A good sweat session in a Pilates workout class can you have feeling lean, strong and in control of every part of your bod… if done right. But real talk: Working out your core to a six-pack is harder than it seems. Even if you’ve got all the at-home Pilates essentials and the cutest workout clothes ever, nailing each move takes time and patience. That’s why we caught up with Jen Henry, owner of Relevation Physical Therapy and Wellness, home to one super chic Pilates studio, to teach us all of her ways.
1. You stop breathing. We’ve all been there. You’re focusing so hard on the moves and practicing good form that you forget one very simple, yet crucial thing: to breathe. But we need that oxygen to keep our bodies performing the way they’re supposed to. Plus, proper breathing can help you work out longer and calm your mind. That’s what we call a win/ win.
How to fix it: “Although different instructors in different classes may cue an inhale or exhale differently during specific exercises, the most important thing to remember during any class is to keep breathing. You’ll have more control of each exercise.”
2. You wear your shoulders like earrings. This might sound like something you would read on a fashion Instagram account, but the truth is, it’s far from the new fashion trend. Instead, it’s that moment when you realize you’ve been scrunching your shoulders so close to your ears that you start to feel tension in your upper back.
How to fix it: Jens says, “Holding tension in your shoulders and relying on those upper trapezius muscles results in poor form and posture. It’s a quick fix though — just make sure you keep your shoulders down and soft during each exercise.”
3. You don’t maintain a proper abdominal contraction for pelvic stabilization. It takes a lot of words to say a very simple thing: You’re not tightening your abs enough to keep your pelvis in place. This might not seem like a big deal, but if the muscles around your pelvis are weak, you can develop misalignment in this area.
How to fix it: “It should be less of a “crunch” using the rectus abdominis, AKA the muscles that make up the top of your six pack, and more of “hallowing,” using the transversus abdominis, AKA the muscle that lives underneath your six pack muscles.”
4. You tuck your pelvis. In layman’s terms, you round your spine, aka what happens when you wear any kind of shoe with any kind of heel (whoops). If you have a tucked pelvis, you’ll usually also see a thrusting lower ribcage.
How to fix it: “When you’re actively rounding and flattening your lower back to the floor, you’re defeating the purpose of most moves. Keep your spine neutral during stabilization exercises like the tabletop, bridge or airplane.”
5. You have poor low back position and stability during planks. Yeah, we know: Planks are the death of us. But they can give you rock hard abs, so are they really the worst? The key to a killer planks is to keep your body as straight as possible. Anyone remember light as a feather, stiff as a board? Pretend you’re playing that here.
How to fix it: “Sticking your booty up in the air or letting it sink to the floor are big no-nos. Plus, that sinking position is bad for your back. Keep abdominal muscles engaged and draw your shoulders to your back to prevent booty popping and slouching.”
6. You think you have to do a million exercises quickly. With Crossfit classes and HIIT workouts taking over the gym, it’s hard to imagine that you can get a great workout in without practicing some form of high-intensity, high-repetition movements. But that’s where Pilates comes in and makes all of our core-building dreams come true.
How to fix it: According to Jen, the way to get the most out of your pilates class is to perform each exercise with proper form for just a few repetitions, so you get the most out of each focused, intentional movement.
“You don’t need to be dripping in sweat for your class to be beneficial. But Pilates does makes those crazy hard, dripping-in-sweat cardio days that much more powerful — your core is the powerhouse of your body. They say you can’t shoot a cannon out of a canoe. The same goes for exercise. If your core is a canoe, the limbs just won’t be very powerful.”
Headed to Pilates class this weekend? Tweet us your tips to @BritandCo!
(Photos via Relevation Physical Therapy + Wellness)