No, you don’t need to spend another £100 on the latest trainers. Meet the Pilates ring.
For some, Pilates is the strange practice you glimpse through the glass walls of our Soho gym – all cables, pulleys and contorted bodies. For others it’s their go-to workout with regular reformer sessions. For most, we suspect, it’s somewhere in between. You’ve definitely heard of it, you know it’s good for you, but you’re not entirely sure why. Or how. If that sounds familiar, allow us to elaborate.
Pilates does many things, but chief among them is its potent effect on your core and the larger muscles in your lower body. The exercises are designed to activate and align as well as strengthen to better help your body work as an entire unit. Which is good news when it comes to improving your performance in the gym. Proper positioning, and muscle groups that work in unison will help you to add extra kilos to your major lifts and keep you pushing through any WOD class. Pilates may look sedate, but the crossover benefits to your more high-octane pursuits are undeniable.
If you’re more of a cardiohead than a heavy metal fan, the same beneficial principles apply. Your core is one of the first muscle groups to fatigue as a runner. Losing stability through your midsection and pelvis as you hit the final miles will not only make pushing through the proverbial wall more difficult, it’ll vastly increase your risk of injury, too.
A Pliates-strengthened core that keeps your long, strong lower body muscles moving in alignment will keep you moving forward with perfect form. That means better efficiency, and better efficiency means you can cross the line in less pain and with a faster time. Not to mention the fact you’ll probably wake up fresher the following day, as well. You may even be able to walk into the office minus the inevitable jelly-legged hobble. Maybe.
But, while we would encourage you to book in to a reformer class, there is another option when you’re strapped for time. The Pilates Ring is a tool developed by Joseph Pilates (yes, that’s where the name comes from) to help focus on engaging your core. It is usually made of flexible rubber, plastic or metal and works as an extra form of feedback to your muscles. This helps to cement the mind-body connection and therefore better engage the muscles you’re targeting and get more from every rep. Little wonder it’s also known as the Magic Circle. At no more than £20 online, it’s the smart investment your fitness regimen needs.
Here, Trainer Tony Diamond reveals the five best exercises you need to master for a strong and stable core that can power you on to new levels of performance. Either perform these exercises back-to-back or pick your favourite few and repeat for three sets each. Don’t be fooled – they’re far tougher than they look.
Side Lying Leg Press
Muscle focus – Inner thighs, Glutes, Abdominals
Lie on your side coming on to your elbow. Your shoulder should be stacked directly over your elbow. Your top hip bone should be directly over the lower hip bone. Lengthen your legs away and place the ring between the lower part of your legs. As you exhale slowly squeeze the ring focusing on connecting your abdominals. Do this 10 times without changing the position of your body.
Muscle focus – Quads, Abdominals, Transverse
Lying on your back with your natural curve, place the ring between the lower part of the legs. As you exhale draw your abdominals in and slowly raise the upper and lower body with the knees bending to a right angle as you raise. Continually squeeze the ring between your legs. Be conscious that your shoulders do not hunch up. Repeat 10 times.
Muscle focus – Abdominals, Arms
Come up to sitting with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place the ring between your hands with your arms straight out in front of you. Draw your shoulders down connecting the mid back. Slowly raise the feet off the mat so your legs are at a right angle. With control lower your spine onto the mat until your lower back, that is the first 5 vertebrae are touching the mat. Straighten your arms to the ceiling while keeping the shoulders relaxed and your body position. Gently squeeze the ring as you exhale drawing your abdominals in and lower the ring, inhale raise. Repeat 10 times.
Muscle focus…..Back extensors, Glutes, Hamstrings, Rhomboid
Lying on your front hold the ring between the hands and extend the ring over your head. Lengthen the legs away. As you exhale draw your abdominals in and very slowly raise the upper and lower body while always finding length. Continually squeeze the ring from the mid back achieve this by keeping the shoulders drawn down. Slowly lower on the inhalation. Again, repeat 10 times.
Muscle focus – Thighs and all muscles around the pelvis
On your elbow place the ring inside the upper part of the leg (the thighs). Stack the hips and place the shoulder over the elbow. At all times keep the heels connected. As you exhale, keep abdominals connected and very slowly squeeze the ring without moving any other part of the body. Finally, repeat this 10 times.