It is usually pretty rare to see a large body builder stretching or foam rolling or practicing mobility-based exercises to counteract all of the weight they’re throwing around on the daily. Yet that’s precisely what you need in order to create balance and functionality in the body. Simple everyday movements like reaching for something on a top shelf or crouching down low to get something that rolled under your couch can be, for the bodybuilder type, more challenging than squatting 225 lbs. Pilates can be an amazing cross-training tool when paired with weightlifting – not only for increased flexibility, but for balancing strength in all muscles as well!
The Pilates Saw provides a back and hamstring stretch. Pay close attention to the dynamic between your front shoulder and the opposite hip. Great for your heavy legs days at the gym.
- Seated, extend your legs in front of you, and place feet about shoulder width apart.
- Hold the arms out wide to your sides, palms facing forward.
- Activate the glutes and inner thighs to twist the spine, reaching down and to the outside of the opposite foot.
- Round forward versus leaning forward to gain more flexibility of the spine.
- Bend the elbows or lower the arms if the work goes into the shoulders with straight arms.
- Then, return to neutral center and repeat on the other side.
Another great spine stretch and back strengthener is the Pilates Swan.
- Lay on your stomach with hands by your shoulders and head in line with your spine. Your arms should be bent with your elbows close to your sides and palms facing down.
- Slightly lift your hands off the Mat, pressing your hip bones into the Mat.
- Slowly lift your chest off the Mat without using your hands.
- Press your hands back down on the Mat and lift your upper body higher, floating your hands off the Mat as you begin to lower then place your hands back on Mat as you return to the starting position.
This side stretch lengthens and opens up the entire side body. It unilaterally stretches and engages your back extensor muscles, shoulders and intercostal muscles – great for before or after lifting heavy weights.
- Sit on the floor with both legs folded to one side.
- Extend one arm straight up above your head. Keeping your shoulder down, away from your ear.
- Keep your hip grounded as you reach the extended arm upward and over the body to the other side.
- Move your supporting hand further away from your body to increase the stretch. Make sure to keep the shoulder away from your ear and the rib cage closed.
- Return to center and repeat on the other side.
Pilates is geared towards generating balance in the body, increasing range of motion, improving flexibility, and challenging the body in functional ways so that you can move through life with ease.
Tack these few moves onto the end of your weightlifting routine for improved performance and increased mobility in all of your body’s planes of motion.
Words: Jenna Morris, Director of Master Training for Club Pilates