Pilates is an exercise regimen that will test your body’s ability to resist pressure. Going into Pilates entirely unprepared, therefore, would be counterintuitive.
At the same time, a Pilates class is nothing like an SAT exam -— you don’t need to cram. Just try a few simple exercises the morning or evening before your class, and note the improvements in your workout performance.
Do you need to stretch before Pilates?
Yes, you should warm up before Pilates to make sure you get the most out of your lesson. Failing to warm up properly ahead of time will force the process to happen when your body should have already reached its peak performance state.
Which stretches should I do before Pilates?
Generally, you shouldn’t engage in any intensive stretching before a Pilates class. Yoga, use of Pilates machines, and other serious activities are usually unnecessary and could even be detrimental.
There are a few Pilates-centric stretches and mat exercises, however, that we’ve found useful in prescribing to students before classes. Don’t worry — you don’t need to do each of these stretches before every Pilates class.
Instead, establish a routine that allows you to warm up each part of your body equally when it’s time to do Pilates. Try these six stretches to start:
1.) Pilates imprinting
The Pilates imprint is a very simple prone exercise that helps you get in tune with your physical being while also gradually awakening each muscle in your body. Imprinting is a great exercise for reducing stress regardless of the occasion, but before Pilates, imprinting is a necessary step to make sure your mind and body are in harmony.
- Lie on your back on a Pilates mat or on the floor. Bend your knees, place your feet flat on the floor, and allow your spine to take the neutral position.
- One after the other, relax your shoulders, jaw, throat, rib cage, belly, spine, hips, and leg muscles. Throughout the entire process, make sure to inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly and thoroughly through your mouth.
- In your mind, feel your spine lengthening, relaxing, and stretching out against the floor. That’s where the name of this exercise comes from — the imprints of your vertebrae left behind.
- Continue imprinting on your mat for 3-5 breaths.
2.) Arm reach-and-pull
Your shoulders are integral to any successful Pilates workout. As a result, you’ll need to fully limber up your arms and shoulders before you tackle Pilates equipment or the types of rigorous exercises a structured class often involves.
- Stand with your feet flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Lift your arms straight in front of you — keep your wrists up, but allow your fingers to hang loose.
- As you inhale, reach forward, and open your shoulder blades.
- On the exhale, allow your shoulders to return to their normal position, but keep your arms extended.
- Inhale again as you pull your arms back and allow your shoulder blades to come together.
- Exhale and allow your shoulders to loosen and arms to drop.
3.) Pelvic thrust exercise
Also called the pelvic curl, this basic thrusting exercise brings your pelvis off the floor, gently working your abdominal and leg muscles. This exercise is more intensive than some of the other warm-ups we’ve listed, so you might want to leave it toward the end of your stretch routine.
- Begin with Pilates sequential breathing
- Engage your abdomen to push your pelvis toward the floor as you exhale.
- Then, inhale as you press your feet down and push your tailbone upward. Star with your hips, then raise your lower back and upper back.
- There should be a straight line from your hips to your shoulders.
- As you exhale, move your pelvis back toward the floor, reversing the sequence in which you raised it.
4.) Swan prep (Superman stretch)
This variant of the common Superman stretch involves raising your head off the ground but not your feet. You can swap this one out for a full Superman if you want, which follows the same basic steps except you stretch your hands straight out and pull your feet off the ground when you raise your head.
- Lie face down on the floor. Bend your elbows, and place your hand on the floor next to your body.
- Engage your abs to lift your belly away from the mat. As you inhale, lengthen your spine.
- As you exhale, release your spine sequentially to return your belly to your mat.
5.) Pilates wall roll-down
Any ordinary wall in your home will do for this basic Pilates warm up exercise. Stand with your feet directly on the floor or on a mat, and get ready to engage your abdomen.
- Stand with your butt against the wall and your feet around one foot’s length from the base of the wall.
- Pull your abdominal section in, and raise your hands above your head.
- Nod your head forward, and carefully roll your spine away from the wall.
- Without letting your butt leave the wall, roll down fully while keeping your abs pulled in.
- Feel each vertebra touch the wall as you very slowly roll back up to the starting position.
6.) Spine stretch
Imagine making a tight letter “C” with your body. That’s the Pilates spine stretch in a nutshell.
- Sit with your butt planted on the ground and your back straight. Stretch your legs forward, and part them to around shoulder-width.
- As you inhale, lift your arms up and forward with your palms facing down.
- As you exhale, push your upper body further forward while keeping your legs extended. Your spine should make a C-shaped curve.
- Use proper spinal articulation to raise your torso back to the starting position.