• Melissa Connolly

How to get the most benefit in every exercise!

How do we get the utmost benefit of our Pilates and Barre classes? Even with the most basic of the movements there is so much you can do to go deeper into the exercise. Have you heard me say in class “make every rep count”? You know that when you take a Pilates or barre class it is the teachers (my) responsibility to make sure that your class is well rounded, working all the muscles in a balanced way, that I am motivating you , providing safe cueing and appropriate exercises.

But it is truly up to you to get the most out of your workout and gain the most benefit. I do my best in class to remind you of these but if you can really bring awareness to these tips it will help you in every workout you do. This is your body. Really listen to it and know when you are ready to challenge yourself with these tips and know when you are feeling exhausted and need to back off.

What are some pointers that will make each exercise the best it can be?

1) Alignment.

Having proper alignment is going to make sure your joints are free from strain. You will not get injured if you prepare your body in the right position for each movement. Before you get into an exercise listen to the alignment cues and then make sure you feel all of your joints in your body are comfortable. If not, adjust until you are properly aligned. Not every person has the exact alignment and you might need to adjust differently to ensure your body is free from strain.

2) Focus on engaging the working muscles.

Bring in a mind body connection by really thinking about the muscles that are working and engage them more as you are working rather than go through the range of motion.

When performing an abdominal exercise really focus on the muscles pulling in toward your spine and engaging, when performing a thigh exercise focus on your thighs strengthening, when doing a glut and hamstring exercise tighten the back of your thigh, when doing a shoulder exercise make sure you are squeezing the shoulder muscles… etc. Really bring your body and mind together to make the most out of the muscle engagement.

3) Breathing.

Each time you inhale your body takes in oxygen, which your body needs to function. The more you move, the more oxygen you need. The breath coordinated with the movement will allow you to fill yourself up with oxygen, give yourself energy and extra power when you need it. If you tend to hold your breath or breath shallow you are limiting your body to really dive deep into the exercise and can possibly make you feel lightheaded. The breathing is also beneficial for facilitating more of a contraction when you are working on engaging a muscle or helping to release and lengthen when you are stretching.

4) Go an extra inch.

When you want to make improvements you must challenge yourself one more inch! Your body will adapt to what you are doing so keep striving to go just a little bit deeper, a little higher in your abdominal curl, a little lower into your second position, a bit longer in your leg lifts, a little deeper into a stretch, etc.


5) Know when to back off.

And then there is a point when you reach your limit. You met your capacity. This is when you back off because if you were to push it any further you may come out of alignment or start to use other muscles that are not supporting you but are actually causing more strain. So at this point back off and do what feels connected and right in your body.

Your movements should not all feel exhausting and hard. There should also be a joy of movement in performing the classes. Pilates and barre are meant to work your body head to toe in a balanced and fluid way combining strength, stretch, breath and flow. Your body will respond and you will get results if you know how and when to challenge yourself and how and when to ease off.

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