Pilates exercises to increase strength and flexibility

Pilates have the reputation of being good in promoting both strength and flexibility. Pilates stretches are helpful exercises for increasing flexibility and providing strength to the back, hips, front and side body, etc. While there are some exercises that you can do on floor (with or without any equipments), there are some other Pilates stretches that are to be performed in water. Here we bring to you a mix of such Pilates exercises that would help you increase the balance between the strength and flexibility of your body.

Poolates Squat

To perform this exercise, you will require a kickboard and the facility of exercising in a swimming pool. Stand on the kickboard in the shallow part of the pool. Keep your feet apart at a width that is same as the width of your hip. Stretch your hands so that your hands are in the same alignment as your shoulders. Your posture at this point should imitate the alphabet “t” in its lower case. After you have reached this position, use your body weight to push yourself down on the kickboard into a posture wherein your thighs are parallel to the floor of the swimming pool. Remain in this posture for about 30 seconds before returning to the initial position. Repeat for a few number of times for best results. This exercise, known as the Poolates Squat, is highly effective in promoting strength and developing flexibility in your back, abs, waist, arms and hamstrings.


Stand in chest-deep water in the swimming pool. Keep your feet straight and flat on the floor of the pool. Keep your hands stretched, without bending your elbows, by your side with the palms turned backside so as to face your behind. Raise your right leg about half a feet to one feet above pool base while keeping your leg straight. At this stage, stiffen the muscles of your abdomen, keep your neck aligned to your spine and move your arms backward and forward while taking a deep breath. Keep your elbows locked all this while. Exhale and then inhale again during swaying your arms. Repeat this exercise for at least five times to gain benefit from it. This water Pilates exercise gives a good workout to the chest, hamstrings, abdomen, thighs and the triceps portion of the arm.

Living Dead

Stand in 3 to 4 feet deep water in the pool while facing towards the deeper section of the pool. Stretch your hands straight in front of you while crunching or stiffening the muscles of your abdomen. Lift your left foot up to bring it parallel to your hip. Your toes should point up and forward at this time. Stretch or flex the foot when lowering it towards the floor of the pool. Repeat this process with the other foot and walk 10 steps by alternating your feet and following the same process. When you have completed your 10 zombie style steps, you should have reached chest deep water. For people of shorter height, it is suggested that they start in the shallow part of the pool so that they too reach no more than chest level water after completion of 10 steps. Living Dead gives a good workout to the back, abdominal section, hamstrings and waist line.

Wall Roll Down

Start by standing straight with your back against a wall. Keep your feet six to ten inches away from the wall while you support yourself against the wall. Crunch your abdomen and raise your hands straight above your head. While doing so, keep your chest broad and your shoulders away from your ears. Keep your hands parallel to your ears while you slowly lower your head and roll down your spine. Your spine and body will automatically move away from the wall. The abdomen stays stretched and while you roll down you can pull it further in thus deepening the shallow of the abs. Roll down and away from the wall very slowly without causing any stress to the neck or head. Roll down as much as you can while keeping your hips in support of the wall. Start rolling up back to the wall with your shoulders relaxed and arms beside your ears. Start the roll up from the lower abdomen part and keep the rolling up process very slow. Reach the initial position but do not relax the abdominal muscles. Repeat the workout. This exercise gives an extensive workout to the back, hamstrings and abdominal part.

Spine Stretch

Spine stretch is an exercise that provides a good stretch to the hamstrings and the back or spine. Place a mat on the floor and sit straight on it. Put your legs in front of you at a shoulder-width, keep your feet stretched and your head straight. Do not tense your shoulders, keep them relaxed. Take a deep breath while extending your hands straight in front of you at your shoulder-height. Breath out while you reach our for the toes with your extended hands. Your shoulders would come down and your spine would form a curve while you bent forward to touch your toes. If you want to stretch further, you can try to touch the floor in front of your toes instead of aiming for the toes. Inhale while you are in the stretched form. Breath out while you return slowly to the initial position of the sitting posture.

The Saw

This exercise stretches the back and the hamstring. This brings flexibility to the upper body while providing strength to the rest of the body. Start this exercise by sitting straight with your legs stretched in front of you at a shoulder-width distance. Stretch your hands parallel to your shoulders. Breathe in while you turn your body towards one side. Make sure that your hips are not raised and are leveled on the floor. Breathe out while your right hand touches your left toe finger. Keep your eyes fixed on your left hand while doing this. Stretch your hands as far as you can while touching the toe. Breathe in while you stay in this position. Then return to the initial position while exhaling. Repeat this exercise for 6 times while alternating sides.


This exercise helps to strengthen the abdomen, shoulders, back, pelvic floor, hamstrings, inner thighs and glutes along with bringing flexibility to your body. Put a mat on the floor and lie down on it with your face facing the floor. Keep your hands under the shoulders while they are bent at the elbows. Try to keep your legs stretched and joined together. Lift your abdomen away from the mat while flexing the abdominal muscles. Breathe in and stretch your spine. Support your body with your hands and forearms placed on the floor while your upper body is raised to make an upward arc. Keep your head in line with your back and your elbows close to your body. Your hip must be resting on the mat. Breathe out and return to the initial position slowly. Keep your abdomen lifted. Repeat this exercise for 3 to 5 times in a go. Don’t raise your torso too high or else that might hurt your lower back. People with a back or neck problem may go easy or completely avoid this workout.

Mermaid Side Stretch

Sit upright on the floor. Fold your legs to the left side. Place your right hand on the floor for support. Raise your left hand above your head. Try to bring the inner side of your arm close to your ear without lifting your shoulders. Stretch your spine to the level that it tilts towards the right side of your body. Keep your right hip firmly grounded during this time. Your ribs should not protrude while you bend towards the right side. Move the right hand away from your body or bent it at the elbow to further stretch your body. The stretch should not raise your shoulders. To start your return to the initial position, place your left sit bone on the mat followed by your abdomen pulling your body up. Let your left hand make an arc over your head and then rest on the shin while returning to the first position. Repeat the exercise two to three times on each side while alternating the sides.

Exercise Ball Rollout

This is a simple workout plan with the use of exercise balls that are used for abdominal crunches and other exercises. Lie straight on the floor with your hands resting by your sides and the palms facing the floor. Place your legs on the exercise ball while bending your knees at an angle of 90 degree. Your feet must be placed on top of the ball. Very cautiously and slowly lift your hip up. Your back would form a slight arch. Thereafter, stretch your legs straight. This will roll the ball out so that your lower calves and ankles are rested on the ball. While returning, first bend your knees and then lower your hips. Repeat this for ten times for effective result.

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