Starting a new fitness class can be pretty intimidating for beginners. If you are not sure if Pilates is suitable for you or what it involves, then fear not! This article will provide you in-depth knowledge about Pilates exercise. Everything from what it is, it’s origin, the benefits, different classes and many more.
WHAT IS PILATES
Pilates is a form of exercise that was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates in Germany. It focuses on strengthening the body while emphasizing on core strength. Pilates, just like yoga, concentrates on posture, balance, and flexibility. It is a low impact exercise so the risk of injury is very low compared to other more strenuous forms of exercise. You can do it with or without equipment.
Pilates exercises also focuses on the mind-body connection. During the various pilates exercise sessions, your mind needs to be constantly aware of how you breathe and the way your body moves. While controlling your breathing, you will perform slow, precise movements. With Pilates exercises, you can expect to have improved posture, flexibility, and mobility as it strengthens and stabilizes your core body which is your foundation.
The muscles of the abdomen, lower back, and the hips make up the core of a person’s body and are key to the stability of their body. Pilates exercises can be modified depending on the person’s fitness level (range includes beginners to advanced). The intensity of the exercises can be increased gradually as the body adapts itself to the exercises. A typical Pilates workout lasts between 45 minutes up to an hour.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PILATES EXERCISE
Joseph Pilates (from Mönchengladbach, Germany) developed Pilates (originally it was called Contrology). His mother was a naturopath while his father was a gymnast. In the early 20th century, he developed a system of exercises that would strengthen both the body and mind. Joseph Pilates believed that mental and physical health were connected. He developed his own method of exercise by practicing the various physical training regimes available in Germany.
During the 1920s, Joseph Pilates immigrated to the United States and opened a Pilates studio in New York City. He published two books related to his training method. Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education (1934) and Return to Life Through Contrology (1945). Some of his first students went on to teach Pilates. Contemporary Pilates is a mixture of both Modern Pilates and the Classical/Traditional Pilates.
CAN I DO PILATES EXERCISE?
A lot of you may have this question in your head. Pilates exercises can be modified to provide either a gentle strength training program or a challenging workout. Because of such flexibility, most people should have no problem doing Pilates workout. It can be done by both beginners or people who exercise regularly. As a beginner, you should start with the basics and then move over to more advanced moves once you’re comfortable.
When starting out, it is a good idea to go to a pilates class or hire a private tutor. The instructors will make sure you are doing everything right to avoid injury and get the most out of your workouts. If you are an elderly person, pregnant, have health problems or haven’t exercised in a long time, then make sure to check in with your health professional. Pilates is not recommended if you have the following conditions:
- Unstable blood pressure.
- A herniated disk.
- Severe osteoporosis.
- A risk of blood clots.
PRINCIPLES OF PILATES
The majority of Pilate classes are based on 9 major principles.
Breathing is a very important part of Pilates exercises. Joseph Pilates said that increasing the intake of oxygen and the circulation of this oxygenated blood to every part of the body is cleansing and invigorating. The key to this is Proper full inhalation and complete exhalation. His advice was to “squeeze out the lungs as they would wring a wet towel dry”. During Pilate exercises, breathing needs to be directed laterally into the lower rib cage to keep the lower abdominals close to the spine.
Posterior lateral breathing is utilized in Pilates breathing ( the practitioner breathes deep into the back and sides of their rib cage). When exhaling, practitioners are instructed to keep a note of the engagement of their deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles in order to maintain this engagement while inhaling. Pilates coordinates this breathing practice with movement.
Intense focus is required while doing pilates. The way you do exercises is more important than the exercises themselves.
Creating flow through elegant movements and appropriate transitions is an important part of Pilates. The exercises are intended to seamlessly flow within and into each other to build strength and stamina once precision is achieved.
Pilates was originally called “Contrology” by Joseph Pilates’ as it was based on the idea of muscle control. The muscles work against gravity and resistance to control the body’s movement and equipment.
To control their bodies, practitioners start with the center. The focal point of pilates is the center. Pilates instructors refer to the muscle groups at the center (the abdomen, lower and upper back, hips, buttocks, and inner thighs) as the “powerhouse”. Every single movement in Pilates begins from the center and then moves outward to the limbs.
Alignment of posture:
Doing Pilates exercises while having a correct posture corrects muscle imbalances and optimizes coordination.
An essential part of Pilates is doing precise and perfect movement rather than many halfhearted ones. Your goal will be to make this precision second nature in your daily life.
Pilates will increase your overall stamina level. There is less stress to perform the exercises as motion becomes more efficient thanks to increased precision.
Correct exercise and improved mental concentration are enhanced with relaxation.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF PILATES
One of the primary reasons as to why people exercise is because of the amazing health benefits. The health benefits of Pilates include:
Pilates exercises require the body to always be in alignment. As a result, you will gain and maintain good posture in your daily life. This is very beneficial if you have back pain.
Pilates targets several muscle groups. It includes muscles you may not use daily. Even though Pilates is specifically designed for the core or abdominal muscles, it actually includes the entire trunk (abdominals, the hips, the inner and outer thighs, and the back). So, the workout works your entire body. You’ll see that your muscles will be much more toned after the initial soreness wears off. This is great for older people or people who are normally quite sedated in their daily life as muscle tone is lost with age and inactivity. Plus it’ll make you look good!
Pilates focuses on strengthening your core (your core includes your abdominal muscles). So, expect to have no belly fat by exercising.
Pilates exercises will slowly make you more flexible. You’ll be amazed at how much flexible your body will become compared to before. Good flexibility will help you out in sports or martial arts and prevent fall-related injuries.
The intricate mind-body connection that is brought about through pilates will make you more aware of your body’s movement and performance. Not only will your physical balance be improved through correct posture but your mind-body balance will also be restored.
Pilates is an excellent stress reliever. You’ll be very engrossed in your movement and breathing to worry about day to day responsibilities.
A sense of well being:
An overall sense of well being can be achieved with pilates as a balance between the mind and body is established.
Pilates has 2 distinct classes. Mat classes and Reformer classes. Mat classes are, well, done on a mat. The mat is a bit thicker compared to a standard yoga mat. A mat is used to cushion pressure points. Reformer classes are done on a machine called a reformer. The reformer is a sliding platform with a stationary foot bar, springs, and pulleys. These help to provide resistance. Before committing to a specific class, it’s a good idea to get a basic understanding of each class.
Although Pilates is mostly associated with the reformer, don’t think less of the mat. The exercises are performed on the floor and aimed at improving flexibility, tone muscles and fix posture. Mat pilates is recommended if you’re a beginner. It will introduce you to pilates concepts and train your mind and body to do more advanced techniques. Every fundamental concept of pilates is incorporated in mat pilates.
Everything from breathing, centering, concentration, control, precision, and flow. Mat Pilates can also be more difficult than workouts that incorporate equipment as your performance depends entirely on you. Intense concentration and body awareness are required to correctly do the exercises. You also need to keep watch on how your body is reacting to the exercises. contrary to popular belief, some mat exercises do employ some sort of equipment.
Certain poses require equipment like weighted balls, resistance balls or a pilates ring. some popular mat Pilates moves include the pelvic curl, the hundred and teaser. Mat pilates has a number of benefits. It is suitable for any fitness level. Not only will it improve your posture, but also your athletic ability, flexibility, and endurance. It will also decrease your body fat and improve your body balance. An advantage mat classes have over reformer classes is that, as mat classes don’t require a reformer, you can easily do the exercises at the comfort of your home.
The very popular pilates reformer can be pretty intimidating for a beginner. It was invented by Joseph Pilates himself. The reformer has a bed-like frame with a flat platform on it (the carriage). It rolls back and forth within the frame on wheels. A set of springs is used to attach the carriage on one end of the reformer. The springs can help you adjust the level of resistance as the carriage moves back and forth along the frame. Shoulder blocks are attached to the carriage so that you don’t slide off the end of the reformer while the carriage is moving back and forth!
An adjustable bar called a footbar is located at the spring end of the reformer. While moving the carriage, your feet or hands can use the footbar. Long straps with handles are also found on reformers that are attached to the top end of the frame. You can pull them with either your legs or arms to move the carriage. What makes the carriage more or less difficult to move is your own body weight and the resistance of the springs. The different parts of the reformer can be adjusted to suit different body sizes and different skill levels.
A number of exercises are performed on the reformer that promotes length, strength, flexibility, and balance. Most of the exercises involve pushing or pulling the carriage or holding the carriage steadily while it is pulled on by the springs. The reformer provides a lot of versatility. You can exercise while lying down, sitting, standing, pulling the straps, pushing the footbar, perched on the footbar, perched on the shoulder blocks, with additional equipment, upside down, sideways, and many different kinds of variations. A single piece of equipment like the reformer can train many parts and dynamics of the body in many different ways.
All the usual benefits of Pilates can be found in reformer classes. As mentioned before, your strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance will improve. And these improvements will carry on into your daily life in the form of better posture, efficient movement and relief from pain or physical imbalances. Reformer classes will give you Flat abs, strong backs, toned buttocks, and firm thighs, and although these can also be achieved with other equipment and Pilates mat exercises, the reformer creates a truly unique and varied environment for exercises.
The Reformers large size makes it suitable to accommodate a full range of motion. This is amazing for increasing flexibility. Pushing and pulling against the resistance of springs, carriage and body weight increases strength. The magnitude of resistance and the variety of movement helps to build stronger bones. Eccentric muscle contractions is a special feature provided by the reformer that lengthens your muscles as it resists a force. This helps to achieve long and strong muscles without building bulk ( a reason for Pilates’s popularity).
The reformer provides all kinds of stability challenges because of the instability of a rolling carriage with the springs set at different levels of resistance. This develops core strength and promotes better balance. Remember, the stronger the cire, the better your balance, posture and overall well being. The reformer’s full name is the universal reformer, as exercising with a reformer is possible for anyone at any fitness level.
Besides the reformer, some other types of equipment are used in Pilates. They won’t show up in most beginner classes, but they do exist and loved by a lot of professionals. A piece of popular equipment is The Cadiccal. It’s an interesting piece of equipment that you might mistake for a medieval torture machine at first. It has a bed with a mat on top and a three-sided frame covering the top and either end of the bed. It’s 6 feet tall.
Equipment like leg springs, arm springs, loops to hang from, a push-through bar and a trapeze are attached to the frame. Cadillacs are often absent from group classes as it’s large size makes it inconvenient to use in a group. You will have to look for private Pilates classes that offer the Cadillac. All kinds of stretching exercises can be done on the Cadillac. It is pretty useful if you find lying down for long periods tedious.
Other pieces of equipment include The Wunda, a low chair with padding and springs, the spine corrector, the high chair, and the Magic Circle (a ring used between the legs to create resistance.) These are helpful for various exercises. They are used for isolating, strengthening and stretching different muscle groups. Most of these equipment can be found in private Pilates studios.
WEIGHT LOSS THROUGH PILATES
Pilates is very effective for toning, building lean muscles and improving posture and yes it will help you lose and maintain a healthy weight. However, compared to other cardio exercises like running or swimming, pilates is not as effective for weight loss. You’re going to be burning fewer calories at pilates classes. But don’t fret as with regular Pilates classes you’ll be maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If your primary goal is losing weight, then it is a good idea to combine Pilates with a healthy diet and possibly some other forms of exercise like walking, swimming, running, cycling or traditional strength training.
Research regarding pilates for weight loss is pretty mixed. A research conducted in 2017 by PubMed observed 37 obese women (aged 30-50) who practice Pilates for eight weeks. Even though the women had lower weight, lower BMI, toned waists, and decreased abdomen and hip circumference, their lean body mass (body fat weight subtracted from total body weight) remained unchanged. It was compared to a group doing no exercise during that time.
Another research conducted in 2015 observed postmenopausal women (aged 59-66). Researchers found no change in body composition after the participants had done mat pilates for 12 weeks. The participants, however, did have significantly increased abdominal, upper, and lower limb strength. It is suspected that no change in body composition occurred because no dietary restrictions were in place. More research is required in this field. Excluding weight loss, the health benefits provided by Pilates has been confirmed by research.
Another 2015 study proved that pilates is great for injury rehabilitation (like chronic low back pain).
The number of calories you can burn through Pilates will depend on your weight, whether you’re taking mat or reformer classes and the difficulty of the class. A person weighing 150 pounds will burn 175 calories on a beginner mat class lasting 50 minutes and 254 calories on a more advanced class as proven by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). You’ll burn more calories in a reformer class. To give you an idea about how calories affect weight loss, burning 3500 calories will shed 1 pound.
Reformer classes can burn more calories than mat classes. One thing you can try doing if you’re not interested in reformer classes is combination classes. You can try Piloxing (Pilates and boxing) or Yogalates (yoga and Pilates.) This way you’ll burn way more calories. Participate in combination classes a few times a week for the best results. If you’re not interested in these then you can always alternate Pilates with strength training and cardio exercise.
You should also be aware of the Pilates effect. Pilates can help you to have better posture, toned muscles and a toned core. Because of this, you will appear to have lost weight. That’s because of toned up muscles making you look more fit overall even if you haven’t lost a lot of weight.
Don’t forget to keep a check on your diet if you want to lose weight. A regulated diet is as important as exercise. Have healthy meals and stop snacking. Eat protein, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Be wary to not consume less than 1200 calories a day.
So, the bottom line is, even though Pilates is an amazing exercise for toning the muscles, improving posture and great for injury rehabilitation, it alone can’t help you lose weight fast. Yes, you will lose weight, but not as effectively as you’d expect. So doing other types of exercises alongside Pilates combined with a healthy regulated diet will give you the best results.
PILATES FOR PHYSICAL THERAPY
Rehabilitation clinics and wellness centers nowadays offer Pilates classes. They offer it as physical therapy. As mentioned previously, Pilates does wonders for recovering from injuries. Through Pilates, you can treat Chronic neck and back pain, Hip or knee replacements, Fibromyalgia, Multiple sclerosis, and Multiple sclerosis. If you’re an athlete, dancer or a sports professional who’s suffering from injuries, then Pilates can help you overcome the injuries and get back in shape. Pilates is a low-impact workout, so as long as you have a trained and qualified instructor, Pilates can be tailored to work on certain areas of your body.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOGA AND PILATES CLASSES.
Yoga and Pilates share a lot of similarities. Both focus on the mind-body connection and involve intricate poses. The major difference between Pilates and yoga is that Pilates can incorporate equipment and is more focused on providing a complete workout. Where yoga is more concerned with spiritual well being and relaxation, Pilates focuses more on toning and strengthening.
COMMON BEGINNER MOVES
Pilates has an established set of moves that are common in beginner classes. they are:
- The Hundred: Breathing exercise that targets core strength and stability.
- Leg circles: Will strengthen hips and core stabilizers.
- Series of 5: A group exercise that aims to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles.
- Rolling like a ball: Well…literally rolling like a ball to massage the spine and open up the back!
- The roll-up: Stretches the spine and the back of the body while strengthening the abdominals through slow, precise moves.
WHAT TO WEAR
No matter how much you love loose clothing, formfitting clothes are a must for Pilates. It ensures that the instructor can see your moves better and your clothes don’t get caught in the equipment. In a lot of exercises, you’ll be lying down and your legs will move above you. So ditch the shorts if you don’t want them riding up! The best combination would be to wear capris or legging along with a tank top or fitted long-sleeved shirt. As for your feet, you can exercise barefoot or wear socks. The protocol for footwear differs between studios, so do check up in advance. If you’re planning on wearing socks, then make sure to get a pair with rubber detailing on the soles. They’ll prevent you from slipping on the mat or equipment.
All workouts have their own set of terminology including Pilates. The “powerhouse” refers to your body’s center, where all the power comes from to perform moves. “Peel through your spine” refers to movement from vertebra to vertebra. Don’t worry! You’ll get used to these terms very soon. Try taking help from regulars to familiarize yourself to everything.
PILATES ABS WORKOUT
Ab workouts can be pretty boring with endless boring repetitive moves. But not in Pilates. Pilates not only sculpts you a powerful core but keeps things interesting while doing so. Let’s look at 3 popular and effective Pilates ab workouts for beginners and how to do them.
While keeping your knees bent and your feet hip-distance apart, sit on the center of the mat. Bend your elbows, make a fist with both hands and stack your fists on top of each other in front of your chest. Circle your fists around each other. While doing so, roll downwards while inhaling and curling your tailbone under (this will scoop the abdominals in) and stop just before touching the mat. Get back up while exhaling, winding your arms in the opposite direction. Do 5 reps.
While lying on the center of the mat, bring your knees into your chest. While curling your chest and head up, look at your abdomen and stack your palms over each other and place them behind your head. Keep your heels together and toes pointed out. Keeping the knees shoulder-distance apart, turn them out. On a high diagonal (a minimum of 45 degrees from the ground) send your legs out and hold. Bend your knees back towards the ears. Do 10 reps.
Fold your right leg under your body and extend your left leg out to the side in a straight line while sitting on your right hip. Place your right hand on the ground next to your hip and bend your left knee slightly while using your right knee to push yourself up to balance. Flex your left foot and lift your right leg while pulling your abs. Place your right leg behind your left leg. Place your left hand on your hip and then throb your hip up and down by around two inches while keeping a straight right arm. Do 8 reps and switch sides each time.
Hopefully, this article will improve your overall understanding of Pilates and help you decide if you want to invest your time and money in this effective workout.