Michele Olson, PhD, FACSM, professor of exercise science at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, and Cherie Wells, lecturer in physiotherapy and clinical education coordinator at the University of Western Sydney in Penrith, Australia, both lead investigators of multiple Pilates studies, offer the following research-based practical tips on what mind-body fitness professionals should emphasize to maximize Pilates benefits for clients:
Postural alignment. Explain and ensure correct alignment in both a static and dynamic position to achieve improved postural benefits.
Activation of the abdominal and pelvic-floor muscles. Teach clients to actively engage all four layers of abdominal muscles, as well as the pelvic floor, for improved muscle conditioning and better postural support.
Effective breathing. Teach deep, rhythmic diaphragmatic breathing; this is an essential part of achieving exercise benefits.
Avoidance of muscle tension. Cue clients not to oversqueeze, overflex or overstretch muscles, but rather to use only the required energy to perform any movement. In particular, Olson recommends reminding clients to relax the neck during practice and use intrinsic neck flexors so the back of the neck does not become tight.
Multiplanar training. Do not include only forward-flexion exercises. Design exercise sequences that include a balance of flexion and extension, as well as side planking movements. Also incorporate arm and standing exercises to challenge the entire body, not only muscles in the trunk area.
Exercise modification. For best results, modify exercises according to an individual’s ability to perform the movements correctly. Wells points out that appropriate modifications not only optimize benefits but also reduce injury risks.To read the full article published in the February 2014 issue of the IDEA Fitness Journal click here.