Woman doing pilates

More than a decade ago I discovered the incredible virtues of Pilates.

I’d read information about this form of exercise for about 5 years before I finally decided to give it a try. Once the initial nervousness went away, I realized just how much pilates helps the body, and I felt silly for letting the seeming difficulty of the moves stop me from trying it. Whether individuals are beginners or experienced exercisers, the benefits of pilates are undeniable.

List of Health Effects

Improved Core Strength

One of the benefits of Pilates is that it focuses on the core muscles; these muscles include the abdominals and the back. Many individuals, even seasoned exercisers, often neglect some part of their core. However, the variety of Pilates moves works the complete muscle group. It does a better job than traditional crunches in strengthening and toning the abdominals. Toned abdominals not only look good but, in addition to a strong back, helps overall posture.

Greater Flexibility

Pilates improves flexibility and coordination. Everybody loses flexibility as they get older; however, adding Pilates to a workout program will help most people regain some of their flexibility. Individuals may not be able to do cartwheels or handsprings, but they will be able to move better in their daily activities. A flexible individual is less prone to injuries because of their muscles ability to move in more directions and bounce back in place. Improved flexibility related to a Pilate’s routine benefits the body in other ways, too.

Excellent Cross Training Activity

Cross training helps athletes to improve in their primary sports by doing secondary activities. Many athletes of other sports can benefit from doing pilates, particularly gymnasts and dancers, and especially those who cannot afford the special equipment needed to practice outside the gym. For example, instead of going out and buying a home gymnastics bar they can simply find an open space within their home to do pilates.

Pain Relief

Another benefit of Pilates is alleviation of pain, particularly the back and joints. Pilates helps the back by strengthening the spine and making it more flexible. A Pilate’s routine also minimized joint strains as well. Many rehabilitation centers use Pilates to help patients who have back and joint injuries because of the fluid movements entailed in this form of exercise. It also relieves pressures related to exercises that are hard on muscles and joints.

Provides Toned Muscle

Pilates tones the body without adding bulky muscles. Many women don’t want to lift weights because they are afraid that they will build big muscles. In reality, most women don’t have enough testosterone to look like a body builder. For those not convinced about the virtues of weight lifting, Pilates is a good alternative because it builds lean, long muscles. Building muscle, particularly for women, is important for preventing osteoporosis. For aesthetic reasons, lean muscles minimize sagging skin.

Anybody Can Do It

Pilates class

Pilates can be performed by people of any size. Although many people are accustomed to watching skinny people perform Pilates, even new exercisers with a lot of weight to loss can do this type of program. Most of the moved can be modified for those who are not size 2s. Because it is low impact, it’s a good way to begin working out without harming the knees. While a larger person many not see the scale move as quickly as they would like, the benefits of Pilates can be felt in loosening clothes and increased flexibility.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Pilates also benefits the mind, potentially helping with disorders like depression. Because the movements are focused on internal muscles, individuals have to pay attention to what they are doing. Unlike cardiovascular exercise, it is not just a matter of moving to see benefits. Individuals have to be aware of what muscles are working to get the full benefits of Pilates, especially if the movement includes balancing your own body weight. A residual affect is improved concentration in other activities.

Pilates is not a new form of exercise. Dancers have done it for years. For almost 20 years, though, others who want to build long, lean muscles have adopted pilates as a part of their exercise routine. They’ve come to appreciate the benefits of Pilates as part of their overall well-being. For those who are apprehensive about Pilates, get a Pilates DVD or check out a class at a local gym. For all that it does for the body and mind, it is worth a try.

Carmen Electra was once on the cover of the Men’s Fitness magazine I started reading at the newstand, and the illustrations inside were of regular guys, unlike the other magazines where the body builders pictured were really enormous. They have really extreme covers also, so you wouldn’t want to leave them out when mom comes to visit. I’m always interested in what new actresses are doing in the way of conditioning and toning and Carmen Electra is nicely buffed.

The magazine is divided into topical sections: Fitness+Nutrition details the connection between diet and gaining muscle weight and losing excess (fat) weight. If you spent first period health class sleeping or at the local burger emporium this Men’s Fitness monthly article will educate you on fitness eating.

The number one source of protein is Salmon, with only 121 calories per 3oz. serving. The number one fruit is blueberries, at 41 calories a half cup. The best cereal is oatmeal, 148 calories a half cup. The number one vegetable is tomatos, loaded with vitiamin C and 83 calories a whole cup. Of course we a lot more than that, one double cheeseburger is 750 calories, on average. The trick is eating enough to feel sastified and at the same time have enough energy to go through your exercise program and lose ugly fat and gain muscle, everybody is different; Men’s Fitness can give you continuing guidence.

Food is probably the major concern for someone just starting an exercise program. This section also gives examples of meals you (or your Mom) can put together with a minium of experience cooking, this feature is called Meal of the Month. I remember driving past every burgertacoteria in my neighborhood one night and couldn’t decide what to buy to eat (I had been to each place many, many times) so I stopped at a Ralph’s market and bought some basic stuff (and a bottle of Heinz Ketchup-a must!) and have been using the ideas from the magazine to prepare meals instead of just filling up on a lot of calories from fat.

Of course the magazine advertises supplements. That’s where the money comes from to keep the subscription price so low for a really well-designed magazine. I’m going to mention some of the advertisers names so you can get an idea of what this area of the nutritional industry is doing, this is far beyond taking one vitamin a day. I’m not recommending any particular product, this is for informational purposes only. Of course, there are many products of this type available, do some research before you stockup.

All the advertisers in this publication are top tier: Style+Grooming has Black-Kenneth Cole, The Fragrance for Him so you will good as well as look good after your workouts and Nivea for Men Lotion to smooth things along, but not too smooth. Perry Ellis Portfolio for wear under your Arrow Shirts and Timberland boots, which are easily purchased over the Inet.

You can wear your boots out in the country after reading the Sports+Outdoorsection of Men’s Fitness. After you subscribe you will know what exercise routines you will need months ahead of the change in the weather. Snowboarding for example, requires exercises that will increase your agility and help you avoid injury. The seasonal equipment articles will also inform you on the latest safety practices as the editors are in contact with the topline manufacturers.

There is the Ultimate Babe section where there are pictured tastefully swimsuited actresses, models, singers and dancers. If your girfriend (or Mom) objects to this you can carefully cut them out and mail them to me.

The Key to any exercise program is doing it on a schedule. Even the most highly-motivated of us slip and backslide into eating a whole large pizza and a half-a-gallon of icecream, Men’s Fitness read on a regular basis will provide you with the information and inspiration to progress to being as fit as you can be.

Pilates pose

Pilates, one of the most popular exercise programs today, is consistent with a program of exercise that promotes a healthier back. Consequently, people with back pain can benefit from a Pilates exercise program.

For the uninitiated, Pilates is a program of low-impact exercises intended to strengthen your core muscles. Individual Pilates exercises help develop your spine’s alignment and improve the flexibility of your core muscles. The exercises are done on a mat. Originally developed by Joseph Pilates, this program has become increasingly popular over the years.

Many Pilates exercises work the abdominal muscles, but there are some exercises that help stretch your back, leading to better alignment of your spine and improved toning of your back.

Here are a few Pilates exercises that will work your back.

1. The Swan

This basic exercise works not only the back, but also the abdominals, shoulders, inner thighs, glutes, and hamstrings. To do this exercise, lie face down on your mat. With your arms close to your body, bend the elbows, bring your hands under your shoulders, palms down on the mat. Then engage your abdominals and lift your navel away from the mat, lengthening your spine. Inhale as you do this. Press your forearms and hands into the mat. Your upper body should be in an upward arc. As you exhale, release your upper body from the arc, keeping your spine lengthened as your upper body returns slowly to the mat. Repeat these steps.

2. The Swan Dive

This intermediate exercise works not only your back, but also your abdominals, hamstrings, and inner thighs. This exercise is for intermediate Pilates practitioners; beginners should stay with the Swan exercise. To do this exercise, press up into the Swan as you inhale, maintaining a long spine. Then, as you exhale, release your arms and rock forward, maintaining you arc. This will cause your legs to come up. Remember to keep your abdominals, inner thighs, and glutes engaged. Then as you inhale, bring your hands back under your shoulders and return to the Swan.

3. Spine Stretch

This exercise is great for the back and hamstrings. To do this stretch, sit up straight on your mat, with legs extended and feet flexed. Legs should be no more than shoulder-width apart. Relax your shoulders. Inhale and extend you arms in front of you, shoulder-width. Exhale as you curve forward, keeping the shoulders down and reaching with your fingers toward your toes. Inhale and stretch further. Exhale and return to your original position, rolling through the spine.

If you have a Pilates instructor, he or she can suggest other exercises. People with back pain should, of course, consult their doctors before beginning any exercise program.

Man doing squats

Bodyweight exercises are one of the best activities you can do for your health. They incorporate a wide-range of muscles, particularly the large muscles, but also involve the peripheral muscles.

One of the best things about bodyweight exercises is that they can be performed practically anywhere, meaning you always have access to a beneficial workout no matter where you are.

Here are a few bodyweight exercises to get you started.

Bodyweight Exercise Examples

Push-ups

Pushups are a popular bodyweight exercise, and you probably already know how to do them. You place your hands on the floor, slightly wider than your shoulders, with your entire body rigid as a board. A rep consists of lowering your body to the floor.

Pull-ups

Another important bodyweight exercise, but one not nearly as widespread, simply because it can be very difficult for many people. A standard pull-up consists of an overhand grip, just slightly wider than shoulder distance apart. Pull your body up until your chin is level with the bar.

If you are having trouble doing normal pull-ups, try assisted or negative pull-ups.

Bicycle Crunches

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the three best exercises for developing abdominal strength, tone and size are bicycle crunches, leg raises (captain’s chair) and planks.

To perform a bicycle crunch, lie flat on your back and place both hands behind your head with elbows splayed outwards. Begin to pedal your legs as if cycling. As you crunch your torso so that the shoulders blades just leave the ground, rotate so each elbow touches the opposite knee as it draws near your chest.

Leg Raises

Leg raises are done by lying flat on the ground, then raising straight arms and legs so they meet directly above your chest. Lower them slowly and do not let arms or legs touch the ground.

Planks

Planks are the simplest exercise of the three. Simply lie face down on the ground, and then raise yourself so you are resting on your forearms. Straighten your back and then hold that position for at least thirty seconds.

If you’re looking for a challenge, there are also variations you can do.

Lunges

This is the favorite of football, track and rugby coaches. As an exercise developing both the inside and outside quadriceps muscles and hip flexors, lunges are essential for any sport with running. They are simple. Simply stand up, take a step, and lower yourself so that the forward leg is a right angle. Then rise as the left leg is brought forward and the step is repeated. Be sure the knee doesn’t touch the ground, and that each leg is at a right angle when completely lowered.

Sumo Squats

Although squats are normally known as the domain of massive Hulks lifting four or five hundred pounds, the bodyweight version is valuable for developing muscle tone and stamina. Fitness and Freebies identifies bodyweight squats as essential exercises that says, “The body weight squat is perhaps the best lower body exercise a person can do … it will firm up your legs and build strength to help you with everyday activities”. Real Women’s Fitness claims, “[The squat] works every single muscle in the lower body”. To perform a squat, spread feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. As you lower yourself, keep the chest centered above the knees, which should not extend past the toes. The spine should be straight and the feet flat on the floor. Squat form is very important – watch some videos to get a visual idea. So learn the form properly – it feels off balance, because your gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and quadriceps muscles are taking the stress. A well-executed bodyweight squat is an invaluable tool to developing firm, streamlined quadriceps and firmer, stronger hamstrings.

Calf Raises

Stand up. Good — half the work is done. Now rise slowly, pushing from the balls of your feet, not the toes. Feet should be about shoulder-width apart. This exercise typically takes more repetitions to exhaust the muscles, but the time is well spent – it won’t lead to any massive muscle mass, but it will increase strength, stamina and muscle tone. Ignoring the calf muscles, typical of many male weightlifters, is a mistake. Underdeveloping any section of the body results in increased tendon stress, muscle imbalance, weaker bones, and lower levels of testosterone (for men) and estrogen (for women). So exercise the calves – no one wants, or should, look like an ostrich.

With these bodyweight exercises, getting a good work-out at home, in the office, or on vacation is not just possible — it’s easy. Apply these exercises and work your way to a fitter, healthier and happy person.