The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body: Strength for Life!

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body: Strength for Life!

I require my clients to sit on the Reformer with control (without the use of their hands).

There shouldn't be a noise or a plop when they sit.

They are also required to descend to the Mat from a standing position.

Again, no hands, please.

The goal is to lower oneself to the floor with control. No noise.

As you might imagine, I often hear groans of exasperation from some.

And yes, it may be considerably hard to do at first.

But it's also essential for longevity and quality of life.

Boom.

Uhm, and it's actually a thing, peeps:

Look familiar?

Maybe I should start deducting 1 point per plop…

The Lion's Share

No matter who you are, your lower body is a considerable amount of your total body weight.

In the Pilates Method, when I refer to the ‘lower body' I am talking about everything from the upper stomach (mid back) all the way down to the toes.

The lower body is the lion's share of the body.

Often Pilates practitioners and teachers, myself included, can overwork the upper body in exercises that are in fact lower body exercises.

Years of study of the method have helped me to learn how to better use my lower body instead of muscling through and overusing my upper body.

The lion's share of the Pilates exercises are – in fact – lower body exercises!

Which makes sense – that's the largest part of the body – so it's bound to be helpful to use it effectively.

All this is ultimately in service of Pilates as a full body workout.

No lower body? No full body workout.

Oh it weighs heavily on my Pilates mind…

With a tight low back and tight hips/thighs, I spend considerable time thinking about the lower body and especially how to find length in the back. Sorting it all out into a long lower body requires consistent practice and repetition.

Whoever you are, it would serve you well to find length in the low back and low body.

Got a swayback?

Like me, you'll need to seek out more scoop and seat to gain length for your back.

What about a flexible, long and sinky back?

You too will need to find lift and length to elongate the back and cultivate the low body.

The majority of the back is also part of the lower body.

In our industry, many names and concepts surround the creation of a long, strong and supple back.

What exactly should be going on here? Labels include the word ‘imprint' and keeping the back and/or the pelvis in ‘neutral' (read more on this here).

I believe we are all after the same thing, whatever we choose to call it: decompression and health of the back.

Length in the Low Body

So how best to approach our search for the low body?

Mercifully, in the Pilates Method we have a brilliant arsenal of apparatus to be our helpers. And hey, when we are standing up, the floor willingly becomes another apparatus to support us.

Shazam!

In keeping with my modus operandi we'll look at the order of the exercises to offer lower body support we can rely on. A couple simple standing exercises will also challenge our strength to stand.

Wait a minute.

Regardless of our position in the exercises: lying down, sitting up, kneeling, lying on the stomach, up on one leg/arm, in a twist – the lower body must strive to be elongated??

Yup. That's why we need to practice so much.

It's a tall order (you were hoping for a pun, yes?).

The Order of the Universe

Using the order of the exercises is one way to find out where you can get help from the lower body before the exercises in which you still need it, but there's no help in sight.

In search of the lower body…one example:

In the Order of the Reformer exercises, the Swan exercise immediately precedes Pulling Straps and T Straps in the Long Box series.

Whether you like Swan on the Ladder Barrel or on the Long Box – you've got your feet firmly planted and poised to find help from the apparatus.

  • Press into the heels and see what jumps to life in your bottom and center.

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body : Strength for Life

  • Moments later when you lie onto the Long Box for Pulling Straps, remember what the support from the apparatus from the Swan created in your body.

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body : Strength for Life

  • Repeat at least 3x per week. 🙂

My Dreaded Long Stretch Series

Yes, eventually I have to adjust my attitude for this series.

Oh but it's become just so bloody hard…and vital…and essential for all the fun, crazy, tricky exercises I love to do.

The Long Stretch Series is where you begin to find your lower body and see what it can do for you.

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body : Strength for Life

To find the lower body and successfully execute this series: Long Stretch, Down Stretch, Up Stretch, Elephant and Long Back Stretch has become a pet project of mine.

Everyone has to have a hobby…

Stand on your feet, yo:

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body : Strength for Life

The Short Box and the Straps

It's true.

The Short Box is all about the back and posture.

However, let's look closer:

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body : Strength for Life

What is attached to the apparatus?

Remember the Lion's Share of the Body?

Well, now it's sitting on the box and attached to two straps.

The skill here is how to make the best use of the straps to hook into the lower body. Use the lower body well and create even more resistance from which to lift and soar ever higher in your posture.

Dig down deep to lift up, my friends!

The Strength of Standing

My father turned 90 this year. Mom's not far behind at 88.

After the Thanksgiving holiday we started decorating their house for Christmas. Mom planned to add ornaments to the tree a little at a time, but wanted help with the lights and the angel on top.

Standing up (without holding on to anything) and working with both arms on a task proved to be the most tiring activities. And not just for the nonagenarian set.

As we age, we desperately need the strength to stand and work at something with the upper body without tiring: cooking a holiday dinner, decorating a Christmas tree, unpacking groceries, you name it.

There's even an exercise (or 500) for that.

Can you say Bean Bag?

I forget how awesome this device can be.

Oh it will kick your ass, even if you use it without any weight in the bag at all.

Now let's see you stand up tall. For. Ever.

Bean bag down:

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body: Strength for Life!

And back up!

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body: Strength for Life!

Musculoskeletal fitness, it turns out, is very important. Prevention Magazine

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Comments

  1. Great Post! Watching the TSL testing subjects was fascinating! Damn chairs; they stop us half way down and facilitate us getting up 😉 It all comes back to OUR FEET! Ah, ha! I’ve been diggin’ on Rolling Like A Ball and coming up to standing, then back down to rolling…Repeat. Sure, momentum helps a bit but I couldn’t do this for a long time…and I was shocked! #I.Can’t.Stand.Up! Even now it can be dicey but it is not short of miraculous to feel one’s lower body strength push the whole body up! I think before my body wasn’t sure “how” to get up you know? legs? feet? arms? butt? Pilates has sewn them all together and now, Boom! Up! I’m happy the Bean Bag made an appearance! Still working on shining this gem. Cu soon!

    • Corrie,

      I love the test of Rolling Like a Ball and standing up. It is such a barometer for me, as my back is often tight. I love the challenge and the elegance of it. And yes, the strength to push the body up feels amazing as the whole body integrates. It is definitely a favorite of mine as well. Oh and it is about time I used that Bean Bag. You can’t tell in the photo probably, but I got it from Pilates Nerd, and it has the same logo on it as the pillow you have. I don’t know if she still makes them, but I love it and need to use it more often. There’s all kinds of crazy stuff you can do with it while you roll it up and down. More on that later and see you soon too!! Happy New Year 🙂

  2. This was not only an entertaining read, but very helpful to me! I never knew that the lower body was the heaviest part of me, but I’m glad I know this now! I thought the bean bag method is definitely something I’ve never seen before, but now want to try! Thank you so much for this help!

    • Hi Petunia,

      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts here. I am with you – it’s taken me so long to do some exercises that I know now are mainly lower body exercises – I’ve been trying to do them with my upper body for years LOL. Yes, try out the bean bag – it looks deceptively easy, but your whole body will be working so hard to hold you up! Keep up the good work 🙂 Glad to be of help to you.

  3. Hi Andrea,

    Great post! I also strive at my first week to descend to the Mat from my standing position, but it was definitely worth it. Now I feel like my posture has improved, no more slouching 🙂 hohoho

    -Justine

    • Thank you Justine!
      Yes, you really have to learn to defy gravity to descend with proper control. It takes some practice, but later on you can even do some fun little riffs on it…always something to look forward to… 🙂

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