Stretches  are simple move that acts as Pilates warm up exercises for your entire back and switches between a back stretch and a back extension. It can decrease lower back pain and increase lower back flexibility and mobility. Practicing these movements can help you release tension in your lower back after performing back extension work.

The Pilates warm-up workouts and stretches are designed to mobilize, lengthen, and stretch the muscles in preparation for more demanding movements. Use them to familiarize yourself with how your body feels as it moves and to focus on your breathing and posture before moving on to the main exercises.

Wall Stretch

CAUTION!
Don ‘t lock your elbows, and make sure that the surface you are leaning against is strong.

  • reps: 5 breaths each side
  • visual cue: hand glued to wall
  • emphasis: top of chest
  1. Stand with your left side to the wall. Place your left hand on the wall, then take a small step forward with both feet. Maintain a neutral spine, but with your feet close together. As you breathe out, lean slightly forward. Hold the stretch for one breath, then release the stretch. Repeat 5 times.
1.Wall Stech; Pilates Warm Up Exercises

1.Wall Stech; Pilates Warm Up Exercises

Standing Chest Stretch

This exercise is aimed at stretching the major muscles of the chest called the pectorals. Stand tall in a neutral position and think about lengthening up and through the chest and the ribcage.

  • reps: 5-10 breaths
  • visual: cue on parade
  • emphasis: stretch
  1. Stand tall in a neutral position with your feet hip-width apart. Place your palms on your lower back with your hands comfortably close to each other. Concentrate on maintaining a neutral position and not forcing the lower back out of neutral.
  2. As you breathe out, try to draw the elbows closer together. As you do this, open the chest, stand tall, and keep your eyes looking forward and slightly lifted as if looking over the horizon.

Round Back (The Cat)

This movement will release your back.

CAUTION! Begin with small movements and gradually allow them to build in size. Do not force the movement and always keep your abs tucked in.

  • reps: 10 breaths
  • visual: Cat Stretch
  • emphasis: Mobility
  1. Put your hands on your thighs and lengthen your spine by stretching your head and neck diagonally upward. Your tail bone should curl away from you. Pull in your abs and let your shoulder blades slide down your back.
  2. Breathe out and gently round your back. Imagine a string attached to your waistband, pulling you up and backward. Repeat the warm-up without stopping; keep working in a single continuous movement. Breathe in as you return to the starting position and be sure to avoid hollowing your back in the opposite direction.

Standing Spine Twist

Concentrate on lengthening and maintaining the third notch on the belt (see page 29). As you rotate, focus on keeping your hips facing forward with both feet planted on the ground, rather than allowing the hips to rotate with you.

  • reps 5-10 times each side
  • visual cue corkscrew
  • emphasis spine mobility
  1. Standing tall in the neutral position, place the hands together in a praying gesture. Softly draw the shoulder blades back and then down into a soft “V.” The thumbs should be placed on the sternum. Keep the thumbs there throughout the exercise so that the movement involves more than the arms. Take a breath in to prepare yourself.
  2. As you breathe out, slowly rotate to the right, keeping the thumbs on the sternum and the nose in line with the thumbs. Focus on moving from the area between the shoulder blades. The whole center column should rotate as a single unit; don’t let the head or arms rotate on their own. As you breathe in, rotate back to the center. On the next outbreath, rotate to the left, then back to the center as you breathe in. When rotating, allow your breathing rate to control the speed of the movement. Try to lengthen your spine a little farther each time you rotate back to the center.

Spine Swing

Try not to overrotate the movement from the hips; instead, maintain the length in your lower spine. Keep the shoulders drawn down into the soft “V” and the belt muscle on the third notch (see page 29).

  • reps 5-10 times each side
  • visual cue trailing hands
  • emphasis spine mobility
  1. Stand tall with the spine in the neutral position and the feet slightly farther apart than the hips. Breathe in to prepare yourself.
  2. As you breathe out, slowly rotate to the right, allowing the left heel to lift slightly. Keep the arms relaxed beside you and your knees soft and relaxed. Allow your head to turn to look over your shoulder.
  3. Breathe in and rotate to the other side, keeping the movement continuously flowing with no breaks in the middle. The arms are relaxed and the heels lift naturally as you rotate.

Balance 1

As you breathe out, slowly lift the leg. If you would like to challenge yourself, keep the leg lifted for 2-5 breaths before lowering it.

  • reps 5 times each side
  • visual cue: tightrope
  • emphasis spine: balance
  1. Stand tall in the neutral position and keep your eyes focused on a point in front of you as if you are looking toward the horizon. Keep your hips as still as possible and lengthen out your right toe in front of you, keeping the toe in contact with the floor. The hips should be still, shoulder blades drawn down into a soft “V,” and the arms relaxed beside you. The belt muscle should be on the third notch.
  2. As you breathe out, slowly lift the right foot off the floor with the knee bent and the foot relaxed. Concentrate on keeping the left knee slightly bent, the hips still, and the weight even in the left foot. Imagine three points on the sole of your left foot: one under the big toe, one under the little toe, and one under the heel. Aim to keep an even pressure across all three points.

Balance 2

Keep the weight evenly distributed across the left foot in the same way as the previous balance exercise. Be sure that the supporting knee remains soft.

  • reps: 5 times each side
  • visual cue: tightrope
  • emphasis spine: balance
  1. Starting from the neutral position, breathe out and lengthen the right leg and right arm. Don’t lift the leg too high and lean slightly forward to allow the spine to remain lengthened and neutral. Keep the eyes looking down so that the neck stays in a neutral position.
  2. Keep lengthening through the movement until you reach a position where you feel you can maintain the balance and a neutral spine. Think about lengthening along the whole of the spine, from the head to the tailbone. As you breathe in, with control, reverse the movement to finish in a tall, standing position.

One-arm Circles

This movement opens up the shoulder joints.

CAUTION! Do not lock your elbows and always work within your limits. If you find that you are able to make bigger circles on one side than the other, work on the weaker side in order to achieve balance in the body.

  • reps: 10 times each side
  • visual cue: drawing circles
  • emphasis spine: mobility
  1. Stand tall with your feet apart, knees soft. Reach up from the top of your head to the ceiling to check that your back is correctly aligned. Keeping your right arm by your side, pressed lightly against the leg, breathe in and lift your left arm in front of you and slightly to the side.
  2. Keeping the ribcage still, start to draw a circle with the arm as you breathe out. If the ribcage moves, you are swinging too far—move the arm farther away from the body to the side and draw a smaller circle. Imagine that you are drawing on the wall to the side of you with your fingertips.
  3. Complete the circle, trying at all times to keep a slow, consistent speed. Imagine a wheel turning, with continuous motion and no sudden jolts. When you have completed 10 circles on one arm, change arms and repeat.

One-arm Circles

Double-arm Circles

  • reps: 10 times each side
  • visual cue: arm hoops
  • emphasis spine: mobility
  1. Stand tall with your feet apart, knees soft. Start with your arms slightly in front of you. Keep your abs pulled in and check that your back is in alignment.
  2. Breathe out slowly and circle both arms back. Try to keep your hands together as you reach to the ceiling. Make sure that your back does not arch by keeping your abs pulled in as tightly as possible. Keep the speed of your movement constant and try to increase the size of the circle. When you reach 10, repeat in the opposite direction.

Toy Soldier

  • reps: 10 times each side
  • visual cue: air paddle
  • emphasis spine: mobility
  1. Stand tall with your feet apart and knees soft. Breathe in. Reach your left arm to the ceiling and your right arm to the ground.
  2. Breath out as you bring the lifted arm forward and down, swapping to lift the lower arm up to the ceiling. Keep your torso still and stretch the top of your head to the ceiling. Keep the speed slow and the action smooth. Repeat 10 times.

Toy Soldier

Foot Stretch

It’s best if you do this move with your shoes and socks off.

CAUTION! Make sure that the surface you are leaning against is strong.

  • reps: 5-10 breaths each side
  • visual cue: pushing a car
  • emphasis spine: shin stretch

Stand facing close to a wall. Bend your left knee and step back with the right foot. Tuck the right toes under as you breathe out, then press into the wall lightly and bend the right knee a little farther. Push down on the top of the foot to stretch this area. After 5 to 10 breaths, switch legs.

Runner Stretch

To increase the stretch, move the front leg a little farther forward, then lean farther into the movement.

CAUTION! Practice this move in front of a mirror to ensure that the knee and foot stay in line. If your weight pushes forward over the front knee, this can cause discomfort in the knee joint.

  • reps: 5-10 breaths each side
  • visual cue: straddling
  • emphasis spine: stretch
  1. From a kneeling position, lunge forward with your left leg until your knee and foot are in line—you should feel the stretch in the inner thigh of your right leg. If you don’t feel it, slide the left leg farther back until you do. Place your hands on either side of the left foot with the left toes pointing forward.
  2. As you breathe out, lengthen the upper body so that you lengthen the spine into a neutral position. Place the hands on the left leg, just above the knee joint.
  3. In order to advance the stretch, float the right knee off the floor on your next outbreath and place your hands next to your left foot to stabilize you. Check that the front knee and ankle are in line.
  4. On your next outbreath, lengthen the upper body so that you extend the spine into a tall, neutral position, and place the hands on the front leg, just above the knee joint. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds; try to increase this time as you become familiar with the movement. Switch legs and repeat.

Hamstring Stretch With Dynaband

You can use a towel if you don’t have a dynaband.

CAUTION! Don ‘t lock the knees and don’t force the stretch.

  • reps: 5-10 breaths each side
  • visual cue: glass balanced on foot
  • emphasis spine: back of thigh
  1. Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat. Bring your left foot up toward you and wrap the dynaband under it. Take a firm hold of the band with both hands, and as you breathe out, lengthen your left leg toward the ceiling. Keeping your leg straight and your elbows tucked in, pull gently on the band to draw your leg closer to your chest. Concentrate on maintaining a neutral spine as you do this.
  2. To challenge yourself further, as you breathe out lengthen your right leg along the floor, flexing your foot. Again, concentrate on maintaining a neutral spine.

Quad Stretch

Pull the leg gently back — don’t force the knee.

CAUTION! If you feel any pain in your knee, stop at once.

  • reps: 5-10 breaths each side
  • visual cue: hopscotch
  • emphasis spine: front of thigh
  1. Lie in a line on your side, maintaining a neutral spine.
  2. Reach out with your left hand to take hold of your left foot, keeping your hips and knees stacked on top of each other. Gently push your foot into your hand. Add a little resistance to this move by using your hand to draw your foot closer to your butt. You should feel the stretch in the front of your thigh as you do this.

Seated Spine Stretch

Think of the movement as a single, long, slow sequence. Be careful not to strain your back, and try to keep all your joints in neutral alignment.

  • reps: 5-10 breaths each side
  • visual cue: leaning over ball
  • emphasis spine: mobility
  1. Sit tall in a neutral 1 position with your feet hip-width apart and your knees relaxed. Raise your arms so that they are pointing straight above your head. Breathe in. As you breathe out, draw in the lower abdominals toward the spine.
  2. Slowly bend forward, rolling the spine down as you do so. Lead with your head, let the chin drop to the chest, then allow the shoulders to roll over and the weight of the arms to carry you down as far as possible without losing control. Relax and gently bend the knees as you curl down to the floor. Pay attention to your hips; if you feel that they are pushing out behind you, bend your knees more, and don’t go as low. You should feel as if you are folding into yourself.

Chest Stretch With Ball

If you don’t have a ball, you can use a chair instead.

CAUTION! Don’t lock your elbowskeep them soft. Never force a stretch.

  • reps: 5-10 breaths each side
  • visual cue: bowing on knees
  • emphasis spine: stretch
  1. Kneel in front of the ball. Place your hands onto the ball, shoulder-width apart. Try not to have the ball too far away, otherwise it will feel unstable. As you breathe out, keep your hands on the ball, and sit your butt back toward your heels. Your butt doesn’t need to touch your heels—just sit back far enough to feel a stretch through your chest muscles.
  2. To stretch the upper part of your chest, kneel alongside the ball. Take your left hand out slightly wider than your shoulder, and put the right hand onto the ball. Breathing out, gently drop the right shoulder toward the floor. As you do this, try not to rotate from the hips, just the right shoulder.

Hip Rolls

The movement should be continuous, but pause briefly in the center before rotating in the opposite direction. Allow the rate of your breathing to control the speed of the movement.

  • reps: 5-10 breaths each side
  • visual cue: child rolling
  • emphasis spine: strength and mobility
  1. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent, your feet fiat, and your arms open in a crucifix position. Draw your shoulders back and down, and rotate your head to the left, in a position where there is no tension in the neck. Keep your legs bent and your knees together as you breathe out, and slowly allow the knees to roll to the right side. You don’t have to touch the floor with your knees, but rather rotate to a position where the knees can stay together and where there is no tension or pinching in the lower spine. As you breathe in, bring the head and legs back to the center position. On the next outbreath, rotate the head and legs in the opposite direction.
  2. This variation is the same as stage 1, but with both arms crossing the chest so that the hands are touching opposite shoulders. Maintain this position as you rotate your legs and head in opposite directions.
  3. Once you have mastered the first two positions, try this more challenging version. Lift your feet off the floor, keeping the feet and knees together, and rotate your legs to one side as you turn your head to the other.

The Saw

This movement works on the mobility and stretch of your upper back.

CAUTION! Do not force the stretch. Take it to the point of tension and relax to allow the final push. Do not struggle to complete the move. If touching your toes proves difficult, build up to it slowly.

  • reps: 10 times
  • visual cue: plane propellor
  • emphasis spine: mobility
  1. Sit with your legs hip-width apart and your feet flexed. Lift your arms on either side of you. They should not be open too wide, just enough so that you can see them as you look forward. Lift your head up as though you are in a movie theater and trying to see over someone tall.
  2. Breathe out and turn your body to the left side. Keep your arms in line with your shoulders as you turn. Do not let them cross the body. Turn equally to the back and side, keeping your hips facing firmly to the front.
  3. Continue to breathe out as you stretch your right hand to your left foot to the point of tension. Imagine you have a large beach ball over your knee and that you are stretching over it. Keep your head down as you stretch. Breathe in as you come back to the center and repeat in the opposite direction on the other side.