Updated: Apr 11, 2022
The Pilates system of exercise is based largely on the mat work and offers benefits for all ages. But, these bodyweight exercises that develop muscles in a balanced way are perfect for growing bodies in particular. The Pilates mat exercises focus on strengthening the core, developing flexibility and coordination, and correcting imbalances. A weak center, uncoordinated, clumsy, and awkward? Definitely sounds like me as a teenager!
Pilates For Teens
Benefits Of Pilates For Teens
The teenage years are the best time to start learning good habits, practicing correct posture, and cultivating proper body mechanics. Whether your teen is interested in cross-training, enhancing mental concentration, preventing injuries, improving mood/emotional control or managing weight, Pilates will be a perfect addition to their normal routine. So today, we are dedicating this post on what benefits Pilates can offer for teens, how teens can start doing Pilates exercises and therefore reap its benefits early in life.
Learning good habits
It is very well established that moving your body is good for your health. Both physical and mental. So during the very impressionable stage of teenagehood, it is the perfect time to start implementing a regular movement practice that will set the foundation for a lifetime.
Imagine: you're walking around the mall and you see a flock of teenagers heading your way. And of course you notice them before they even see you coming because they are all looking down at their phones! This generation might have the worst posture of any to date. Their necks are being strained by carrying that heavy head, hanging off their shoulders, eyes fixed on their scrolling screens. Imagine growing up like this and never even knowing what good posture feels like! Pilates can fix this problem in an instant.
Cultivating proper body mechanics
I've said it before, but Pilates is like an owner's manual for your body. It continues to teach me about my ever-changing body and how to properly use it. During the teenage years, our bodies are morphing quite rapidly and these kids are in need of some guidance! How to use this newfound strength? How to control these larger than ever hips?
Not all teenagers will be willing to try Pilates but for those who are playing any kind of competitive sports, it will be essential. From ice skating to football, every athlete can improve their performance in their sport of choice by practicing Pilates. Greater physical control, coordination, strength, and flexibility are all benefits that will come to any serious student of Pilates.
By focusing on strengthening the core and using the body's own resistance, there is no chance for overdevelopment of other muscle groups which may strain a teenager's growing bones in a negative way. Also, Pilates will develop smaller muscle groups along with larger ones that we typically see in a gym setting. It's this focus on strength through functional movement and greater range of motion that helps to decrease the number of injuries seen in teenagers.
Improving mood/emotional control
Teenagers are on an emotional rollercoaster that just won't quit. The solution? According to this study published by JAMA Psychiatry, it's physical activity. The more you move your body, the less chance you have of becoming depressed. And with the extremely concerning rate of teenage suicide these days, we should be doing everything in our power to encourage our teenagers to move more frequently.
Many clients over the years have asked me if they will lose weight by doing Pilates 3x/week. My answer is usually a disappointing, "No". However - as part of a weight-loss regimen, Pilates is a great way to increase your muscle mass, which as we know, weighs less than fat. Muscle also burns fat, so the more you have, in theory, the less fat you will have. I always encourage everyone to remember the 80/20 rule... exercise is responsible for 20% of your weight loss and nutrition is responsible for the other 80%.
Pilates Exercises For Teens
Abdominal Series of 5
Including: The Single Leg Stretch, The Double Leg Stretch, The Single Straight Leg Stretch, The Double Straight Leg Stretch, and The Criss-Cross (See THIS free Empowerhouse Pilates video on YouTube)
This series is great for teens because it's a quick way to feel the burn. Focused entirely on the core, these 5 Pilates mat exercises can be used as a quick warm-up before practice, a way to burn off some steam, or in addition to any weight-lifting routine, they are already doing.
The Leg Pull Down
In a plank position, heels together and toes apart, lift one leg a few inches off the ground. Push the opposite heel back towards the ground, go forward, then lower the opposite leg back down. Repeat with the other leg.
I like this exercise for teens because it not only challenges their core, but it also increases the flexibility and strength through the shoulders. Simply by pushing the heels back and forth, the muscles surrounding the shoulder girdle get stronger through a greater range of motion. Great for preventing common injuries in this area of the body!
Lying down, knees into the chest with the heels together, toes apart. Arms reach back by the ears. Inhale, lift the arms and roll up into a "V" position, balancing behind the sitz bones, arms and legs straight, toes in line with the eyes. Roll back down into the starting position with control.
This is the ultimate exercise for strength and control of the center. Most able-bodied teens should be able to do this one - but if not, we offer plenty of modifications. However, done full-out, it looks great in pictures!