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Improve Core Strength and Posture with Chair Pilates

November 4, 2021

By: Duke Lifestyle & Weight Management Team

Pilates, a form of exercise and body conditioning that focuses more on muscle tone than building muscle mass, is a great way to strengthen your core. Pilates specifically focuses on isolating and relaxing muscle groups, strengthening them with control and breath. Get the benefits of a Pilates session without any complicated gear with this Chair Pilates sequence.

Ribcage Breathing

Sit up tall with a spine against the chair’s back, hands placed gently on thighs. Inhale and feel your ribs expand wide into the back of the chair. Exhale and feel the ribs cinch inwards. Attention: Keep shoulders relaxed and chest open. Repeat 5 times.

Spinal C-Curve

Inhale to sit tall with a neutral pelvis as in the first picture, but slide forward on the chair, feet slightly wider than hip distance apart, hands placed lightly on the thighs. Exhale to rock the pelvis back, “scooping” the abdominals, curving the upper body forward. You may think of pulling the pubic bone and navel towards the ribcage. Your spine will make the letter “C.” Hint: Keep the spine long as you make your “C” curve; don’t compress the vertebra. Repeat 5 times.

Knee Folds with C Curve

Inhale, tall spine, exhale, fold right knee towards your chest, holding onto the back of your right thigh, as you make a C curve with your spine (remember to scoop abs, keep shoulders relaxed). Repeat another side. Repeat 4 sets.

Leg Extension

Inhale, neutral pelvis, tall spine; exhale to extend the left leg straight with a flexed foot (dorsiflex) as you keep the abdominals scooped. Inhale: point (plantarflex) the left foot, exhale: flex the foot again, inhale: lower foot to start position. Imagine your navel is anchored to the back of the chair throughout. Repeat right side. Repeat 4 sets.

Side Stretch

Sit tall, neutral pelvis. Inhale as you reach your right hand to the side and then up overhead. Exhale to the side and bend to the left. Inhale to reach up again with a straight spine and exhale to return your hand to your side. Repeat on the left. Do three sets.

Torso Twist

Sitting tall, arms folded, shoulder blades down. Inhale and bring your navel into your spine; exhale full and long as you twist your torso to the right, staying lifted out of the hips. Imagine your spine as a spiraling staircase. Inhale to return to center. Repeat to the left. Repeat for 3 sets.

Shoulder Blade Slide

Tall spine, neutral pelvis, inhale and lift shoulders up by your ears, exhale to lower shoulders, feeling the shoulders slide down your back as the top of the head stretch towards the ceiling. Imagine a turtle coming out of his shell. Repeat 4 times.

Shoulder Stabilization

Inhale tall spine, exhale to reach arms out forward. Inhale and hold the position, exhale to pull your shoulder blades back together, and imagine you are cracking a nut between your shoulder blades. Repeat 4 times.

About Duke Health & Well-Being Physical Movement & Fitness Services

Physical activity and fitness are integral to mind and body well-being. Physical activity supports your health in maintaining weight and blood pressure, reducing lipids, releasing stress, and improving mood and focus. Developing a sustainable, appealing plan that meets your needs and keeps you strong, flexible, balanced, and happy is ideal. There are many ways to enjoy physical activity and fitness, such as: participating in group exercise classes, using the fitness center, swimming in the pool, walking on the outdoor track, or working one-on-one with an exercise physiologist to help optimize your health and well-being.

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