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Are you looking for a low-impact exercise? With the aim to strengthen muscles along with improving posture and flexibility? Then Pilates moves is the exercise for you! Want to know more about Pilates, then continue reading!

What Is Pilates?

group taking part in pilates class

Pilates is an exercise system originally developed by Joseph Pilates. The practice involves core-centered exercises. These can be performed on a Pilates reformer, a Pilates mat, or with other Pilates equipment.

Instruction on special breathing accompanies the low-impact movements of Pilates. You can use Pilates to improve flexibility, muscle tone, strength, posture, stability, and more.

Joseph Pilates, The Founder Of Pilates

Joseph Pilates invented and developed the practice of Pilates, which he first named Contrology. Joseph was born in Germany in 1883. His father was a well-known gymnast and his mother a naturopath. 

From a young age, Joseph was in and out of the hospital. He had a range of medical issues, including asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. This left him with significant muscle weakness.

As a young man, Joseph aimed to cure his physical illnesses. He did this by learning and practicing a range of fitness regimes. He used everything from weight lifting and boxing to yoga and gymnastics. This led him to work as a professional boxer and to even travel with a circus.

During World War I, he used his skills as a physical fitness expert to help wounded soldiers. He developed a new physical therapy that involved their hospital beds. These would later become the initial prototypes for Pilates reformers. 

Joseph’s new fitness program was highly successful. He decided to take it with him when he moved to America in the 1920s. While in New York, he opened a contrology studio with his wife Clara. They began teaching what would become the standard Pilates workout to new converts.

Pilates Teacher Certification

Joseph’s Pilates instructor training program was the first of its kind. Essentially, the first to learn the program from Joseph would go on to spread it with their own teachings, and so on.

Pilates spread far and wide. Today, you can find Pilates body fitness studios in virtually every major city of America.

Pilates teacher training is not standardized. However, there are many Pilates certification programs available. 

To become a Pilates instructor, you should first practice and become familiar with the types of Pilates you would like to teach. 

Next, you should find a reputable certification program. Be certain that it covers a wide-ranging and comprehensive curriculum. 

It’s important to understand the origins of Pilates, how it evolved, and its basic principles. You should learn anatomy and physiology. You also need to know the long list of Pilates exercises and how to teach them effectively to students.

Benefits Of Pilates

One significantly famous Joseph Pilates quote reads as follows:

“Physical fitness can neither be achieved by wishful thinking, nor outright purchase.

- Joseph Philates"

In other words, you have to work for physical fitness and wellness. But the good news is that the work is well worth it. The benefits are outstanding. 

Even with Pilates for beginners, practitioners can see the benefits almost immediately. 

Let’s go over a few of the top benefits you can expect — whether you do Pilates at home or in a workout class:

Top Benefits

  1. Improved joint mobility.

  2. Improved flexibility.

  3. Better balance and posture.

  4. Reduced risk of injury.

  5. Improved core strength.

  6. Improved body strength.

  7. Deeper, fuller breathing and better lung capacity.

  8. Enhanced muscle tone.

  9. Increased stamina.

  10. Improved back pain.

  11. More pelvic floor strength.

  12. Deeper concentration.

  13. Improved mental clarity and focus.

Pilates Equipment

group of women exercising with pilates ring

While Pilates can certainly be performed on a mat without special Pilates equipment, props can always enhance your workout as well.

What Are Pilates Props?

These range from intense machines like Cadillac reformers to small objects like Pilates rings. Here is a basic rundown of the equipment you might see:

  • Pilates Reformer Machine: A bed-like structure used for more advanced movements. Includes a sliding carriage and various bands, bars, and pulleys.

  • Pilates Tower: The frame that sits atop a special table to form the Pilates Cadillac. Includes various bars, bands, hand rings, and pulleys for acrobatic movements.

  • Pilates Socks: Low ankle socks with silicone markings on the bottoms for added grip and stability. Made of quality, breathable fabric ideal for exercise.

  • Pilates Chair: A chair that can be used for modified Pilates movements. Features handles as well as one side that sits against resistance springs. This can be used as a large pedal for strength training and other movements.

  • Pilates Wheel: A circular ring with flat sides. Used for stability training and to enhance or modify standard Pilates movements.

  • Pilates Table: The mat/bed portion of a Cadillac. Unlike a reformer, the Pilates table does not have a carriage that slides.

  • Pilates Ring: A ring with two parallel handles used to add resistance to arm and leg movements. (Note: Pilates ring exercises are different than Pilates wheel exercises.)

  • Pilates Mat: A mat similar to a yoga mat but typically thicker. This provides additional cushioning for rolling and side work.

  • Pilates Circle: See Pilates ring.

  • Pilates Bar: A covered bar that is sometimes weighted. It is often used with bands an

What Is A Pilates Reformer?

man working out on a pilates refomer with certified pilates instructor

The Pilates reformer machine and its variations were invented by Joseph Pilates. Reformers aren't absolutely necessary for the practice of Pilates. Still, they are sometimes used in place of mats.

A Pilates machine or Pilates reformer usually resembles a bed with a sliding mat on top (called the carriage). Reformers often feature straps, springs, bars, and pulleys as well. 

The Pilates Cadillac is the most advanced piece of Pilates equipment available. It is a raised mat (resembling a bed) with a tower over top. 

Together, the two structures create a Pilates machine that may look like a canopy bed. Pulleys, straps, and bars hang from the Pilates tower to help with various exercises.

If you are interested in experimenting with Pilates reformers, you might try looking into reformer classes first. That’s because purchasing a reformer for Pilates at home can be expensive. 

If you end up liking the reformer, however, you can always make the investment. This will allow you to do your own reformer exercises at home.


The Difference Between Yoga And Pilates

Pilates and yoga are often grouped together as if they are the same form of exercise. In actuality, they are quite different from one another.


Pilates Vs Yoga

To begin, yoga is far older than Pilates. Yoga originated in India thousands of years ago, and the Pilates workout only came about in the early 1900s. 

It has also been argued that yoga focuses more on the mind and spirit, while  Pilates tends to focus more on physical fitness.

Of course, despite these differences between yoga and Pilates, there are many similarities as well. Certainly, both practices improve overall wellness. 

Many people use either or both practices to gain more flexibility, strength, and stability. Both practices can also help with weight loss and muscle toning. 

There are many variations of each practice. Depending on your skills and physical health, you will always be able to find a level of yoga and Pilates that fits your needs.


Core Exercises

Stabilizing and strengthening the core make up an integral part of Pilates. In fact, in every Pilates class, most of the exercises will involve the core significantly. There is a reason for stressing the core and core exercises. It’s because, without a strong core, it's basically impossible to become more stable, stronger, and more flexible. As the word implies, the core is at the center of everything when it comes to your physical fitness.


Pilates For Beginners

Pilates is for everyone, including beginners. In fact, if you are just starting and looking for a new physical fitness routine to try, Pilates is a great option. That’s because it’s simple to begin, easy to modify, and can be performed anywhere — even in small spaces. Although props and equipment are sometimes used with Pilates, they are not necessary. A typical beginner's workout might only involve mat moves and postures.

If you don’t want to do Pilates at home, taking a beginner's class is a great way to introduce yourself to the practice of Pilates as well. You’ll learn all the basic moves, such as the famous Pilates 100. 

These Pilates exercises for beginners are truly foundational,  so learning them right away is useful. Instead, the exercises may simply be modified and made more challenging as you improve.


Pilates For Seniors

group of seniors performing pilates exercise

Pilates can be an excellent form of exercise for seniors. However, the typical Pilates definition can sometimes put seniors off. That’s because the practice may involve complicated movements that require considerable strength.

The good news is that not all Pilates is like this. For instance, there are many classes that are geared specifically toward seniors. 

In other words, you don’t have to have a Pilates body before starting this practice. In fact, it’s much better to commence as a beginner and go slow — especially if you’re a senior. You don’t want to risk injuring yourself or inducing pain.


Pilates For Back Pain

Pilates is an excellent practice for back pain. This is especially true because most of the movements focus specifically on improving the strength of the core, and back pain is often caused or exacerbated by poor core strength. Pilates as a therapeutic exercise is especially beneficial for those struggling with lower back pain.

In a similar vein, many pregnant women enjoy pregnancy Pilates as a drug-free therapeutic solution to their back pain. Prenatal Pilates is a special kind that reduces the overall intensity of each movement. It also commonly features movements to curb back pain — a frequent symptom of pregnancy. 

Prenatal Pilates can be a great idea for women who simply want to stay in shape during pregnancy. At the same time, it’s always important to take extra care when performing any fitness routine while pregnant. The same goes for those with non-pregnancy back pain. 

Pilates is an excellent solution for chronic back discomfort. However, if performed incorrectly, it can actually exacerbate the problem. The best way to stay safe and reduce back pain is to work with a professional Pilates instructor and receive continual instruction from experts only. Pay close attention to your postures, and never push yourself too far.


Pilates For Runners

Many runners use Pilates to improve their performance. This is because the benefits of Pilates are the same requirements for optimal running performance. Specifically, it improves core strength, balance, and breath control.

Running requires excellent core strength for prolonged stability. Runners are able to control and produce more force and better endurance when they have a strong core. 

Likewise, a strong core gives runners better balance, and this greatly reduces the risk of injury. Overall, the strong musculature that is created with consistent Pilates practice will reduce the risk of injury for practitioners. 

Finally, Pilates for runners helps tremendously with endurance by improving runners’ breath control. Each Pilates movement corresponds to a special breathing pattern. 

This persistent controlled breathing exercises the lungs and increases lung capacity. That means runners can run faster for longer and don’t fatigue quickly.


Pilates: Frequently Asked Questions 


What is Pilates?

Pilates is a type of exercise that focuses on core strength, flexibility, and postural alignment. It is overall low-impact, but advanced Pilates classes can be quite challenging.

Pilates for men and Pilates for women is virtually the same. The main differences between various Pilates classes are the overall skill levels and what types of props and equipment are used (if any).


What is Pilates Good For?

Pilates is good for improving flexibility, strength, muscle tone, and posture. It is especially good for improving the strength of the core. 

There is a range of Pilates classes and programs for advanced practitioners, but there are also many exercises for beginners.


What Kind of Workout is Pilates?

Pilates provides a workout that focuses on core strength and overall flexibility and mobility. It is not a form of traditional cardio. 

Pilates at home is usually performed on a mat while many Pilates classes may involve reformers as well as Pilates mat exercises. Reformers are also available for home use.


How is Pilates Different From Yoga?

When it comes to yoga vs Pilates, Pilates is generally considered to be more vigorous than yoga. Yoga is usually gentler and more fluid. Pilates also focuses more on core work and strength training. It has less of a spiritual element than yoga. 

Furthermore, while both practices can use props, only Pilates utilizes reformer machines. Finally, in both Pilates and yoga, breathing techniques are important. However, yoga tends to focus more on meditation and mindfulness. 


Can You Lose Weight Doing Pilates?

Yes, Pilates can certainly help with weight loss. Most notably, a Pilates for weight loss class will help you build lean muscle and tone up. Take a look at any Pilates before and after photo, and you will see significant muscle improvement in the after pictures. 

Pilates may help lower your BMI. At the same time, the practice may not be the best for rapid or significant fat loss. That occurs more with cardio exercises. Conversely, Pilates will make your muscles appear leaner and can help give you flatter “Pilates abs.”


Additional Resources

Pilates Teacher Training

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Pilates Equipment

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