There has been a lot of buzz lately about Adele and her weight loss and many stories are attributing it to Pilates, as well as her diet. Now being a Pilates teacher myself and a full believer in its benefits I need to clarify something: no one thing can make you lose weight more than the next, other than creating a caloric deficit. If you are consuming less energy (calories) than you are expending then you will lose weight, and if you are not, then the scale will not drop. You can not outrun a bad diet when it comes to weight loss. But… you can use exercise to help maintain your weight, meaning if you are totally content with how things are now you can use exercise to undo bad food choices.
I have a weight that is my dream weight, my weight where I feel like if it wasn’t illegal, I would walk around naked all the time. The problem with that weight is that it is impossible to maintain. A few weekends of brunching and happy hour and I am up 5 lbs. But that weight that is 5lbs up is something that I, and you, can hold onto as long as you balance your calorie consumption with your output so that you come out at zero. If you know you have a big night ahead of you, have a big workout that morning and then follow it up again with another workout the next day along with a day of healthy eating you should be ok, if you don’t indulge all the time. Indulging all the time, even with exercise, will lead to a slow increase in your weight and before you know it, you’re shopping for new pants.
How exercise affects your body shape is like this: if you are lifting weights, heavy weights, you are going to build muscle. Your body may change its shape to be more muscular, and with that added muscle comes added size. Good size, but you may notice that things like your legs, hips, butt and back get bigger. If you decide to take up running, you are going to lose a lot of your muscle mass and you are going to probably shrink in size. If you are doing HIIT training, you will put muscle on, but a bit differently than you would with strength training. If you take up cycling, you’ll notice your legs getting stronger and if you get back into the pool it’s your upper body that will change. All these types of exercise will help create the caloric deficit but each one shapes you a bit differently.
Which brings us back to Adele and her (supposed) Pilates body. Pilates is known to build strength while maintaining length in your muscles (I won’t get into the science of this but it’s based on how and when we apply tension to muscles); it strengthens the transverse abdominals, which act like a natural corset, drawing your bigger and stronger abdominal muscles in.
The problem with Pilates is that it is expensive and requires a highly trained instructor to make sure that you are doing the exercises properly as well as very expensive equipment. Because I am such a huge fan of this way of moving, I wanted to give you a few movements that you can do on your own that are very similar to what I have my clients do in my studio. All you need is a small ball, slightly deflated (best place to get one of these is at a dollar store) and an exercise band that is of medium tension. The video demonstration is below the descriptions.
Half Roll Down
Place the deflated ball between your upper inner thighs and sit tall with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, resting on the tips of your sitting bones. As you exhale, start to roll backwards, focusing on moving your pelvis so you feel the muscles in the front of your hips start to lengthen. Go as far down as you can until you no longer can firmly keep your feet planted, pause for a quick inhale then exhale as you roll yourself back to where you started. You can add to this by stopping at the bottom of this movement and lifting your arms straight overhead or rotating side to side. I show both movements in the video. Do 5 of each variation you choose.
Ball Upper Abdominal Curls
Place the ball underneath your shoulder blades. Keeping your pelvis stable and your feet firmly pressing into the ground, start to lower your upper body back over the ball as you breath in, then exhale and roll back up. As you roll back, allow your ribs to open and your upper back to arch then draw those ribs together as you lift. You can stick to this movement or to add some obliques add a rotation at the bottom of the movement, coming up on one side, returning to center to lower then repeating the other side. You can also do full circles around the ball, which is called “around the world”. All options will be shown in the video. Do 10 of each variation you choose.
This is an exercise that is usually done at the beginning of every Pilates session, except this version of it is much harder than doing it on a reformer and focuses more on your core than your legs. Begin by wrapping the band around your feet and holding opposite sides in your hand and keep your elbows tucked beside you, pressing into the mat. Lie with your back firmly pressed into the mat, head down and bring your legs into tabletop, heels together and toes apart (this is called Pilates V). Squeeze your heels and straighten your legs away from you without allowing your back to lift (if it lifts either don’t extend your legs out as far or kick them higher). Do 10 of these then keeping your legs straight, lower and lift your legs, again only as far as your back stays firmly pressed into the matt. Do 10 of these then go right into the next exercise, the Hundred.
This is the most recognizable and classic Pilates exercise, except adding the band gives it a bit of a twist. Keep the feet wrapped the same and lower them towards the floor as low as you can without allowing your back to lift. Once you find your range, extend your arms out straight, curl your upper body off the mat and pump the band down and up, while keeping everything still. Breathe in for 5 breaths and out for 5 as you pump your arms. Start with 5 sets without stopping and work up to 10, which equals 100 pumps, hence the name.
Glute Bridge with Hip Extension
Back to the ball for the last two exercises. Lie on your back, bend your knees with your feet hips distance apart and place the ball underneath one foot. Press evenly into both feet as you pick your hips up to a back bridge. Squeeze your glutes and really focus on the opening of your hips. Once at the top, straighten the leg that has the ball under it by rolling the ball away. Keep your hips still as you do this, then roll the ball back in and lower down. Repeat this 10 times on each side.
Band Upper Back Extension
Lay on your front, with the band in your hand and your arms in a goal post shape (your elbows are bent at 90 degrees). Your legs are long, about as wide as the mat. Before you move you MUST do these things. Press the tops of your feet down firmly so you feel your thigh muscles fire and your kneecaps lift and anchor your pubic bone into the mat to lengthen your low back. Lift your arms first, then your head and chest and stretch your arms forward. Then, pull the band to your chest with straight arms and try to lift your upper body up higher without activating your low back. Stay as high as you can as you bring your arms back over head and then lower everything down, returning your arms back to the starting position.
These movements are all very easy to do at home or to add into the workout routine you are already doing. And if you have any questions on anything relating to health please email me at [email protected].