Pilates principles offer you some pretty impressive benefits: these give you true core strength, balance and control, to name a few. 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 so 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 or left to do its own thing.
4. Precision: This is about being aware of the whole body during each movement – the whole movement. 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, since this 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 and keeping them engaged throughout the weight-lifting movement. This strong core will stabilise your body, preventing 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: your legs, and how they hinge and fold to lower your body. Your glutes, and how they contract to control the movement and help with balance. Your upper body, and how it has to remain engaged and upright to protect your spine. Your shoulders, how they have to stay open and strong. And so on.
This will not only intensify the exercise for you, but it forces 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, and 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 deep, 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.
You don’t have to limit the use of the Pilates principles to weight lifting alone – use it 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.