The Best Pilates Exercises for Total Body Strength at Midlife

Hello friends

If you’ve been following along in my Instagram stories (and if you haven’t, then you can do that here), then you’ll know I’ve been struggling with a lot of fatigue and energy dips of late.

Somehow, when you feel fatigued, you always tend to feel weaker in your body and when you feel weaker in your body you can feel less confident which means you start to hold yourself back from doing things that you know are important to you – like building strength.

In midlife we often see the tipping point when it comes to our health; suddenly all the things we had the energy for before, like making it to the gym for a hard and intense workout feel like climbing Everest.  Twice.  So we start to forgo things that are actually beneficial to us, when in actual fact this is the very stage in life where we should be prioritizing doing things that are good for our health.

So how do we take on Everest in a more manageable way?

Firstly, we should never be hard on ourselves in situation like this – the key thing to remember is that your body is changing, and you just need to keep flexible in your thoughts to change along with it.

That can often mean trying new things or a new approach to see if it works for you and if it aligns with how you’re feeling in your body and mind.

We are all creatures of habit and trying out new ways to exercise can often feel like going against the grain, and like it won’t work, but as our TLC members experience, there is freedom in thinking differently when it comes to your wellbeing, especially when you’re going through the many physical, mental and emotional life changes that midlife brings.

Having a ‘reserve’ of strength in your body is important throughout life, and it’s even more important at midlife as changing hormone levels can negatively impact bone density and also other important aspects of your physiology like cell hydration, which impacts balance and proprioception, collagen production, which impacts tissue elasticity and inflammation, which can impact joint mobility and range of movement. 

Having strength is like a kind of insurance policy you can call on if you need to. In fact, if you read this past blog article written for us by an NHS Hip and Knee Surgeon, you’ll see a call from him to “not get old weak.”

I found out just how important this is with my mum last year.  As an avid pilates fan and member of TLC, her consultant looked on amazing that she was not only able to sit up in bed without any help, but was able to get herself out of bed on the SAME DAY she’d had her colorectal surgery and was able to wash her face and brush her teeth.

Perhaps an extreme example but the evidence is there to support that fact that you recover faster from injury and illness (and surgery), when you have a reserve of strength to pull from.  Many surgeons will now prehab you before surgery if they don’t feel your ‘fit enough’ before an operation.  

Having strength also means you can also continue to do all the things you love to do without injuring yourself – like gardening, running, cycling etc.

But here’s the most important thing about this article, you don’t have to be moving heaven and earth nor be doing a full on 60 minute pilates routines, with every gadget under the sun, to get results when it comes to strengthening your body.

In fact, because of the way I’ve been feeling, I’ve scaled things right back and have been following this simple full body strength routine for around 5 minutes each day; helping me to keep making progress even on the more challenging days right now.

These pilates exercises are safe, easy to do and won’t take up hours of your day.  They also don’t require any equipment but by adding them into your daily routine, they’ll give you a nice little reserve of that all important strength your midlife body needs.

Let’s dive in………

Curl ups for core strength x 6 – 8 reps daily

This is not a ‘sit up’.  It’s also not a ‘crunch.’ 

Curl ups in pilates are all about training trunk stability by strengthening your core muscles, in particular your transverse abdominal muscle, which is THE deep core stabilsing muscle targeted through pilates work. You can read all about that important muscle in this blog post.

It’s also not all about the front of the body; the curl up is also a mobility exercise for your back; as you lengthen and stretch it throughout the exercise.

A great one for training awareness of working in a neutral pelvis and spine; there is no flattening of your back into the mat to achieve maximum height like in a sit up, this is all about moving with control and awareness, which is why you can typically do LESS of these exercises whilst getting MORE out of them.

Bridge for hip and glute strength x 8 – 10 reps daily

Anyone that has suffered from chronic low back pain will no doubt be more than familiar with the bridge.

This exercises works to strengthen the glutes and other muscles of the hip whilst providing a juicy long stretch for your hip flexors as your hips open towards the sky, which will also help to improve your hip range of movement, especially if you are a ‘sitter’ where your hip flexors tend to be stuck short, which can restrict your range of movement.

The thing I love most about this exercise, is that it’s literally done in 2 moves; going from a flexed position of your hips (start position) to an extended, or open, position of your hips and back to your start position.

You’ll start to feel your glutes fire after only a few.  You’re also training a good neuromuscular pattern with this exercise as the glutes are responsible for pushing your pelvis through space (walking), which is what you’re essentially doing here (the pilates squat works in a similar way).

The integrity of your low back during life, let alone middle life, is essential for living a pain free life and this is largely down to the work of the glutes, so don’t let this one slide as you age. 

Pilates Plank for full body strength, but especially arms and shoulders x 2 -3 reps holding for around 5 – 20 seconds dail

A perfect all rounder, there is literally no muscle left untouched in a plank; from your head and neck to your ankles and feet, all of your body is involved in this one.

The particular benefit for most though, will be in working to strengthen your upper body, namely your arms and shoulders.

Good form – particularly in the upper body –  is really important in the pilates plank – as the muscles of your shoulder girdle blend into your core via your fascia (then down into your inner thighs through the spiral line – told you it was full body).

Focusing on good form means you’ll pick up the right connections in your body which gives you the green light for holding the plank for less time but getting much more out of it whilst strengthening our body quickly. 

Pilates is all about working your body more efficiently!  

TLC members don’t forget you have a wrist modification video that goes into more detail on how to modify for your wrists in the pilates plank, as well as access to your Pilates Plank tutorial series that will walk you through the mechanics of a good plank, helping you to get the most out of the exercise without having to plank for a ridiculous amount of time  (it’s also featured in our Calendar this month!)

Try this this little circuit for the next 7 days to see if you feel stronger at the end of it.

Pilates for me, will ALWAYS be about moving peacefully with my body and respecting where I am in my health journey😊

Sending TLC to wherever you are in the world today.

Need a little bit more help with your self care?  Download my FREE Midlife Self Care Plan and starting taking care of your body and mind in a way that’s truly nourishing not nagging.

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Meet Julie

Hi, I’m Julie owner of Ostara Pilates and creator of The Lifetonic Club. Here you’ll find pilates workouts, educational resources and practical tips dedicated to woman at midlife.  You’ll learn how to build a better relationship with your body and mind during one of the most significant periods of your life and how to create a simple wellness routine so as you feel supported even on the days where you have no energy.   Read more.

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