Pilates is a system of over 500 controlled exercises that engage the mind and condition the total body. It is a balanced blend of strength and flexibility training that improves posture, reduces stress and creates long, lean muscles without bulking up. Pilates works several muscle groups simultaneously through smooth, continuous motion, with a particular concentration on strengthening and stabilizing the core (the abdomen, back and pelvic girdle region, sometimes referred to as the “powerhouse”). The focus is on quality of movement rather than quantity, which makes one feel invigorated rather than exhausted after a session. Pilates takes a balanced approach so that no muscle group is overworked and the body works as an efficient, holistic system in sport and daily activity. Pilates exercises can be performed on a mat or on specialized equipment such as a Pilates Reformer, Pilates Cadillac and Ladder Barrel.
With regular committed Pilates workouts you can expect to: Improve strength, flexibility and balance Tone and build long, lean muscles without bulk Challenge deep abdominal muscles to support the core Engage the mind and enhance body awareness Condition efficient patterns of movement making the body less prone to injury Reduce stress, relieve tension, boost energy through deep stretching Restore postural alignment Create a stronger, more flexible spine Promote recovery from strain or injury Increase joint range of motion Improve circulation Heighten neuromuscular coordination Offer relief from back pain and joint stress Correct over-training of muscle groups which can lead to stress and injury Enhance mobility, agility and stamina Compliment sports training and develop functional fitness for daily life activity Improve the way your body looks and feels.
Pilates can be beneficial for virtually all ages, fitness levels and body conditions. The method is like a bridge between physical fitness and physical therapy, and can be adapted, modified and customized for individual needs. Some advanced moves and sequences seem to demand youthful energy yet others are manageable for even the frailest physique. It’s more about fitness condition than age. One’s chronological number doesn’t necessarily limit one’s movement capabilities – sometimes a 75 year old can perform contortions on the Cadillac while a 20 year old struggles with a simple roll up.
It’s not a matter of one being better than another. The fundamental Pilates workout can be performed on a Pilates mat alone, and great results can be achieved through beginner, intermediate and advanced moves. However, the various equipment pieces such as the Reformer, Cadillac and Chair incorporate light spring resistance that works like concentric and eccentric muscle contractions to safely sculpt, tone and stretch the muscles. The Arc Barrels and Ladder provide support that allows you to safely manipulate your body to stretch and engage muscles otherwise challenging to isolate. Smaller Pilates equipment pieces such resistance bands, Pilates circles and exercise balls also provide an element of variety and focus to a Pilates regimen. A complete and satisfying workout can involve exercises on the mat alone or can be combined with various pieces of specially designed Pilates equipment. Each session can offer variety so that no two workouts are alike.
Try to work out 2-4 times a week, taking a day off in between sessions to rest or enjoy some kind of cardiovascular activity (walking, bicycling, swimming). This kind of regular, consistent practice will help you make the mind-body connection and integrate the various Pilates principles. You should start seeing and feeling results in about 10 to15 sessions.
Ideally your Pilates instructor should be certified through a comprehensive Pilates training program, one comprised of lectures, observation, practice, hands-on apprenticing plus a written and practical examination. This level of training is especially important if you are going to be working out on any of the specialized Pilates equipment – some courses only cover mat exercises while others educate trainers in the full range of apparatus. Find out if your trainer is educated in handling clients with specific injuries or body conditions that might warrant a modified approach. A professional Pilates instructor should keep up with the latest developments in exercise science, choreography, small prop usage and more through continuing education workshops. Any background or teaching experience in other movement disciplines such as dance, aerobics or yoga is also a plus. A professional instructor should make good use of visual, verbal and tactile cueing to ensure students are exercising with proper form and technique. Whether you are working out in a group setting or one-on-one personal training, make sure your Pilates instructor is confident, knowledgeable, responsive and personable so you can have a safe and effective experience.
In essence, Pilates exercise is not a cardiovascular workout and burning calories is not it’s main focus. However, in conjunction with a sensible diet and some cardio work such as brisk walking, bicycling, aerobics or swimming, Pilates can factor into a weight loss program. Pilates exercises help strengthen, sculpt and tone the body while building long, lean muscles. Whether the number on the scale goes down or not, you will tend to look and feel better through continued Pilates practice.