Mon 06th July 2020

Functional Movements: How Pilates helps us put our sun cream on this summer and much, much more

Definition: Functional movements are movements based on real-world situational biomechanics. They usually involve multi-planar, multi-joint movements which place demand on the body’s core musculature and innervation.

Living with a husband, a teenager and pre-teen during Lockdown has certainly had an impact on my functional movement. I reckon I have opened and closed the fridge freezer doors more times since the beginning of Lockdown than ever before. I’ve also spent more time bending and twisting down and up and moving stuff (socks, hoodies, more socks..) from room to room and up and down the stairs.  And of course, I’ve been lifting 1.5kg bags of flour and all those 400g tins of tomatoes up into cupboards, kneading bread, digging the veg patch, moving furniture so I can Zoom. And have lifted a fair few bottles of wine…and during a particularly dark patch in April whacked a lot of heavy sticks against trees in the woods. All functional movements.

So, Pilates is a marvellous method to practise as it involves these ‘real-world situational biomechanics’. We don’t walk about with a stiff, erect and stable spine. We move and flex and rotate and bend and reach. We also balance whilst doing all these moves for avoid falling over. This is why in our classes we practise dynamic stability as we move, learning how to use that core strength. Each move is a full move using the whole body, not just bits of movement.  All to help our marvellous bodies be the lovely efficient beings Joe Pilates intended.

So, a scenario:

  • Lift shopping from car: engage core strength, breathing out, check alignment, roll down/squat
  • Open door with bag in hand: balance, floating arm
  • Cans in cupboard: ribcage closure/floating arms but also tennis ball rising for top shelf, helped by cherry picking mobility in feet, side reach/wonky roll down to pick up another can
  • Interrupted by child mid-lift: bow and arrow/rotation, core stability, balance, calm breathing, extension as take deep breaths
  • Blueberries spill on floor and under table: four-point kneeling, table top arms, press up, diamond press
  • Interrupted by child again whilst picking up blueberries: cobra, lizard, tail swish
  • Bang head on table: rest position, deep thoracic breathing
  • Stand up: reversed Roll down
  • Dodge cat: core stability, lunges, balance
  • Feed cat: roll down/squat
  • Open fridge and reach for wine glass simultaneously: co-ordination and flow, bow and arrow

So, next time you move and twist and bend and balance, unload the dishwasher, put on your suncream (spine stretch forward, waist twist, chest expansion), have a think about a move you have done recently in class that has helped teach your body how to do it…mine is still the bow and arrow…everytime.