Coordination is the ability to move different body parts together smoothly and efficiently. You don’t need to be a dancer to realize how important coordination is in daily life. From hand-eye coordination to mind-body coordination, we all need it to drive, eat, walk, and workout.
Challenging your coordination when working out improves physical safety and performance in anything you do. Pilates was specifically designed to improve coordination of the entire body. As an instructor, my goal is to teach people to control their bodies rather than allow their bodies to control them. Every move in Pilates requires a harmonious combination of breath, flow, concentration, and movement. Practicing these 4 Pilates moves will be great for anyone looking to improve their coordination while getting a full body workout.
Hundreds with Leg Lifts– A twist on the traditional Pilates hundreds exercise. Lying on your back with your knees at a tabletop position, curl your head neck and shoulders off the ground while reaching your arms forward by your sides. Your arms should hover several inches off the floor and your gaze is in at your belly button. Scoop your abdominals in by pulling your navel to your spine and straighten your legs up in the air. Start pumping your arms from your back like you are dribbling a ball as you inhale and lower the legs for five counts. Continue pumping your arms as you lift the legs back up and exhale for another full 5 counts. Try your best to fill every 5 counts with movement and breath. Do each leg lower and lift 10 times.
Coordination- There is actually a traditional Pilates exercise called “Coordination.” It’s originally done on a Pilates reformer but it can be done on a mat with the same results! Start lying on your back with your legs pulled in at a tabletop. Curl your head, neck and shoulders off the ground by engaging your abs. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and keep them glued to your sides. Inhale as you straighten the arms and legs out. Open and close the legs with the arms still straight. Exhale as you bend the legs back in. Then lastly, bend the elbows back to 90. The challenge here is to separate the arm and leg movements. Do 10 reps slowly and with control.
Breast stroke with Heel Beats– Strengthen your entire backside while improving your coordination with this move. Lie on your stomach with your arms bent by your sides and legs extended long. Turn your legs out so that your heels are together and toes are apart. Pull your shoulder blades down your back by engaging your lats and squeeze your entire posterior side to lift your body off the ground. Make sure to pull your navel in to protect the lower back. Start beating your heels together rapidly. Slowly reach your arms forward and swim your arms around and back, trying your best to keep the upper body lifted. Bend your elbows to return back to your sides. The challenge is to move your arms and legs at different speeds. Repeat 5-8 times and end in a child’s pose to release the lower back.
Leg Lift with Opposite Arm Weight– Kneel on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. This may be done with a light weight or no weight. Straighten one leg behind you doing your best not to shift your hips. This will require a lot of abdominal engagement and control. Take the opposite arm with or without the weight and bend it in by your side at 90 degrees. As you squeeze your glute to lift the straight leg up in the air, extend your bent arm behind you to do a tricep extension. You want to coordinate the arm and leg movement so that they both reach their fullest extensions at the same time. Make sure you don’t start to sag in your lower back as you try to lift the leg up higher. It’s not about how high you can lift the leg. It’s about coordination, balance, and control. Repeat 10 times on each side.
For more of a challenge, you can change the arm movement so that it’s going in a different direction. Start with your free arm wrapped underneath your body. As your leg lifts up, unfold the arm out to the side, squeezing that shoulder blade in to lift the arm from the back. Coordinate your leg lower with the arm folding back in under you. Keep your arm in alignment with your shoulder to protect your rotator cuff. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Whether it’s in a dance class or daily life, you’ll notice a dramatic improvement in your coordination after practicing these exercises.
Also by Crystal: 4 Shoulder Opening Pilates Exercises (Video)
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Video: Crystal Chin