3 Pilates Hacks for All Your Other Workouts

Pilates Training for Real Life
Pilates is Growing. Getty Images

Pilates training is everywhere but how to fit it into your existing workout schedule. So many workouts. So little time. Some of us would love to spend our days hopping from sweat to sweat. For the rest of us, (yes, that's me too), I want to pack in as much as I can in as short amount of time as possible. Remember when iTunes launched and all the artists rose up against it saying that consumers were now compelled to "choose the best and leave the rest"?

I feel a little like that about exercise. There is a one-stop-shopping trend among exercisers looking for a quick fix. What if we actually could capture all the best elements of a given workout and lay them atop any other workout to create a multi-tasking workout?  

As a Pilates purist, I firmly believe that the Pilates body of work is meant to work as a cohesive system so picking it apart isn't necessarily going to get you what you need. However, the elements of Pilates that are universal can most assuredly be applied to any type of training you prefer. Below is a list of Pilates shortcuts or hacks that will cross all exercise types and confer benefits regardless of your level.

In and Up 

The first Pilates tenet. Your abdominals have a place. And that place is inward and upward. Don't just take my word for it. Try it yourself. Do the opposite. Push your abs out and down. Doesn't feel great, does it?

No. And it doesn't look good either. Worst of all, it doesn't function well. So put your hands on your belly and draw your gut inward a bit and upward a lot. You'll stand taller, sit taller and tone up no matter what you're doing.

Where does this work? Let's see. Oh right, Everywhere. Especially good for cycling, barre or dance style workouts and any type of cardio at the gym.

If you're thinking "what if I don't actually workout"? Even better. The in and up Ab technique favored by Pilates people works best in real life. This simple activity is uniquely effective for better posture, alignment, tone and strength.

Keep Your Box Square

Yes, I'm talking to you. We all have a box so pay attention. Stand at a mirror and draw an imaginary line from shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip. Then connect those lines up and down. That's your box. The point of seeing it is so that you can build awareness of your alignment. Skeletal and muscular imbalances are the leading cause of pain and injury. Keeping your torso square and aligned during your workouts is a huge asset to your ​overall health and fitness. Use the box.

Where does this work? All one sided recreational sports will benefit from the Box idea. Think golf or tennis as examples. This concept is also particularly useful when you isolate twisting or rotary movements from whatever workout you enjoy. The Box idea is more micro managing of your workout movements. 

Exhale to Execute

There are scores of bodyworkers who focus their careers on the process of inhaling and exhaling. In truth, Mr. Pilates had much to say about breathing but the bulk of it boils down to a few simple principles.

For the purposes of hacking, the one idea you can comfortably steal is this: inhale to prepare for the hardest part of a move, and exhale as you execute that part.

Where does this work? Bodyweight training and other resistance training as well as Yoga and other systems where you are meant to hold poses or exert force suddenly. Deliberate breath control will make all your moves more controlled.

If you are looking to improve your regular workouts, there's hardly a better choice than Pilates. But if you can't add the full program to your schedule, just use these shortcuts. Learning how to master the elements of control, precision and concentration will propel you forward in any type of exercise you enjoy.


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