Pilates Bands are a very simple and affordable way to add some strength training into your floor exercises – including your Pilates mat routines.
Pilates exercises can be enhanced through the use of elastic resistance. The bands can ether provide movement resistance, movement assistance or movement clarification. There are three types of Pilates bands. Therabands are wide, flat bands that usually come without handles. Tubes resemble jump ropes with handles on the ends, and ankle bands are circular and can be used for leg work.
Using Bands for Pilates Breathing
The breathing technique is one of the most challenging aspects of Pilates to master. Unlike yoga, which involves deep abdominal breathing, in Pilates, you do not inflate your belly during inhalation. The band can help you clarify this breathing movement. Wrap a Theraband around your waist, and tie the ends at your lower belly. Take a deep breath in, and allow your belly to expand. You will feel your abdomen press against the band. Then, take in another breath. This time, the breathing will not be as deep. Do not expand your belly. Practice the movement until you no longer feel your abdomen press against the band as you inhale.
The Hundred Exercise
The Pilates Hundred exercise was originally designed to teach the student the connection between the abdominal muscles and the latissimus dorsi, which run down the sides of your back. In an ideal postural alignment, the abdominal muscles are pulled upward and inward, while the shoulders are down and relaxed. Often, if the lats are not properly engaged, the shoulders will hike upward. When The Hundred is performed on the Pilates reformer, the use of the latissmus dorsi is obvious. You grab the overhead cables, and pull them down by your sides as you pump your arms.
As a floor exercise, the arm pumping movement in The Hundred is far less obvious. This is where the bands come in handy. Place the band under your arms. Grasp each end, and pull them down until your hands are along side of your waist. If you are engaging your lats, the band will be taut, and there will be no slack. Lift your head and shoulders from the mat. Depending upon your core strength, your feet will either be flat on the floor or your legs will be elevated with your knees either bent or straight. Lift your head and shoulders from the mat, and turn your palms downwards. Begin pumping your arms. Breathe in for five counts and out for five counts. Repeat for ten cycles.
The band can provide resistance for the Pilates bicycle movement. If you require neck support, you should only use the bands on your lower body. If you are strong enough to perform the exercises without supporting your neck, you can add upper body resistance. Wrap a Theraband around your feet, and hold one end in each hand. The leg movement will be the same, no matter which way you are using the band. Lift your legs from the floor. As you bend one leg, extend the other. Rotate your upper body in the direction of the bent leg. If you are working with the band only on your feet, clasp your hands behind your head, and rotate your torso. You will feel added resistance in your butt and thighs. If you are also using the band for your upper body, grab each end. As you bend your knee, bend the corresponding elbow and pull it back behind you. You should feel some added resistance in your upper back and biceps.