How Pilates Relieves Back Pain
Sitting for hours on end hunched over our desks or devices could lead to back pain. Research says that a sedentary lifestyle increases our risk for some chronic diseases or even premature death. Fortunately, Pilates exercises such as leg kicks and back extensions can bring positive results.
Wells et al. reported that “Pilates exercise offers greater improvements in pain and functional ability compared to usual care and physical activity in the short term.” Bird and Fell also wrote that Pilates exercise has long-term effects on improving balance and strength in older people.
In most cases, it’s the lower back, that part of the spine that curves inward at the base of the back, that takes the most impact when we’re seated. Pain is either concentrated in one area or radiates throughout the back along the spine’s network of nerves, muscles, and ligaments.
Another common reason for back pain is muscle strain, which affects the lumbar region or the lower part of the back. That’s why when you overstretch or twist, you sometimes feel an ache or a stiffening of the muscles, from the back down to the buttocks.
If you’ve been feeling more and more of the pain and strain, it’s a good time to take steps to correct it as it could be symptoms of a more serious problem with the bones and joints. Here are some Pilates workouts that are effective in preventing back pain or reducing lower back pain:
Back extensions are low-impact exercises that strengthen the lower back muscles. These improve the torso’s range of movement while correcting our posture, thus preventing back injury.
How to do Pilates Back Extensions:
- Lie face down with your hips flat on the mat and your legs straight behind you
- Contract your abs and back muscles as you lift your torso and legs
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds, keeping your head in neutral position
- Lower your body down to the mat, then return to the starting position Lower your body down to the mat, then return to the starting position
- Repeat the movements and complete the designated number of sets
Double Leg Kicks
Double Leg Kicks loosen up the lower back muscles and help the body develop more flexibility. This Pilates exercise gives the hamstrings a good workout while improving mobility around the hips.
How to do Pilates Double Leg Kicks:
- Lie down on your stomach with your legs together and straight behind you
- Clasp your hands behind your back, arms relaxed and face resting on one side
- Bend your legs as you exhale, pushing your feet three times toward the buttocks
- Lift your torso and bring the head to the center as you straighten the arms and legs
- Exhale and lower your body. Repeat the movement with the face turned to the other side
Cat and Cow Stretch
The Cat and Cow Stretch, a pose that mimics a stretching cat and a grazing cow, is for toning the back muscles (latissimus dorsi) without the help of any equipment. It’s great for easing tension and strain.
How to do the Pilates Cat and Cow Stretch:
- Get down on your hands and knees, keeping your spine neutral (like a cow grazing)
- Lift your sit bones upward, press the chest forward, and let the stomach drop
- Lift your head, relax your shoulders, and look straight ahead
- Arch your spine outward and draw the pubic bone forward as you exhale
- Let your head and tailbone drop a few inches to the ground (like a cat stretching)
Hip Extensions are also an ideal workout for both the lower back and pelvic muscles. They strengthen the glutes and hamstrings and maintain pelvic alignment, which increase support to the lower back.
How to do Pilates Hip Extensions:
- Lay your forearms and palms flat on the mat with the and head in neutral position
- Place your knees beneath your hips at a 90-degree angle
- Straighten your spine from head to tailbone, then lift one leg backward
- Lift the left leg toward the ceiling as you exhale, keeping the pelvis in neutral
- Inhale as you lower the leg, then lift the same leg up as you inhale
Knee Folds are one of the most basic Pilates exercises. These are often done as a warmup to mat or Pilates equipment workouts. They are also effective in releasing stress and tension on the back.
How to do Pilates Knee Folds::
- Lay down on the mat with the pelvis and spine in neutral position
- Keeping the spine stable, move one leg into a 90-degree angle at the knee
- Draw the right leg in as you exhale, and lower it as you inhale
- Lift the leg as you exhale, then inhale on the return
- Alternate movements on each leg, without tilting your pelvis or arching the back
Proper Pain Management: What to do first
Before deciding to take up Pilates, it’s important to establish the root cause of your back pain. At Pilates Plus Singapore, we strongly recommend that these exercises be done under the supervision of trained instructors, who can also teach you proper breathing and correct pacing.
The exercises in a Pilates programme can be challenging but not so much that to struggle with it. Our classes come in fundamental, intermediate, and advanced levels, with the exercises progressing at a pace that’s comfortable and safe for you.
The full benefits of Pilates may not be realised right away, just as the problems that caused your back developed over time. But by learning to use your muscles correctly—by supporting instead of stressing the spine—you’ll feel the tension drain away and your mobility increase after a few sessions.
Whether it’s a dull ache or searing pain, any discomfort in the back should not be taken lightly. If you’re looking for a way to alleviate back pain while engaging in a fun and sustainable workout, check out our affordable Pilates classes, which are customised to your goals and taught by our expert trainers.
Pilates Plus is the only Pilates and movement studio in Singapore that offers the Strength Pilates Series for both Mat and Reformer classes. The program is specifically designed to give you real results in strength gain, with our whole-body workouts.
Call Pilates Plus at +65 622 118 45 now or drop us a line, and we’d be happy to suggest an exercise programme that takes you closer to your fitness goals—taking you from a sedentary to healthy in both mind and body.
Date Updated: December 26, 2020
What is Calisthenics
Known also as bodyweight training, these are exercises that are done using mostly your own bodyweight or minimal equipment. If you’ve ever taken up any kind of workout, then chances are you’ve done some form of callisthenics or other, like pushups, squats, and crunches.
These days you won’t see many Singapore gyms offering callisthenics classes straight up as they’re not as trendy as the likes of HIIT, Functional Training, or boxing. What many people don’t know is that callisthenicss conditioning exercises are a great way to build the strength and stamina needed for high-intensity complex movements.
Callisthenics is the perfect workout for people who are only starting to get into a fitness regimen. At Pilates Plus Singapore, we recommend callisthenics as a complementary class to our Pilates for Beginners sessions. No special skills are required to perform these exercises, and they can be adjusted easily to your strength and fitness levels. What’s more, once you’ve learned how to do them properly, you can do callisthenics just about anywhere, anytime.
If your goal is to develop muscle mass like that of a bodybuilder, then callisthenics is a good supplementary exercise for weight training, which should be your main workout. But if you’re aiming for a limber and toned physique, then callisthenics would suit you fine.
Callisthenics exercises help you build a fit and strong upper and lower body, and core. With these simple and natural movements, you’ll be able to:
- Improve your flexibility
- Enhance your range of motion
- Maintain good form
- Develop your aerobic capacity
- Tone and strengthen your muscles
- Gain flexibility on your hips and lower body
- Get in shape or cross-train for a sport/competition
Step-by-Step Guide to Calisthenics
Although it’s ideal for beginners, callisthenicscalisthenics are a go-to complementary workout for seasoned gym-goers, bodybuilders, and exercise buffs. That’s because these exercises are an effective way to work out your entire body, improve strength, stability, and mobility to help you perform better not just in your sport or workout of choice but in your daily tasks and everyday routine.
|EXECISE TYPE||HOW TO DO IT||WHERE IT WORKS|
|Pushups||Get down on all fours but place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Extend your legs and hold your body up into plank position using your arms. Lower your body until your chest is nearly touching the floor. Pause, push yourself back up, and repeat.||torso—pectorals, triceps, anterior deltoid|
|Squats||Stand up straight with your toes facing forward, but place your feet slightly wider than the hips. Clasp your hands over your chest for balance and thrust your hips backwards. Then bend your knees and go down as low as you can while keeping your back in a neutral position.||thighs/quadriceps|
|Bench Dips||Sit down on a stable bench with your hands placed next to your thighs. Extend your legs and lift your backside off the bench with your arms supporting your body. Bend your elbows to lower your body so your arms are at a 90-degree angle. Push yourself up with your palms. Repeat.||upper arms/triceps|
|Calf Raises||Stand up straight then raise your heels off the floor by pushing through the balls of your feet until you’re on your toes. Hold it, get back down slowly, then repeat.||calves and ankles|
|Crunches||Lay down with your back flat on the ground, knees bent at a 90-degree angle, and feet planted on the floor. Cross your hands over your chest and bend your head slightly toward your chest. Contracting your core, push yourself up until your chest touches your knees.||abdominal muscles: trunk, pelvis, obliques|
|Lunges||Stand up straight then step forward so one leg is at a 90-degree angle to your body. Slowly sink into a lunge until the back knee is a few inches off the ground. Switch legs and repeat.||thighs/quadriceps|
|Burpees||(1) Get into a squat position. (2) Lower your hands to the floor. (3) With your hands supporting your weight, kickbackkick back so you’re on your hands and toes, and in a pushup position. (4) Do a frog kick by jumping back into your starting position. (5) Stand up and reach over your head. (6) Jump up and land back down with your knees bent, then get into a squat position and start over.||chest, arms, quads, glutes, abs, hamstrings|
|Chin Ups||Stand in front of an exercise bar. Grasp the bar from underneath—in a tight grip and with your arms slightly closer together. Pull yourself up using your biceps so that your head goes up over the bar. Repeat.||back muscles|
|Mountain Climbers||Start in plank position—shoulders directly over your hands and wrists; with your spine in a neutral position. Work your core to lift the right knee and bring it toward your elbow as close as you can. Move the right knee back to starting position while driving the left knee toward your left elbow, then back to starting position. Think of it like you’re running in place but in a plank position.||deltoids, biceps, triceps, abdominals, chest, obliques, quads, hamstrings|
Why Pilates Plus for Calisthenics
At Pilates Plus in Singapore, callisthenics is one of our go-to methods for building the foundations of our Pilates practice. We guide our students toward achieving their fitness goals in a way that is physically and mentally suited to them. Progressing through their workouts, they gain a better appreciation of callisthenics as a way to build better functional mobility, so they can go about their lives with ease, comfort, and control.
We help you move your body better with these callisthenics class options at our studio:
Callisthenics Fundamentals:to help you get the basics with the right form and movements Bent Arm Class:to level-up your pull-ups, dips, squats; and advance to complex variations Rings Class:to work out the arms through gymnastic rings, paralettes, and floor work
Ready to get started on callisthenics? TAP HERE to register an account and after you have purchased the package we can update your class credits accordingly. A booking confirmation email will be sent after you book your session. Feel free to contact us at +65 6221-1845 for more details.
* All content (text and visuals) on this page was reviewed by Michel Velasco on December 22, 2020
The Pilates fitness approach emerged around 100 years ago, but its principles and benefits remain relevant in today’s new normal. Joseph H. Pilates came up with a series of exercises to help injured soldiers manage their pain and restore their range of movement. This was in the early 1900s, while he was interning at a camp for Germans. He called his approach to full-body conditioning Contrology and the rest, as they say, is Pilates history.
What few people probably know is that in 1918, the Spanish flu struck and left around 50 million people dead, many between the ages of 20 and 40. Curiously enough, Joseph and everyone else who trained in Contrology was spared from the virus. It’s also interesting that they, the first-ever practitioners of Pilates, were practically quarantined inside the camp during the pandemic.
While it has been a hundred years and we’re no doubt experiencing an entirely different virus,, the context is actually rather similar to what we’re facing today. Joseph believed that most health problems in his time were due to a “modern lifestyle” that is not much different from today’s sedentary and stress-ridden new normal. These days, we’re all still trying to cope with our changed realities, and it’s become harder to strike a work-life balance.
With this blog, we at Pilates Plus Singapore would like to encourage everyone to rebuild the work-life balance that was lost to quarantine and work-from-home arrangements. We’ve prepared some helpful tips on how to adjust and adapt while reducing stress, maximising productivity, and achieving overall body-mind balance through Pilates.
Pilates Classes | Attain Physical and Psychological Wellness with Pilates Amidst the Pandemic
Make a schedule and stick to it.
The work-from-home setup can be a double-edged sword. Some people get to work more now that there’s no travel time, while others tend to procrastinate, with the distractions of working from the comforts of home. But working from home does not mean we’re expected to work 24/7, neither does it mean taking advantage of our flexible working hours to slack off.
Whether it’s a temporary or permanent arrangement, remote work should be conducted with professionalism. The same professionalism we’d exhibit when we show up to an office building with our co-workers and bosses, IRL. So, it’s crucial to set a regular daily work schedule, condition ourselves to focus on tasks within that schedule and make a habit of it until it sticks.
Set boundaries and respect them.
Just because people are always online doesn’t mean it’s okay to chat them up anytime. Like it or not, checking emails at the breakfast table eats into family time or me-time. Yes, we’re working from home, but if we’re still at it late into the night or during the weekend, it’s not exactly time well spent. So, send a clear message that your day is done. Turn off work notifications on your devices when you clock out and put your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ to get a good night’s sleep.
It’s essential to draw a line between social and professional interactions, even if it’s mostly over the internet. The same goes for our physical workspace even when we’re working remote. So, if you’re doing office work in the living room, make it off-limits to other members of the household during work hours. When your office is also your home, it helps to have a designated space where you won’t be disturbed until it’s time to “go home,” even if it means just moving to the dining room.
Be fit, get healthy, and sustain it.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from the events of the past months, it’s that everyone is susceptible to disease. We’ve seen firsthand how a robust immune system could spell the difference between life and death and why taking care of our health should be a matter of utmost importance. So practice mindfulness, find an outlet to release stress and take control of your mental health.
Pilates is not just a physical exercise, it is about achieving mind-and-body harmony. It’s not a simple collection of repetitive standalone movements like the usual workouts we do at the gym. Pilates is a sequence of exercises, each flowing to the next in purposeful succession. It strengthens the body and, at the same time, disciplines the mind so we can take on our daily tasks with vim, vigour, and vitality.
Pilates is a mind-body exercise that involves controlled movement, posture, and breathing. Its purpose is to tone the body, develop flexibility, and strike an overall mind-body balance. The principles behind Pilates are consistent with fitness programs that focus on aligning the spine and strengthening the postural muscles, which are effective in preventing and reducing back pain.
Unlike weight training, strength- and resistance-building regimens like Pilates won’t bulk you up and make you look buff like bodybuilders. What Pilates does is tone your muscles, reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass and burn calories efficiently in the process.
Likewise, Pilates is a versatile fitness program that appeals to beginners and seasoned fitness buffs alike. The exercises are intended to progressively warm the body up, challenge it with exertion, and then cool it down gradually. For maximum benefit, Pilates workouts should be done in its entirety with as much consistency and fluidity as possible.
Each exercise must be executed in the exact sequence and the designated number of repetitions before moving onto the next exercise. The intent to complete the series is as important as the exercises itself. Working up the intention to complete the exercises is an internal process, which builds up into a habit over time and, in the process, helps maintain mental fitness.
So shake off the stress and stretch away the sluggishness. Slim down, shape up, and do more with these PILATES GROUP CLASSES:
- Pilates Matwork
- Strength Pilates
- Hand Balancing
- Callisthenics Straight Arm
- Callisthenics Bent Arm
- Deep Stretch
- Organic Strength
So, what does it take to get to adopt a healthy lifestyle that will help you thrive in the new normal? Get fit, be healthy, be mindful of your emotional state and learn how to master your impulses. At Pilates Plus Singapore, it’s not just a matter of taking classes, it’s about embarking on a journey to health and joyfulness, with our certified trainers as your guide.
Make Pilates your new fitness program and body-mind workout.