Pilates is a full-body workout that streamlines and tones with great efficacy but it can also be designed to focus on specific areas that might need a little extra attention. For example: the pecs. In women, these muscles can be more difficult to tighten and develop than in men due to inherent structural differences between the sexes. The best Pilates exercises for the pecs focus on this area and, as a bonus, can be performed without specialized equipment. All you need is an exercise mat and some floor space and you're ready to go.
Intro to Pecs
The pectorals are comprised of two muscle groups: pectoralis major (the larger of the two) and pectoralis minor. Together these powerful muscles help stabilize the rib cage, spine and shoulder girdle. Keeping them strong and toned contributes to good posture, flexibility and the health of the entire spinal column. In women the pecs lie underneath breast tissue, thus they are not as easily visible as they are in men. Tightening the pecs has the side benefit of helping to lift the breasts, which in turn can have aesthetic appeal and also support the upper back and help it accommodate the weight of breast tissue.
The Best Beginner Pilates Moves for Pecs
Mat work is popular among Pilates enthusiasts because it can be done at home and thus can be integrated into busy schedules. The Pilates "static" plank is one of the best all-around exercises for tightening your pecs. Kneel on all fours in a "cat" position, keeping your hands at shoulder width and your knees and feet at hip width. Spread your fingers wide and press your palms into the floor. Roll your shoulders back and visualize your shoulder blades lying flat against your back. Then, straighten each leg, one at a time, until you are in a full-body plank. Hold for a few seconds and return to the starting position. Other pec-tightening Pilates moves include spine twist, double leg stretch and roll-up.
More Advanced Pilates Pec Moves
For an intense pec-blast, take your static plank to the next level by bending your arms and lowering your entire body into what is called a plank pushup. Keep your legs straight and your shoulder blades flat against your back. Return to the starting position and repeat. Don't forget to breathe! Even a few of these moves will awaken your pecs and trigger the growth of new muscle. To continue with your more advanced pec routine, try the following Pilates mat exercises: rollover, side plank, single leg kick and scissors.
Working the pecs in an isolated fashion requires a great deal of focus and also a degree of existing strength and flexibility. Consult your doctor before you start your Pilates pecs routine and monitor your progress closely. If at any time you feel pain, numbness or tingling, stop your workout immediately and get the green light from your healthcare practitioner before you resume.
- Anatomy of the Moving Body; Theodore Dimon, Jr.
- The Anatomy of Pilates; Paul Massey
- Pilates Workbook; Ellie Herman
Michelle Kodis has been a writer and editor for more than two decades. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, is the author of nine books and has contributed articles to various magazines, newspapers and blogs. She is also a certified Pilates instructor and studies canine therapeutic massage/acupressure.