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Pilates exercises for full-body fitness: Illustrated Pilates techniques

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

See how to get a Pilates body

Pilates is a full-body conditioning exercise that strengthens, lengthens and tones your muscles. Pilates effectively improves posture, core-strength, flexibility, balance, coordination and the mind-body connection. In addition, it is a form of functional fitness that will make all of your daily activities easier -- whether you have a desk-job or are a training athlete. These five Pilates exercises will give you an introduction to the Pilates mat work -- together, they work every muscle in your body!
See how to get a Pilates body

Swan Dive

Prepare to stretch and strengthen your entire body with this exercise.
1. Lie on your stomach, legs straight, with your palms pressed into the mat underneath your shoulders. Squeeze your legs together and rest the tops of your feet on the mat. Inhale and draw your belly button up towards your spine. Straighten your arms, pressing away from the floor.

2. Keep lifting your chest and stretch your neck long, your head rising to the ceiling (do not drop your head back towards your shoulder blades. Exhale and bend your arms, lowering yourself back to the mat. Keep your legs straight, tighten your glutes and the backs of your legs and lift both legs up. Lower to start position.

3. Keep your neck in line with your spine and reach your arms forward, hovering them over the floor. Lift your legs, keeping them straight. Rock forward onto your sternum or chest, lifting your legs, then rock backward, lifting your upper body. Rock back and forth for three to six counts, inhaling as you rock forward, exhaling as you rock backward.

4. Sit back on your heels with your forehead on the mat to stretch your back and rest.


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