Pilates principles offer you some pretty impressive benefits. These give you true core strength, balance and control. This is among other massive plus points. The question is, can you use the wisdoms of Pilates practice to improve your weight training? You can! Here’s how…
Six Pilates principles that guide good form
There are six principles that underpin the Pilates practice. These are:
1. Centring: Every exercise in Pilates starts with the engagement and activation of the core (i.e. the centre of the body).
2. Concentration: This refers to your concentration on each exercise. You have to concentrate heavily on each exercise so that you get the most out of it.
3. Control: All of the muscles in the body are controlled during each exercise. No part of the body is left out during Pilates or is left to do its own thing.
4. Precision: This is about being aware of the whole body during each movement. The whole movement needs to be 100% precise. It’s about understanding where, how and why to move each limb.
5. Breath: Pilates principles state that you harness the breath to make the exercises more effective.
6. Flow: Your goal during a Pilates exercise is to achieve a kind of fluidity or flow through the movement. Perfection in Pilates is the result of balanced, centred, controlled and precise movement.
Here’s how to apply these Pilates principles to your weight lifting
Engage your core for each movement: Before you pick up the weight, focus on engaging the core muscles. In addition, ensure that you keep them engaged throughout the weight-lifting movement. This strong core will stabilise your body and prevent injury during exercise.
Concentrate on every aspect of the exercise: Let’s take the squat as an example here. Once you’ve engaged your core, concentrate on every bit of the exercise. Focus on your legs and how they hinge and fold to lower your body. Concentrate on your glutes, how they contract to control the movement and help with balance. Focus on your upper body, and how it has to remain engaged and upright to protect your spine. Concentrate on your shoulders, how they have to stay open and strong. And so on.
This will not only intensify the exercise for you but it will force you to adopt the correct form and keep it. This heightened awareness of your body and its movements means fewer injuries and fewer imbalances.
Control the movement: Instead of focusing only on the limbs used directly in a particular weight-lifting movement, focus on the body as a whole (even the parts that seem to you to be idle). Your coordination and body awareness will improve, making you a better weight lifter.
Be precise: This is where your weight-lifting form becomes important as does the placement, trajectory and movement of every limb. To use the example of the squat again, it’s about knowing how far apart to position the feet, how to hinge at the knees and the hips, how to avoid taking strain into the neck and shoulders, etc.
Breathe correctly: Before each rep, breathe in to fill the lungs and then breathe out to engage the core. Breathe in again and then start your movement. Initially, this breathing pattern is very difficult to master but once you’ve got the hang of it, you can start using your breath to help you get into a rhythm (and do more reps!). Plus, it forces you to breathe deeply, which means your muscles get lots of oxygen. You’ll notice the difference in your stamina, too!
Flow: Aim to make your movements fluid, rather than jerky.
What are the benefits of being flexible?
There are countless benefits to being flexible. Medical experts at Harvard University in the United States of America define “flexibility exercises” as the following:
“[Flexibility exercises are] Activities that lengthen and stretch muscles can help you prevent injuries, back pain, and balance problems.”
These experts go on to say the following about the benefits of being flexible:
“A well-stretched muscle more easily achieves its full range of motion. This improves athletic performance — imagine an easier, less restricted golf swing or tennis serve — and functional abilities, such as reaching, bending, or stooping during daily tasks.”
Watch this video for more information.
You don’t have to limit the use of the Pilates principles to weight lifting alone. Use these during any exercise, to perform better and get stronger. And if you’d like to learn to practice Pilates like a pro, or to help others benefit from Pilates practice and principles, check out the Comprehensive Pilates Instructor Certification on offer at Trifocus Fitness Academy. Click here for more information.