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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

Mermaid/Side Bends

This exercise targets your arms, shoulders and waist. It also helps in developing balance. Note: Skip this exercise if you have carpal tunnel or other problems with your wrists.

1. Sit on the floor on your right hip with your knees slightly bent, left leg resting on your right leg. Place your right palm on the mat underneath your right shoulder, arm straight.

2. Lift your left hip towards the ceiling as you come off the floor, supporting your body with your right arm. Your legs should be straight, the inside of the left foot resting on the inside of the right foot. Your body should be aligned from head to toe.

3. Turn your head toward the ceiling and stretch your left arm down the left side of your body. Inhale deeply and lift your left arm up towards the ceiling then over until it rests on your ear. Reach as far from your shoulder as possible, turning your head towards the mat. Return arm to your side and lower the hips.

4. Repeat three to six times then switch sides.


Tip: If you have trouble balancing your body, stagger your feet, one positioned in front of the other.

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