Pilates (or more correctly ‘the Pilates method’) is becoming more and more popular thanks to its low impact, total body workout techniques.
But what exactly is Pilates and how do you know if it will work for you?
Pilates began as a series of over 500 exercises developed in the 1920s by physical trainer Joseph Pilates. It was inspired by his study of techniques used in calisthenics, yoga and ballet.
Joseph Pilates originally used his technique to help injured athletes and dancers safely return to exercise and maintain their fitness.
These days Pilates caters for everyone, from beginner to advanced, as there is no sweating or straining and your muscles are never worked to exhaustion. It is just a matter of concentration, placement, rhythm and breathing.
Pilates exercises are designed to lengthen and stretch all the major muscle groups in the body in a balanced way. Each exercise is performed with attention to proper technique, breathing and abdominal muscle control. As a result Pilates also strengthens and tones your ‘core muscles’ – your abdominals, lower back, hips and buttocks.
The exercises sequence is performed in low repetitions, usually five to ten times, over a session of 45 to 90 minutes. To gain the maximum benefit, you should do Pilates at least two or three times per week.
The health benefits of Pilates include:
- improved flexibility, posture, balance and stability
- increased muscle strength and tone, particularly of your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks
- improved muscular control of your back and limbs
- improved stability of your spine
- safe rehabilitation of joint and spinal injuries
- prevention of musculoskeletal injuries
- stress management and relaxation
- increased lung capacity and circulation through deep breathing
- increased body awareness
How do you do Pilates?
Pilates exercises are done using both mat work and specialised resistance equipment, sometime called ‘apparatus’.
Mat work is a series of exercises performed on the floor using gravity and your own body weight to provide resistance. These exercises condition the deep, core supporting muscles to improve posture, balance and coordination.
Pilates also uses a range of specialist resistance equipment including the reformer, trapeze, ladder barrel and wall units. The best know of these, the reformer, is a moveable carriage that you push and pull along its tracks. Pilates equipment uses body weight, gravity and spring resistance to improve posture, flexibility, muscular endurance and core strength and to build long and lean muscle.