Everybody is looking to have that pilates body that flows around social media. Thinking of an issue that we would like to share with you as professionals, we thought of something important in a Pilates instructor career: flexibility work.

When you master your first class as an instructor, you will observe that the vast majority of students who seek courses in the method have something in common: muscle shortening.

In times of automatic cars, next-generation TVs and their excellent remote controls, and the exponential growth of Shopping Centers with comfortable escalators, more and more individuals are on the verge of a sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity.

And all these royalties have their price, we have never been so shortened.

Observing the Physical Education classes at the school where my children study, we noticed that more than ninety percent of the children, when doing a trunk flexion, barely reached their hands to touch their knees. Could it be that this new generation is going to be the shortest of all time?

And you who are reading this article, when you were a child, you used to play touching your nose with your big toe, and you thought it was only a child’s game? Would you still be capable of that today?

For these and other reasons, today, many people seek Pilates classes seeking benefits that the method can do for their bodies.

Typically when the student looks for us in the studio for the first time, during the test class, they inform us that one of the decisions that made they want a Pilates body was to have heard a lot that the method can improve and his flexibility a lot!

We will know how Pilates works in that capacity and what benefits can be experienced with a well-structured and oriented program.

The results will differ from person to person since we know that each individual is a unique being.

Many students/patients may seek us out to present various muscle shortening, which may bring some prejudices. Among them, we can cite motor difficulties, posture deviations, and even in some cases, be causes of muscle injuries.

For that, we must consider the differences between men and women, the shortening that can occur in different age ranges, spinal pathologies, posture vices both in their free moments and in the work environment, to name a few examples.

It can also have a genetic relationship, where the individual has less elasticity in muscle fibers than others.

Understanding What Flexibility is

Flexibility is the physical valence in which it is possible to perform movements in the different joints (one or more) with a specific range of motion, within the morphological limits, without there being a risk of causing injury.

The promotion of higher levels of flexibility occurs through the systematic use of stimuli called stretching, which are requests to increase the extensibility of the muscle and other structures, maintained for a particular time.

Stretching is based on the principle of activation of Golgi muscle spindles and tendon organs, sensitive to alterations in length and speed and muscle tension.

The impulses from these receptors elicit reflex responses that, in turn, induce adaptations in the musculotendinous units, which are beneficial for the gain of joint mobility.

Flexibility can be worked on in two ways: static or dynamic. In fixed, the muscles are relaxed and held in a stationary position. They have the place for up to 30 seconds and return to the starting position.

This stretch is commonly used for muscle relaxation after physical exercises and injury rehabilitation. Already dynamic stretching stimulation of muscle spindles triggers a stretch reflex, which stimulates muscle contraction.

The stretching that occurs in the musculature at each insistence sensitizes the spindle, activating the myotatic reflex and generating concentric contraction. Dynamic stretching is used from controlled movements, slow or fast, but always at the same speed and intensity.

Thus, dynamic stretching is used in physical exercises and sports to prepare the muscles for the proposed activity.

Factors that can influence Flexibility

  • Age: theoretically, the older the person, the lower their flexibility,

  • Sex: in women, because they have less dense tissues, they are often more flexible than men,

  • Biological Individuality: even people of the same age and sex can present an uncountable number of degrees of flexibility with each other,

  • Muscle Tonus: increased muscle tonus can impair flexibility,

  • Breathing: in the Pilates Method, it is a significant factor in acquiring flexibility. In most cases, it is oriented to inspire through the nose and release the air (expire) through the mouth gently so that it lasts almost twice the time of inspiration. It should be slow and deep,

  • Room Temperature: typically, cold reduces muscle elasticity, and high temperatures tend to relax the muscles and can increase flexibility,

  • Schedule: upon awakening, the entire plastic component of the muscles and joints is in its closest shape to the original one. This can cause resistance in movements of greater amplitude. As the day progresses, flexibility may reach its normal levels.

Importance of Flexibility in Pilates

Some Pilates instructors like to start at least 4 to 5 exercises of flexibility and mobility of the spine. Through dynamic stretching, the student prepares his body for the strength exercises that will come in the class’s continuity—getting that pilates body ready!

The number of repetitions and degree of difficulty of the exercises will depend on the student’s level (beginner, intermediate or advanced).

Pilates may be a physical exercise indicated for those looking for a more flexible and healthy body. Among many of the scientifically proven benefits, increased flexibility is one of them.

It may be related to increasing stability in the trunk region through strengthening the deeper stabilizer muscles. The method is concerned with control and rhythm, being able to make the muscles more elastic.

That should be a concern that all of us instructors and future instructors should have with preserving flexibility, just as Joseph Pilates had when inventing this method.

He searched through the combination of several modalities for those that could bring these benefits, and through his studies, he came to the method that we know today.

In the Pilates Method, the exercises must be performed within a maximum comfortable range, related to a perception of flexion with an onset of discomfort, but at a bearable level.

In dynamic flexibility work, it may provide less risk of injury if performed smoothly at the end of the motion range.

One of the advantages of dynamic stretching is a more generous blood supply in the exercised region, essential for daily activities, bringing better mobility on a day-to-day basis.

The vast majority of my students like this type of encouragement, and I never complained about it during class. On the contrary, they much appreciate the dynamics of stretching exercises.

Benefits of Flexibility in Pilates

  • Improves Physical Performance.

  • Lower Risk of Injury.

  • Muscle Pain Reduction.

  • Significant Improvement in Posture.

  • Decreased Episodes of Pain in the Back.

  • Increased Blood Flow and Consequently Greater Muscle Nutrition.

  • Improvements in Motor Coordination.

  • Goal of Flexibility Work in Pilates.

  • Restore ranges of motion to levels closer to normal in the involved joint and mobility of the soft tissues adjacent to this joint.

  • Prevention of irreversible shortening and tensioning of one or more muscle groups,

  • Increase the feeling of muscle relaxation.

  • Reduction of risk of tendonitis.

  • Increase range of motion in a particular area or more globally before starting a strengthening exercise program.

How to start your Pilates Class on Apparatus (Equipment)

In this topic we will use some examples of flexibility exercises that we can apply to our students in a Pilates session for getting that Pilates body.

Making it clear that this is only for study use and that only an instructor with complete training in Pilates can prescribe and / or use them.

All Pilates classes must be mounted depending on the postural evaluation, health status and after an anamnesis of each student or patient.

Cadillac

  1. SPINE STRETCH

Objective: Stretching the muscles of the posterior chain and mobilizing the spine.

Execution

  • Sit with your knees extended and feet resting on the side bars of the Cadillac, grasp the mobile tower bar with both hands.

  • Do trunk flexion driving the bar forward.

  • Return to the initial position, unwinding the spine, starting with the lumbar region and finally promoting axial lengthening.

 

  1. MONKEY UNILATERAL VARIATION

Objective: Stretching the muscles of the posterior chain, strengthening the muscles composed of the Power House and mobilizing the spine, hip, ankle and knee. Neural mobilization.

Execution

  • In supine position, grasp the bar with both hands and place a forefoot between them, also resting on the same bar, the other leg is flexed with the foot fully supported on the padding of the Cadillac.

  • Perform knee extension of the leg that is supported by the bar, starting the trunk curl from the cervical region to the maximum point of extension of the knee.

  • Return to the starting position.

 

  1. STRETCHES SIDE ON TRAPEZE

 

Objective: Adductor Stretch

Execution

  • Stand in the Cadillac with your body turned sideways along the gurney.

  • Place one of your feet on the fuzzy lift of the trapeze and the other foot on the table, grasp the bar with both hands.

  • Execute the lateral stretch driving the lift to the limit of flexibility.

  • Return to the starting position.

 

  1. STRETCHES BACK IN TRAPEZE

Objective: Quadriceps and iliac psoas stretch, increased joint width and balance.

Execution

  • Standing in front of the tower with one foot resting on the gurney and the other resting with the back of the foot on the fuzzy lift of the trapeze, grasping the upper bars of the Cadillac with both hands.

  • Lead the lift by executing the extension of the leg supported by the lift and bending the knee of the leg that is resting on the stretcher.

  • Return to the starting position.

Reformer

  1. FRONT SPLITS EXTENDED LEGS VARIATION

Objective: Dynamic stabilization and alignment of the standing trunk associated with the dissociation of the lower limbs with extension of the hips and knees.

Execution

  • Standing with knees extended, place one of your feet on the shoulder rest and with your hands grasp the footbar of the Reformer.

  • Push the car back keeping the knees extended.

  • Return to the starting position.

  1. UNILATERAL STOMACH MASSAGE WITH TRUNK TURN

Objective: To massage organs with deep abdominal contraction and promote axial lengthening and trunk extension in an ipsilateral twist.

 

Stability, alignment and control of the trunk and the lumbar pelvic complex of the hips in a sitting position, associated with the mobilization of the spine, hips and ankles.

Execution

  • Sitting on the apparatus, rest one forefoot on the bar while grasping it with both hands.

  • Perform the knee extension while the other leg is flexed and with the foot resting on the floor next to the Reformer cart. Perform lateral extension for the same side as the knee, bringing the arm open at shoulder height.

  • Return to the starting position.

 

  1. TRUNK EXTENSION WITH THE HELP OF FITBALL

Objective: Promote trunk extension through mobilization of the spine.

Execution

  • Sit on the cart with both feet resting on the bar and with your back resting on the fitball. Legs bent and arms extended in front of the body.

  • Push the cart at the same time as you extend your trunk, resting your head on the ball and rotating your arms.

  • Return to the starting position.

 

  1. STRETCHES FRONT VARIATION WITH FOOT ON THE BAR

Goal: Stretch the hamstrings.

Execution

  • Position yourself by placing one of the feet on the shoulder rest and place the other foot on the bar, flexing the knee at the same time as you grip with the hands, securing firmly.

  • Push the cart while extending the leg that is supported by the bar.

  • Return to the starting position.