Want to strengthen your core? Avoid unexpected leaks? Women’s health and celebrity Pilates instructor Jane Wake, who has trained the likes of pussycat doll Kimberley Wyatt, actress Helen Flanagan and TV presenters Lorraine Kelly and Nadia Sawalha provides her top tips.
The pelvic floor
To connect to your pelvic floor, start by imagining you are stopping gas, then, imagine you are stopping a wee. Then, draw these two feelings together and up inside you. As you do this, you should feel your tummy coming in. Go with this feeling, continuing to lift up with your pelvic floor as your tummy draws in. Each exercise can be done individually or all together for a complete workout. Try starting with one a day and build up to doing a full workout three times a week.
- The Perfect Lunge
Start with your feet hip distance apart. Then, step back with your right leg onto the ball of your foot, feet still hip distance apart but with your right foot behind you and left foot in front. Start with your legs straight. Take a breath in and as your breath out, connect to your core muscles as described above and lower, bending at your knees and hips. Keep your torso vertical and weight back into the heel of your left foot and ball of your right. Lower as far as you are comfortable and back up to the start in one breath, squeezing the buttock on your right leg as you lift. Take another breath to repeat 6 – 12 times, stopping when you feel fatigue. Repeat on other leg.
- The Bridge
Lie on the floor, feet hip distance apart and take in some slow deep breaths, relaxing your hips and shoulders into the floor (imagine your floor is a soft pillow). Breathe again, engage your deep core and tuck your pelvis in, pushing the small of your back into the floor and lifting your bottom away. Squeeze you buttocks and continue to lift up until your hips form a straight line, from your knees to your shoulders. If you feel stress in your lower back or knees, have your hips in a slightly lower position than shown. Take another breath, re-engaging your deep core, and then squeeze your right and left buttocks, alternating 6 – 12 times. Lower and repeat.
Fast-track your pelvic floor
To effectively train a weakened pelvic floor and prevent any accidental leaks, you need to be aiming for around 100 contractions daily, and research shows that doing up to as many as 200 contractions a day can give better results. There are fast track solutions like INNOVO’s wearable shorts, which deliver 180 perfect muscle contractions in 30 minutes, and are proven to give measurable results, noticeable after just four weeks.
- The Dumb Waiter
From the lunge above, lower into a kneeling position – make sure you have a mat or cushion under your knees. Place another towel or cushion between your knees, and place your arms into the position shown, squeezing gently between your shoulder blades and keeping your elbows tucked into your ribs. Take a breath and, as you breathe out, squeeze your buttocks and walk your knees into your cushion or towel, squeezing your inner thigh. Then take a second breath and connect to your pelvic floor. Relax and repeat, 4 – 6 times.
- The Pilates Press Up
From the dumb water above, go onto your hands and knees – knees in line with hips, hands in line with shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades back and down and bring your bodyweight forward so that your eyes are looking down at the floor above your fingertips. Keeping your elbows tucked in, lower towards the floor, bringing your body weight forward so that your nose is above your fingertips. Before you get back up, engage your pelvic floor, then press back up, keeping your elbows tucked in so that you feel your chest, arms and back muscles working as you push up.
- The Pilates Dart
Lie onto the floor, placing your hands down by your side and eyes looking to the floor. Take a breath, engaging your pelvic floor muscles – you should aim to feel your tummy lifting away from the floor. Lift your head neck and shoulders away from the floor just 1 cm. Focus on extending your arms and squeezing the muscles on the back of your arm. Finally, squeeze in your buttocks by bringing your heels together and pulling your legs out from your hips. Lower and repeat 4 – 6 times, making sure there is no discomfort in your lower back (stop if there is).