If you're looking for a new way to improve your physical fitness, work on your strength and flexibility, and improve your mental well-being, mat Pilates could be the workout you've been looking for!
Part of the famous pilates school of physical training, mat Pilates is a light workout to build core strength through controlled exercises and controlled breathing. Mat Pilates exercises are always performed on the floor, on an exercise mat, rather than using the infamous Pilates Reformer machines.
Mat Pilates training usually takes place against a person's body weight, but pull up bands and other resistance bands can aid you in targetting particular muscles and in creating a more challenging workout too. In this article, we look at the best mat Pilates benefits and take you through a few basic Pilates mat exercises to get you started!
So, what exactly is mat Pilates?
Pilates is a form of training that takes a variety of different shapes and forms. It's a style of exercise, or more appropriately, a school of thinking and training that encompasses physical movements and controlled breathing.
Pilates was first developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, as a method of training designed to build both physical and mental strength, simultaneously. The idea behind the movement is that mental well being is inseparable from physical well being. Pilates routines, therefore, incorporates both breathing control alongside physical activity.
Pilates is often seen as a lighter form of exercise and commonly prescribed for rehabilitation. It's not only useful for rehabilitating injured or weakened muscles, though. Pilates is becoming increasingly popular as a form of light strength, flexibility, and mobility training. You won't be applying too much pressure to your joints, but you'll still be able to target specific muscle groupings and help to improve your health and fitness.
When you think of 'Pilates,' you probably imagine the most dramatic version that falls into this category of exercise. Reformer Pilates involves using what's essentially a Pilates machine, involving all sorts of different ropes and attachments.
Mat Pilates is somewhat different. It's a distinct style of Pilates designed to be performed exclusively on an exercise mat. You don't need any fancy equipment, although resistance bands can definitely help. Mat Pilates is much less daunting and easier to get started in comparison to reformer Pilates!
Many Pilates routines often last between 20 and 40 minutes. The focus isn't intensity, but control. The training routines involve a wide variety of different movements. Some, like The Hundred, are unique to Pilates, while others, like bridges or lunges, are common exercises you probably already know how to do.
Traditionally, Pilates exercises target the abs and other core muscles, but they also involve lots of leg and arm movements too.
Examples of mat exercises and pilates stretches include the following:
- The Hundred
- Single leg stretch
- Pelvic curl
- Ab curl
- Kneeling side plank
- Plank leg lift
- The Roll Up
- The Roll Over
There are many more, too, ensuring that venturing into mat Pilates will undoubtedly allow you to establish diverse workouts and exercise routines!
What are the benefits of Pilates?
Mat Pilates has some fantastic benefits, including the fact that you can start with just a few resistance bands and an exercise mat!
It's a super varied discipline that has both physical and mental benefits. The most important benefits you can gain from routinely practicing mat Pilates (and other forms of Pilates) include the following:
- Low-impact exercises with high gains
- Improve flexibility, range of motion, and mobility
- Improve the health of muscles and joints
- Improve core strength
- Improve posture
- Avoid injuries and long term pain
- Burn fat and tone muscles for a leaner look
- Stimulate your metabolism for longer calorie burn
- Learn to control your breathing through Pilates stretch and movements
- Enjoy a more relaxed mindset
- Practice varied routines to avoid monotony
Of course, to truly see the benefits of Pilates, you need to have a balanced and consistent workout schedule. Pilates on its own isn't enough to turn you into a super-human bodybuilder; you need weight training for that. It also won't be much use on its own if you're training to run a marathon because you need to include some cardio for that!
It can help you to gain better control of your mindset for other areas in your life, and it can help you better control and train your core muscles. Properly trained core muscles complement weight training and cardio particularly well. If you find yourself enjoying mat Pilates, we'd suggest incorporating at least two sessions per week if you want to start seeing results.
Mat Pilates exercises for beginners.
Mat Pilates exercises make use of many of the basic Pilates exercises that you need to learn to progress well within this training methodology. Mat Pilates is a fantastic place to begin your Pilates journey, as all you'll need is a Pilates mat and a resistance band.
Below you can find a few basic mat Pilates movements. You can perform these exercises either with or without a resistance band. We like to practice them with a resistance band to target specific muscle groupings better and provide further control over the movements (Pilates is all about control, after all.)
This is low-intensity training, so there's no need to use the strongest resistance band you have to begin with. Start light, work on your control, and remember to breathe through every stretch and every movement!
1. The banded hundred
Remember to work on breathing control throughout this movement!
- Lie on your back and place a long resistance band around your feet.
- Hold both ends of the band on either side of your body, with your arms flat to the floor.
- Engage your abs to raise your legs, so you bend at the waist.
- Hold your legs to their greatest extent.
- Keep your back flat and pull down on the resistance band with your arms.
2. Standing single leg stretch with resistance band
Remember, it's not a race, and this is not intended to be cardio! Go slow, focusing on muscle control.
- Stand with your feet loosely apart and place a long resistance band beneath one foot.
- Hold both ends of the band in each hand, and lightly pull to help raise your banded foot off the floor.
- Keep your body balanced on one foot as you bend your raised knee and move your leg up and down.
- Change legs and repeat.
3. Roll up
- Lie flat on your back, and loop a long resistance band around your feet.
- Hold the ends of the band in either hand, keeping your arms at your side.
- Keeping your legs straight, engage your core to raise your body.
- Continue until your body is over your toes (or as far as you can reach.)
- Use the resistance band to support your core as you perfect the movement.
- When you reach your furthest extent, gently lower your body back down to the floor.
Is mat Pilates training right for you?
There's no doubt that mat Pilates can be good for you! In fact, it can be excellent for you! Regularly practicing Pilates, once or twice a week, will help to boost other areas of your training, too, by giving you more control over your body, your movements, and your mind.
Why not include mat Pilates training into your weekly workout schedule? We guarantee that you'll appreciate the benefits and see the results!