A system of exercises using special apparatus, designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture, and enhance mental awareness.
Joseph Pilates developed a fitness system in the early 20th century, which he called as Pilates. Pilates called his method “Contrology”. It is especially practiced in western countries such as Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, though practiced worldwide.
There is not enough evidence to show that Pilates alleviates low back pain, or improve balance in elderly people. It has been shown not to be an effective treatment for any medical condition. There is some evidence Pilates can help muscle conditioning in healthy adults.
How it works
Pull out your gym mat and get ready to do a series of movements that will stabilize and strengthen your core.
The exercises are usually done in a specific order, one right after another. The movements have names, like “The 100,” Criss-Cross,” the “Elephant,” and the “Swan.”
The moves may look simple, but they take a lot of precision and control. It’s not like doing a bunch of crunches; there’s a strong emphasis on technique.
You can do Pilates on an exercise mat, either in a class or at home, using a DVD. Or you can go to a gym or studio that has special equipment, a class, or a trainer who can supervise you.
Pilates classes typically take 45 minutes to an hour, but you can do fewer moves in less time.
You’ll get stronger, more sculpted muscles and gain flexibility. You may also have better posture and a better sense of well-being.
Plan on doing this workout a few days a week, in addition to cardio, since Pilates isn’t aerobic.
Intensity Level: Medium
It’s demanding, but it’s not the kind of workout that always works up a sweat. It’s all about concentration and breathing. But you’ll definitely feel it in your muscles during each exercise.
Areas It Targets
Core: Yes. Your core is the main focus of this workout.
Arms: No. This workout doesn’t specifically target your arms.
Legs: Yes. You’ll use your upper legs to help engage your core.
Glutes: Yes. You’ll use your glutes as you work on moves that stabilize your core.
Back: Yes. This workout focuses on stabilizing and strengthening your back as you strengthen your abs.
Flexibility: Yes. The exercises in a Pilates workout will boost your flexibility and joint mobility.
Aerobic: No. This is not a cardio workout.
Strength: Yes. This workout will make your muscles stronger. You’ll use your own body weight instead of weights.
Low-Impact: Yes. You’ll engage your muscles in a strong but gentle way.
The health benefits of Pilates
People who dance can be spotted easily, even offstage. “They’re very aware of their body’s position in space, and they move almost like cats,” says Marie-Louise Bird, a Pilates researcher and post-doctoral research fellow at the University of British Columbia. “But most of us are more like puppy dogs, moving without much attention paid to our posture”.
Ever since Joseph Pilates founded his studio in New York City about a century ago, the training method has focused on strengthening abdominal and trunk muscles—called the “core”—through hundreds of very specific movements. The first Pilates clients were ballet dancers looking for a way to improve their posture and control their movements.
The training method in Pilates has focused on strengthening abdominal and trunk muscles – called the “core” – through hundreds of very specific movements, ever since Joseph Pilates founded his studio in New York City about a century ago. The first Pilates clients were ballet dancers looking for a way to improve their posture and control their movements.
As per the suggestion by Bird’s research often-tiny movements in Pilates improve balance and core strength, even though it looks deceptively easy. Pilates does this in part by reinforcing the bond between mind and muscles, helping people engage the right muscles in the core. Cherie Wells, a senior lecturer in physical therapy at Australia’s Griffith University says that it leads to better posture and control over the body’s movements. The core-strengthening perks of Pilates may also ease pain and improve daily life for people suffering from chronic low-back pain as found by Wells’s research. Some research has also linked Pilates to better flexibility, trunk stability, injury prevention and athletic performance.
But it’s easy to do Pilates incorrectly, so if you want to experience all these advantages, good form is essential, Bird says. That requires a good teacher, at least in the beginning. “Results come from a structured class taught by a certified instructor,” says Ann Gibson, an associate professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico, who warns newbies not to assume they can pick up Pilates by looking at a few online pictures or guides. “There needs to be a lot of focus on rolling down or up from the ground, one vertebrae at a time”.
Mental is the other unique part of Pilates and not the physical. One of the key concepts of Pilates is understanding that all movements originate in your core, and, is called “centering”. “Like yoga, it’s about breathing and focus and being mindful of your body’s movements,” Gibson says. As linked by one study, Pilates enhances mindfulness and something called sensory awareness, which may in turn induce relaxation, mood improvements and stress reduction.
It won’t surprise anyone familiar with the classic “hundred” exercise—a grueling Pilates pose performed for 100 beats—that the practice also does something special to the stomach. “Pilates seems to activate the deeper abdominal muscles more than conventional gym exercises,” says Duncan Critchley, a lecturer and exercise researcher at King’s College London. Research from Spain shows Pilates also eliminates “asymmetries” in the abdominal muscles the line the sides of your torso.
Wells says that it’s probably not the best workout for those looking for a vigorous sweat. Newer forms of practice have been developed to use machines in increasing the resistance and even aerobic intensity – reformer Pilates and Jumpboard Pilates. These are less studied than the traditional forms of the exercise.
Looking around online it can be evident that Pilates can help people lose weight, and may be also inches around the waist. But Gibson says that her findings were mixed when it came to Pilates’s ability to reduce waist circumference!
But if you’re searching for a mind-body practice that strengthens the body and has a few pleasant side benefits—like great abs and more poise—Pilates is certainly worth a try.
The other benefits of Pilates
Pilates can really make a difference in your health without taking a toll on your body.
A refreshing mind-body workout
You can become acutely in tune with your body by emphasizing proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment, and concentration on smooth, flowing movement. Controlling its movement can be learned.
The quantity of repetitions value the quality of movement in Pilates. Proper breathing is essential, and helps you execute movements with maximum power and efficiency. Last but not least, learning to breathe properly can reduce stress.
Develop a strong core – flat abdominals and a strong back
A strong “core” or center of the body is developed by Pilates exercises. Deep abdominal muscles along with the muscles closest to the spine form the “core”. By integrating the trunk, pelvis and shoulder girdle, control of the core is achieved.
Gain long, lean muscles and flexibility
More conventional or traditional workouts are weight bearing and tend to build short, bulky muscles – the type most prone to injury. Pilates elongates and strengthens, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility. A body with balanced strength and flexibility is less likely to be injured.
Create an evenly conditioned body, improve sports performance, and prevent injuries
In the same vein, a lot of these same conventional workouts tend to work the same muscles, leading to muscles thus tending to get weaker, and, strong muscles tending to get stronger. This results in muscular imbalance – a primary cause of injury and chronic back pain.
Pilates conditions the whole body, even the ankles and feet. No muscle group is over trained or under trained. Your entire musculature is evenly balanced and conditioned, helping you enjoy daily activities and sports with greater ease, better performance and less chance of injury. That’s why so many professional sports teams and elite athletes now use Pilates as a critical part of their training regimen.