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Pilates Stretches

How to Use Pilates Stretches to Increase Flexibility

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Updated August 04, 2011

Pilates is known for helping people develop both strength and flexibility. The following set of Pilates stretches includes exercises that increase flexibility of the back, front-body, side-body, hamstrings and hips.

The strength part of the stretch and strength equation is very important -- it's what helps maintain physical integrity and alignment as one stretches a muscle, or increases the range of motion in a joint. All of these exercises promote both strength and flexibility.

Learn more in What to Know About Flexibility

Wall Roll Down

standing pilates
(c) 2006, Marguerite Ogle
Wall roll down is a wonderful, all-over kind of stretch. It begins with a beautiful opening of the chest and extension of the back, and proceeds to a deep curve that stretches both the back and the hamstrings.

Spine Stretch

spine stretch
courtesy of Peak Pilates
A great stretch for the back and hamstrings, spine stretch also provides a moment to center oneself before moving on to more challenging exercises. Do spine stretch gently at the beginning of a routine, or use it for a more intense stretch later in your workout.

Those with tight hamstrings may be more comfortable seated on a small lift, like a folded blanket or towel.

Saw

Pilates Saw
(c)2006, Marguerite Ogle
Saw is an interesting exercise. The rotation of the trunk creates an opportunity for a strong oppositional stretch through the back extensors and out the tips of the fingers. Along with that, there is deep flex at the hip and a good stretch for the hamstrings.

Swan

Pilates Swan
courtesy of Peak Pilates
Swan is a back extension exercise, so it provides a great counter stretch for the many forward flexion exercises we do in Pilates. Swan stretches the abdominals and hip flexors, even as it strengthens the abdominals, back, shoulders, inner thighs, and hamstrings.
Full Instructions for Swan

Take swan a step further by adding a neck roll. This will allow you to practice the easy freedom of movement one can experience when the head and neck are well-supported by a strong core and stable upper body.
Full Instructions for Swan with Neck Roll

Mermaid Side Stretch

pilates picture
Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios, (c) 2006
Mermaid side stretch lengthens and opens the side body. Keeping the hips grounded as the full reach of the arm carries the torso up and over will connect the stretch all the way through the center of the body.

Hip Stretch

Hip Stretch
Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios, (c) 2006
This is an easy but very well-targeted stretch. It will help you get to that tight place just just behind the outside of the hip.

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