I've been dealing with a weak back since I was 18. I was an athletic kid but didn't know the importance of a strong core and loose muscles, and that caught up to me quickly with a series of injuries in my early adulthood culminating with a ruptured L5-S1 disc when I was 25.
I now know the importance of a strong core and loose muscles and that has been critical to keeping me active and pain free. It seems every time I get out of this daily routine for even a week or two, my body starts to ache again and reminds me of how important this daily routine is.
From various physical therapists, pilates instructors, yoga classes, videos, and research, I've honed in a routine that takes 20-30 minutes each morning and can be done in my pajamas on the floor of my bedroom when I wake up. All that is needed is a carpeted floor or yoga mat and enough space to do a snow angel.
I find that if a keep the exercises simple and able to be done anywhere, then I have no issues making them part of my daily habit. No gym required saves me money and the simplicity of the routine means I can even do them while traveling from a hotel room (after laying down a clean towel).
This is the first of a three day series. I typically do this routine every Monday and Thursday. This is done with the stomach facing the floor to focus on the back muscles. I will provide a video or photos at a later time to help visualize each move.
Remember the key to pilates is to isolate the movement to only the part of the body that needs to move. This helps create those stabilizer minor muscles that are so critical to building good core strength.
Day 1 Routine
- Cat/Cow poses on all fours. 10 of each pose. Really focus on minor movements in your pelvis as you transition.
- Superman reach on all fours using opposite arm and leg. Do 10 of right arm and left leg than 10 of left arm and right leg.
- Scapula exercise by putting your hands on the ground with straight arms and pushing your shoulder towards the floor and away from the floor. Do this 10 times.
- Plank position on forearms for count of 100. As an added bonus, do side to side toe taps at the end while holding the plank position, 10 with each foot.
- Thigh stretch. Drop to your stomach on the ground and grab your foot behind you, one at a time, and hold for a stretch to a count of 20. For added difficulty, grab both feet and raise up on your belly.
- Superman reach both arms and legs. While on your stomach, put your arms out to the side in goal post position and raise both arms and both legs up while keeping your back and core strong and stable. Hold for a few seconds then repeat for a total of 10 reps. You can also move your arms straight out above your head to a Y position and raise them there for an added shoulder workout then go back to the goal post position.
- Pushups - do as many as are comfortable. I typically only do one set of 15-30. And try going from your knees to lessen any shoulder/arm strain.
- Mountain Climbers - in pushup position, bring one knee to your stomach and roll it across your body towards your arm pit. Repeat with the opposite leg. Do 10-20 reps total.
- Downward dog to cobra yoga pose. I start with downward dog and hold for 3 deep breaths (about 20 seconds). Then transition to cobra and hold for 3 deep breaths. Then back to downward dog, then back to cobra, and finally back to downward dog.
- Squats. I do 10 squats.
- Lunge. I do 5 lunges on each leg.
- Knee bend. This is like the Karate Kid pose where you balance on one foot with your other leg bent in front of you. Then lower your body down and up again while maintaining your balance. Do for a count of 10 then repeat on other foot.
- Repeat Squats, Lunge, Knee Bend routine one more time.
For an added shoulder workout, you can add free weights and do the following exercises:
- When squatting, raise the dumbbells in front up your body and over your head.
- When lunging, do a bicep curl.
- Do a back row by leaning forward and doing a rowing motion. Be sure to start the motion with your shoulder blades first and not your arms.
- Do a fly by holding the forward bend position and moving your arms out to the side. Again move the shoulder blades first to move the arms.
- Hold the weights by your side with your arms at 90 degrees. Then rotate the weights across your stomach and then out to the side keeping the 90 degree elbow position.
- Do the goal post position but with weights where you put your elbow out to the side at shoulder height and rotate your arms from being parallel to the ground to above your head.
- Hold weights in front while doing the knee bend.
- Get a bench and do a bench press.
- In the bench press position, bring a weight over your head in a tricep curl position but lift your entire arms and shoulders up in a curl motion.
- When you repeat squats, now so an overhead press.
- When you repeat the lunges, now do a tricep curl.
- Now get in a lunge position and put your arms to your side and behind you. Now pulse in the position by lowering your knees while pushing your arms straight behind you.
- With a weight in one hand down by your side, bend to that side lowering the weight to the floor from the side, then engage your core to lift you back up. Do 10 one one side and 10 on the other.
- Repeat the knee bend while holding weights in front of you.
- Raise the weights above your head ensuring your stay in a strong standing position and not popping your belly out. Hold the weights for a count of 100.