The New Phase of Pilates – Pilates Wall Workouts

woman exercising against a wallPilates has undergone many changes since Joseph Pilates first developed a set of exercises to aid injury rehabilitation over a 100 years ago.  Pilates invented the Pilates reformer in the 1920s when he discovered that resistance exercise was the most effective way to rebuild strength following injuries and surgery. The latest incarnation is something much cheaper and accessible to wall – the Pilates “Wall”.

A Pilates wall workout is simply a group of exercises that use a wall to provide resistance. These exercises often focus on the core muscles, as well as the arms and legs, and can be done using a mat or other equipment such as resistance bands or small balls. Common Pilates exercises that have been modified to be done on a wall include the Pilates roll-up, leg circles, and the Pilates saw. The wall provides an added level of support and resistance, which can be beneficial for individuals who are new to Pilates or who have physical limitations. So, let’s take a look at the standard exercises, with explanation of the wall version.

At the end of the workout there’s a great video from Pilates on Demand with more great exercises to try.

The Pilates Roll-Down

The Pilates roll-up is a core exercise that helps to strengthen the abdominal muscles and improve spinal flexibility. First, here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform a Pilates roll-up on a mat:

  1. Start by lying on your back on a mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows wide and pointing out to the sides.
  3. Begin by engaging your abdominal muscles and lifting your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat.
  4. Continue to lift your upper body up, keeping your elbows wide and your head and neck in alignment with your spine.
  5. Use your abdominal muscles to curl up toward your knees, keeping your head and shoulders lifted off the mat.
  6. As you reach the top of the movement, your hands should be reaching toward your knees.
  7. Lower your body back down to the mat, one vertebrae at a time, keeping your abdominal muscles engaged.
  8. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Now imagine the mat is on the wall. You stand against the wall and gently roll forward, keeping your backside in contact with the wall, to a gentle and relaxed forward bend. It is important to keep your movement slow and controlled throughout the exercise, and to engage your abdominal muscles to prevent straining your back. It’s always recommended to start with a low repetition and gradually increase the number, following your own capacity.

Pilates Leg Circles

The Pilates leg circles is an exercise that targets the inner and outer thigh muscles and also helps to improve hip mobility. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform Pilates leg circles lying on a mat:

  1. Start by lying on your back on a mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your arms at your sides with your palms facing down.
  3. Lift one leg off the mat, keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
  4. Begin by making small circles with your lifted leg, moving your foot in a clockwise direction.
  5. Keep your movement slow and controlled, and use your thigh muscles to initiate the movement.
  6. Make about 5-10 circles in one direction, then repeat in the opposite direction.
  7. Lower your leg back down to the mat and repeat the exercise with the other leg.

For the wall variation, stand with your back against the wall, like in the roll-down. Gently lift one leg off the floor and circle it as described in step 4 above. Again, focus on doing the exercise slowly and steadily, maintaining a solid stance against the wall, and do not not force your range of motion – always work within your own limits.

The Pilates Saw

The Pilates saw is a harder exercise that targets the core, shoulders and back. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform the Pilates saw on a mat:

  1. Start by sitting on the mat with your legs extended out in front of you and your arms extended overhead, with your palms facing each other.
  2. Keep your core engaged and your back straight, slowly bend your right knee and bring it towards your chest.
  3. As you bring your right knee in, twist your torso to the right and reach your left hand towards your right foot, keeping your right arm extended overhead.
  4. Hold the stretch for a moment, feeling the stretch in your oblique muscles.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement on the other side by twisting to the left and reaching your right hand towards your left foot.
  6. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

On the wall, again with back to wall as above, you lift keep both feet on the floor, then twist to reach towards your opposite leg with one extended hand, while raising the other hand straight up.

There are more advanced Pilates wall exercises, which are best learned by watching a video such as the one below by Pilates On Demand:

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