so that your elbows rest comfortably on the mat.
If you feel a lot of pressure on your lower back in this position, place a small towel just under your hip bones for support.
Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, draw your shoulders down on your back, keeping the neck in line and extend up off the floor.
Inhale and stay. Think of lengthening forwards from your head, then exhale, to gently return back to the mat.
Repeat. Do the same thing four times, concentrating on maintaining your abdominals firm throughout. You will feel your upper back and shoulders working.

Forward Stretch
Prepare. This Pilates exercise will stretch out the zones you have worked in the previous exercises and is also great for strengthening your lower back. The breathing is the same as before, again in four breaths.
Change position to sit down with your legs in front of you, hip distance apart.
If you are uncomfortable like this, then sit on a small towel or slightly bend your knees.
Lift arms. As you inhale, lift up your arms until they are parallel to the floor, palms in.
Exhale. Contract your abdominals and simultaneously curve your entire back away from your arms, relaxing your neck.
Inhale deeply here. Draw the breath into the back of your rib cage, then exhale and reverse the movement, drawing your shoulders down to finish.
Repeat the same thing five times. Be sure not to change the height of the arms.

[edit] Tips
Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing.

[edit] Things You'll Need
1 exercise mat or thick towel
some comfortable clothing
1 small towel - optional

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