Shake off your morning blahs and stiffness with this revitalizing Pilates warm-up from STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor Sarka Osecka. Here she demonstrates seven mobilizing exercises to help you energize your body, open and release tight muscles, and build strength to get you ready to take on the day.
1. Start with a foot massage
How: Roll the Weighted Massage Rollers under each foot, starting at the front and moving towards the back of the foot. Roll up and down the entire foot a few times, targeting the centre, middle and outer arch. Adjust how much pressure you put on the ball; it shouldn’t be painful. Sit in a chair to lighten the load on the roller.
Why: It’s common for the feet to feel stiff and sore from bearing our bodyweight for most of the day. Footwear, terrain and daily activities can all affect the flexibility of our feet. Use the Weighted Massage Rollers to stimulate the foot muscles, improve circulation and release tension.
2. Open and release the hips with a Shoulder Bridge
How: Lie on your back and place the Fitness Circle® in between the legs above or below the knees, avoiding the knee joint. Maintaining a natural curve in the low back, lift the hips, activating the glutes/hamstrings and abdominals while keeping the shoulders and neck tension-free. Once in the bridge position, squeeze the circle between the legs 3-5 times to connect the inner thigh muscles. When lifting the hips, watch that you don’t pop the ribs or arch the back. Maintain the natural curve in the spine while lowering the hips to the mat.
Why: Shoulder Bridge is a great exercise to open the front of the hips. Those who sit a lot during the day may feel tension in the low back or the front of the hips. Strengthening the glutes, hamstrings and abdominals will help release tension in these areas. Adding the Fitness Circle strengthens the inner thighs.
3. Fire up the glutes with Clamshells
How: Lie on your side with hips and shoulders stacked and spine in a straight line. Head can be supported by the bottom arm or with a pad/pillow. Place the Flex-Band Loop® above the knees. Keeping knees and hips flexed with feet together, maintain stability through the torso and hips. Open the top knee toward the ceiling, creating a diamond shape between the legs. This movement can be done with the feet together throughout or with the feet separating as the top knee lifts.
Why: With the feet remaining together, the focus is on the deep gluteal muscles and gluteus maximus, which are stabilizers of the hip. With the separation of the feet during the movement, the focus is on the lateral hip muscles, which are very important to keep strong for proper gait patterns as we age.
4. Build pelvic and hip stability with Bend and Stretch
How: Same start as Clamshells, except this time the focus will be on endurance through the lateral hip muscles while the knee bends and extends. From the starting position, with the Flex-Band Loop above the knees, lift the top leg to hip height, keeping the legs open and bent. Maintaining tension in the band throughout, extend and flex the top knee and hip, keeping the dorsiflexion in the ankle (heel pushing out).
Why: Strength and endurance through the lateral hip muscles are so important for pelvic and hip stability during gait.
5. Find your balance with the Star
How: From a standing position, abduct the right leg while leaning to the left side, stretching both arms to a “T” position. Engage the obliques, shoulder and hip muscles to maintain the Star position while continuing to abduct and adduct the left leg. For an additional variation, add left arm movements with the Soft Dumbbells for a shoulder strengthening sequence.
Why: You’re getting a whole-body workout here while balancing on one leg. Focus is on the obliques, deltoids, lateral/posterior hip muscles and ankle stabilizers. Balance is very important as we age to prevent falls. Further coordination, endurance and strength of the hip is developed with the additional hip movement while maintaining the Star position.
6. Challenge your stability with Lunges
How: Get into a lunge position, with one foot on the Stability Cushion™ and the opposite leg stretched out behind. Maintaining a vertical torso, bend into a lunge and then straighten, repeating a few times on each leg. Engage the glutes, abductors, obliques and ankle stabilizers to help maintain balance.
Why: The Stability Cushion is very unstable. It’s important to vary the surfaces we stand on to further challenge and build our strength and stability.
7. Cap it off with a Plank finisher
How: Get into a plank position on the forearms with feet on the Sliding Mobility Disks. Engage the scapulae stabilizers, hip ab/adductors and abdominals as you slide the disks in towards the elbows, piking the glutes and hips up towards the ceiling. Adjust the gaze as the body moves from pike to plank. Rest between reps if needed.
Why: This high-intensity exercise involves the shoulders, abdominals, inner thighs, hip flexors and hip extensor muscles. This is an advanced exercise that requires a lot of strength, stability and mobility.
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