Pilates (and planks by extension) have fast become a super-popular workout for people of all fitness levels who are looking to improve their core strength and get in shape! The best part about them is that you can do them at home or in a class – all you need is some floor space, a mat and some good music to get through it! Let’s take a closer look at each one to see what all the fuss is about….
So what are they?
Pilates and planks are an exercise system that focuses on stretching and strengthening your whole body to improve flexibility, posture, balance and muscle-strength. It was first developed by a gymnast/bodybuilder called Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s which brought together a good mix of martial arts, yoga and western exercise.
It was soon picked up by American fitness fans and has since become a staple exercise for celebrities, sports stars and anyone who wants something simple but effective. Postures can range from lying on your back and raising your legs up through to side-planks and suspended sit-ups. Each different posture targets a different range of muscles and by mixing it up in a structured and progressive you can get an efficient workout in relatively little time.
A consistent and dedicated approach to Pilates will greatly improve your balance, leaving you with more freedom of movement and flexibility. Not only that, but Pilates will contribute towards toning muscles, improving posture and weight control as lean muscle mass can be increased as a result.
Thank the plank
Never mind the videos of people balancing themselves on things (that’s ‘planking’!), plans are one of the most popular positions in a Pilates regime and is used to strengthen your abdominal muscles by way of balancing and tensing your core. The basic movement has tons of different variations to use to keep you on your toes (literally) which makes it a great move for people of all levels and abilities. Here’s a beginner plank for you to try:
- Grab your exercise or yoga mat and lie face down with your legs extended. Place your elbows underneath your shoulders whilst resting your forearms on the ground, with your palms facing each other in loose fists.
- Curl your toes underneath and push up with your abs onto your toes and balls of your feet, creating a straight line from your feet to the top of your head.
- Evenly distribute your weight between your feet and forearms, keeping your abdominal muscles engaged. Relax your shoulders to keep your body stabilized.
- Extend your arms, rising up on your hands into a full plank. Think of it like doing a push-up, but staying up the whole time. Make sure you keep your spine straight.
- Hold the plank for 20 seconds, working up to a minute as you improve.
- Stay consistent! Just 5-10 minutes a day of this and you’ll get better and better!