Seeing a client achieve their goals, however small, is one of the many reasons Laura LoBianco loves Pilates. 

It might be as basic as seeing them touch the floor with their fingers for the first time.

“I had a client say to me once, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever done this, it’s amazing!’” Laura said. “It’s such a simple thing, but it made his year, after practising for so long.”

Laura, a former dancer, took her first Pilates class in Buenos Aires in 2005. Two years later she became an instructor, and in 2009 she started teaching Pilates in Sydney.

A devotee of the Canadian Stott method, Laura is passionate about Pilates. “I love the fact that it gives you tools to feel better, improve your posture, improve your flexibility, and it helps you develop a better quality of life,” she enthused.

One of the advantages of Pilates is that classes can be tailored for all levels of fitness, from people who want to strengthen their core and improve stability to athletes in peak physical condition who want to take their strength and flexibility to a new level.

Laura recommends doing Pilates at least twice a week. “Like any physical activity, it’s good to do it regularly,” she said.

However, there are short-term benefits to completing just one Pilates class. “Right after you finish a class you have a feeling of general wellness,” Laura said. “Even people who come once a week can experience that.”

At the start of a class it’s important to warm up your core muscles gently. “When we get to more challenging exercises you know that those muscles are there, they’re switched on, and you’re ready to use them and make them available for your body to move efficiently without risk of injury,” explained Laura.

By warming up and working slowly, participants keep their bodies in proper alignment and this lowers the risk of injury. “Your body has to be ready for what you’re going to ask of it,” Laura said. And it’s important to stop if you feel any strain.

Once you get the all-clear from a medical professional, you’re ready to try Laura’s five basic Pilates exercises.

The Hundred



Pilates

This exercise focuses on strengthening your abdominal muscles and hip flexors.

“We’re holding a position that is quite challenging, which is lifting the head and shoulders up, and lifting the legs up in the air,” said Laura. “Because we hold it for 100 counts as we breathe in and breathe out, it’s also meant to improve your endurance.”

The Breaststroke



Pilates

This exercise targets the back, specifically “your mid-back and upper-spine muscles”.

Lie on the floor on your stomach, then raise your head and torso and extend your arms in front of you. It’s important to ensure your feet stay on the floor to avoid putting pressure on the spine.

The Shoulder Bridge



Pilates

A mat exercise which targets your hip muscles, “mainly the glutes, outer thigh and inner thigh,” said Laura.

Lie on your back with your feet flat on the mat and hip-distance apart. Inhale to prepare and as you exhale, life the pelvis so that the knees, hips and shoulders form a diagonal line. Inhale and hold, then exhale and lift one leg to the tabletop position, keeping hips square. Inhale and hold again, and as you exhale place the foot down. Repeat with the other leg. Perform five repetitions with each leg.   

The Plank



Pilates

The plank is a great all-over workout. “There’s no single muscle that’s not engaged,” Laura explained. “You need to have neck muscles shoulder, spine, abdominals, hips, everything, even the ankle muscles, switched on. It’s great to target those deep abdominals that are so important to provide stability to the body.”

Start on all-fours with your knees hip-width apart. Straighten the legs and raise your body so that your elbows, forearms, and the balls of your feet are the only parts of the body in contact with the floor. Keeping the body straight, hold your plank for 45 seconds, holding the pose for longer as you get stronger.

The Supine Spine Twist



Pilates

The spine twist challenges the abdominal and spine muscles. “We’re twisting the spine, emphasising the abdominal muscles that rotate the spine and the spine muscles that help us in that motion of twisting,” Laura explained.

Lie on your back with your arms flat on the floor slightly away from the body. Lift your legs off the mat so that they are perpendicular to the floor, press the knees and inner thighs together. Inhale and shift both legs to the right, keeping the left shoulder on the floor. Exhale, bring the legs back to centre, and then repeat to the left. Remember to make sure your knees stay stacked together as you move your legs from one side of the body to the other.