Pilates is a workout that is equally suitable for beginners and professional athletes. This method of physical training has been practiced for just over 100 years, and some of its principles are recognized by official medicine. The complex consists of three dozen exercises and primarily develops flexibility, balance and control over your own body. We asked experts what else is interesting about Pilates, how to train correctly and what movements to start with.
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What is Pilates
Pilates is suitable for all ages and fitness levels
Pilates is a physical exercise system using focused breathing to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body (1). It is suitable for general strengthening of the body, development of flexibility and dexterity, and for rehabilitation. The use of impact loads, in which the force increases with body weight, is not expected. All movements are performed smoothly, with precision control and compliance with breathing rules.
The complex consists of 34 basic exercises for muscle contraction and relaxation. The focus is on cervical spine alignment, rib and scapula stabilization, pelvic mobility, and use of the transverse abdominis muscles (2). In Pilates philosophy, it is a kind of frame of the body that is responsible for balance, strength and susceptibility to injury.
The concept of Pilates was developed at the beginning of the twentieth century by Joseph Pilates. In his youth, he practiced gymnastics, diving and boxing, using his own physical training system. During the First World War, Pilates was interned on the Isle of Man. He worked in a hospital where he treated and rehabilitated soldiers who had lost the ability to walk. Then he introduced his know-how, called “Cadillac”. These were special springs that were attached to the beds and supported the patients’ limbs (3). Subsequently, Pilates came up with a dozen more devices, some of which, in an adapted form, are still used in training.
After the war, Pilates and his wife emigrated to the United States, where they opened their own physical training studio. The gym featured most of Pilates’ inventions. His method soon became popular, especially among dancers. Joseph Pilates himself called his system “controlology,” and only after his death the name of the creator was attached to these exercises.
In Pilates, quality is more important than quantity.
In Pilates there are no numerous repetitions of each movement – a maximum of five to seven times. It is much more important to perform them accurately, concentrating on breathing and muscle function. Here are some of the main principles of Pilates (4).
- Breath. With each exhalation, it is necessary to completely empty the lungs and take a deep breath, which will provide an influx of oxygen.
- Concentration. In Pilates, it is important to concentrate on all parts of the body that are involved in the exercise or are static. Visual images are often used to enhance concentration.
- Centering. It involves performing any exercise from the so-called center of force. This is the area between the ribs and the pubic bone, around which the center of gravity is evenly distributed.
- Accuracy. Each movement has its own instructions, sequence and logic. The goal of Pilates is to achieve maximum precision in movement. Therefore, at first, the help of a coach is important.
- Stream. All movements are interconnected and continuously flow into each other. As a result, the workout is not at all like a classic gym class – Pilates is more like a smooth dance.
How is Pilates different from yoga?
At first glance, Pilates and yoga are similar, but there are fundamental differences between them. Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice that connects the mind and body through the breath, while Pilates is an exercise system that focuses on working muscles and improving movement.
Yoga has more static exercises and challenging poses that will challenge your body every class, says Anastasia Yurkova. In Pilates, exercises are performed in a comfort zone, focusing on the limitations of the body, gradually improving it. “Therefore, if you have any posture problems, musculoskeletal diseases, or if you are new to fitness, it is better to start with Pilates than with yoga,” the expert advises.
Types of Pilates
The exercise system involves a step-by-step transition from entry-level to advanced
There are two main schools of Pilates: American and English. The first is more focused on developing strength abilities, the second is more on breathing, concentration and flexibility (5). In addition, all exercises in the complex are divided by level of difficulty.
- Basic, or initial. Aimed at overall health, the main focus is on finding the center of power. The classes teach proper breathing, control coordination and increase flexibility.
- Advanced or difficult. Exercises affect all muscle groups. It is at this stage that special Pilates equipment is introduced into the program. You can start training only after mastering the skills of the previous stage.
During Pilates classes, you can work with your own body weight or use special strength equipment. In the latter case, the choice of equipment depends on preparation. All Pilates equipment can be divided into two groups.
- Great equipment. This includes special devices, as Joseph Pilates himself called them. One of the most famous is the reformer. It looks like a low platform or frame with straps, leg bars and other equipment. In addition, Pilates uses a special chair, a barrel with a ladder and towers for training. Such equipment is usually installed in Pilates studios, but they can also be purchased at home.
- Small equipment. Equipment suitable for mat training. These are dumbbells, expanders, balls of different sizes, rollers and a “magic circle” – a ring with two parallel handles.
How to prepare for Pilates
To practice Pilates you need a comfortable uniform and a soft mat.
Pilates classes are easy to integrate into your daily life. Beginners do not need to buy expensive exercise equipment for this; they can start with basic things. Here’s what you need first.
- Exercise mat. It is better to choose a model with a rubberized bottom surface so that the mat does not roll or move during training. If you plan to exercise indoors and outdoors, take two different mats.
- Comfortable clothes. A Pilates suit should not restrict movement. Take a closer look at the shape made of thin, but at the same time stretchy materials.
- Shoes. Pilates does not require sneakers; exercises are performed barefoot. In the gym, visitors wear socks when exercising. It is better if the sole has rubber “pimples” so that the feet do not slip. You can also purchase special toeless fitness socks.
- Music. As a rule, classes are held to the accompaniment of calm music, which sets the mood and background. On the Internet you can find many music collections specifically for such exercises.
Benefits of Pilates
Due to the low trauma and intensity of the loads, Pilates…