Whether you’re new to Pilates or a seasoned pro, there are some mistakes that even the instructors are making – Lynne Robinson of Body Control Pilates talked us through the key errors to avoid.
Consult this list before your next class and you’ll doubtless get more out of your workout than ever before.
1/ FORGETTING YOUR ALIGNMENT ON THE WAY OUT OF A MOVEMENT
Pilates centres around alignment – that means controlling every single part of your body. The position of your feet, your hands; everything is important. In particular it’s about controlling your head, your rib cage, and your pelvis because they’re your three main body weights.
If you control those you are using your centre well.
You need to check your alignment before each move, as you go through the move and then – people forget this – as you come out of the move. You should always come back to the same position.
2/ BRACING, NOT BREATHING
Pilates use different styles of breathing, the main one is called lateral thoracic which involves breathing into your ribs and into your side, this is quite important as it helps prevent you from ‘bracing’.
You mustn’t hold your breath – the breathing helps you to use your core correctly.
3/ OVER RECRUITING YOUR PELVIC FLOOR
So many people over do it on their core, they brace and use too much – less is more. You only use [your muscles] as, when and if you need them to control your movement and alignment.
They shouldn’t be engaged the whole time and this is the mistake people often make which causes lots and lots of problems in the long term.
It’s a specific skill, it should always be reactive to what load you’re putting onto a particular part of your body, rather than ‘I’m setting my abdominals and here I go’.
4/ FAKING YOUR PELVIC FLOOR ‘ZIP’
It’s very difficult to identify if you are working your pelvic floor correctly – ‘zipping’ up the muscles from back to front.
The first thing you need to check for is that you haven’t tipped your pelvis – that you haven’t moved, because that’s a common cheat.
Next thing is that you’re not squeezing anything else instead; your bum, your calves or gritting your teeth.
You can actually feel it, if you put your fingers on your hip and the top part of your pelvic bone and go inside the bone and down a bit, feel everything relaxed then engage your core. You will feel it.
It should feel like when you put your seat belt on, on a plane, it should be coming across, it shouldn’t bulge up – if there’s any bulging you’ve over done it and you’ve got the wrong muscles.
It should stay a tiny bit squidgey and definitely more of a hollow then a bulge.
5/ DOING THE MOVES YOU LIKE, NOT WHAT YOU NEED
We tend to do the exercises that we like doing and they’re often the ones we shouldn’t do – we actually need to do the ones we don’t like.
For example if you’re on the computer a lot, you’ll naturally become quite round shouldered, so curl ups are really no good.
You have to do your darts, your back extensions to reverse it.
If you know you’re in front of the desk all day, do arm openings, do rotations – don’t do more stomach crunches that bring you back to where you started!
6/ THINKING STRONG ABS = STRONG PELVIC FLOOR
No abdominal exercises will ever strengthen your pelvic floor, pelvic floor exercises strengthen the pelvic floor.
7/ RISKING YOUR NECK WITH AB EXERCISES
For years they wouldn’t let you put your hands behind your head during any sort of crunches, because you’ll pull on your neck but no, when you put your hands behind your head to do a simple curl up, let your head be heavier than your hands, feel the weight of your head and let your hands take the weight of your head then nod your head forward.
Then with the weight still heavy in your hands, make sure it’s your stomach that brings you up and then don’t fling back down again. A lot of problems come from on the way back down so really go back down slowly with control.
You can build up to hands-free as your stomach muscles get stronger.
8/ TREATING IT LIKE A COMPETITION
Trying to keep up with other people is something I see a lot – it’s not a competition.
9/ OBSESSING OVER THE PLANK
I have to laugh about all these planks that are appearing in the press, there is no Pilates exercise called the plank.
No position in Pilates is ever held, we’re about movement.
10/ RUSHING THROUGH MOVEMENTS
Don’t rush it, it’s actually harder to do something slower than it is quick.
If you’re doing a hip roll and you’re doing it very slowly, you’re going to have to really control it over a period of time. If you do it quickly then it’s just your legs doing the work.
You should try to focus and work slowly and precisely.