5 Ways to Use Pilates in Upper Body Workouts

Shoulder Stretch
Upper Body Stretch. Getty Images

Your upper body will benefit from Pilates as you tone and gain flexibility in your arms, shoulders and back. But it isn't done with isolation exercises. An upper body workout with Pilates exercises must be considered in the context of uniform development of the whole body. Flexibility and strength in the upper body is integrated with the core, and come together toward a greater functioning of the whole.

With these key factors in mind, here are five ways you can use Pilates to focus on the tone and flexibility of your arms, shoulders and upper back.

1. Learn the Movement Fundamentals for Your Arms and Shoulders

Before adding exercises and strength challenges, you want to be sure you are moving your arms and shoulders in ways that keep them integrated, connected to your core, and don't throw your posture out of whack. This is easy but important part of a Pilates-based upper body workout:

2. Work Arms and Shoulders with the Whole Body

Planks and plank-based exercises like the Pilates push up are perfect for building upper body tone and core integrity.

    3. Use the Pilates Magic Circle

    Now we get into adding resistance for the arms and shoulders, as well as feedback to the core. The magic circle will help you tone all areas of your upper back and arms. If you use it properly, resisting the release as well as squeezing it in, you will be using eccentric contraction which helps create longer looking muscles.

    4. Add Hand Weights to Your Mat Workout.

    Adding light hand weights, toning balls or wrist weights will increase the toning effect on your arms and shoulders and challenge you more to keep the shoulders integrated with the core. There are many ways to put hand weights into your Pilates mat workouts.

    5. Increase Shoulder and Arm Flexibility.

    Stretch and strength go together. You don't want strength without flexibility and you don't want to be flexible without the strength to integrate and use it. This is very important in upper body work where you frequently have a goal of developing a good range of motion and flexibility for everyday life.

    To get in shape with Pilates, you will be using these ideas in full body Pilates workouts. You can do Pilates mat exercises at home without equipment. If you have the opportunity to take Pilates equipment classes or do equipment workouts at home, you will have even more opportunity to build tone and flexibility in your upper body.

    Continue Reading