WHAT IS PILATES?

Joseph Pilates as seen on the cover of his book "Return to Life Through Contrology."

Joseph Pilates as seen on the cover of his book "Return to Life Through Contrology."

Pilates is a full-body workout designed to create long, lean muscles while improving strength, posture, flexibility, coordination and balance. Developed in the early 20th century by Joseph H. Pilates, the exercises emphasize smooth, flowing movements driven by the core muscles - what Joe called the “Powerhouse” - including the abdominals, back, pelvic floor, inner/outer thighs and glutes. As our center of balance and strength, these muscles are essential to posture, breathing, and eliminating pain in the shoulders, back and hips. 

Pilates classes build strength, flexibility and lean muscle tone with an emphasis on lengthening the body and aligning the spine, rather than on "bulking up" the muscles.


Joseph Pilates with a student on the Ladder Barrel

Joseph Pilates with a student on the Ladder Barrel

THE PILATES PRINCIPLES

Integrated into all Pilates movements, these key principles are the foundation of a solid practice and are what makes Pilates so unique:

BREATH

"Above all, learn to breathe correctly."
Breath is the foundation of a mindful Pilates practice, focusing the mind, releasing tension and improving lung capacity.

BALANCED MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT

Unlike weight training that emphasizes a particular muscle or group at a time, Pilates exercises are designed to evenly develop the body creating balanced strength and enabling more easeful and efficient movement throughout daily life.

CONCENTRATION & CONTROL

"It is better to do 5 repetitions perfectly than 20 without paying attention."
Work smarter, not harder. Unlike weight lifting, Pilates focuses on fewer repetitions (3, 5, 10 at most) performed with precision and control to  provide a full body workout in less time. 

CENTERING

All movements in Pilates engage the core or 'powerhouse' muscles of the body - the abdominals, back, chest, pelvic floor, inner/outer thigh and glutes.  As our center of balance and strength, these muscles are essential to posture, breathing, and eliminating pain in the shoulders, back and hips.

FLOW

Pilates exercise are done with a sense of rhythm and flow. Dynamic, functional movements decrease stress on the joints and train the body to move smoothly and evenly.


BENEFITS OF PILATES

  • Build long lean muscle without bulk
  • Increased lung capacity and circulation
  • Increased strength and flexibility, particularly of the core abdominal and back muscles
  • Improved posture, balance and coordination
  • Injury prevention
  • Improved joint health, mobility and stability
  • Increased self-awareness and confidence

MAT? MACHINE? WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

MAT
Legend has it that Joe developed his mat-based Pilates repertoire to teach larger groups and as homework for clients between their sessions at this studio. Mat exercises are focused on core-strengthening to enhance posture, alignment and flexibility. While these exercises range from rehabilitative to athletic, mat classes are most appropriate for students without major injuries or restrictions and with some familiarity of the Pilates principles.

MACHINE
Over the years, Joseph Pilates developed several pieces of equipment to provide support, resistance and a full-body workout.  The ones you'll most see and use are the Reformer, Trapeze Table (or "Cadillac" as it's commonly known), Wunda Chair, Spine Corrector and the Ladder Barrel.  The Tower and Springboard are variations of the Trapeze Table, intended to save space in the studio. 

Machine classes tend to be smaller than mat classes (typically with no more than 5 students) to ensure personalized attention and safety. The machines are the heart of Pilates and are appropriate for all levels - whether you're recovering from injury or are training for athletic competition or performance. By using spring resistance and the weight of your own body, you’ll learn to feel and activate the muscles necessary to improve balance, strength, spinal alignment, and achieve greater flexibility and overall joint mobility.


FAQ

CAN I DO PILATES?

YES! No matter your age, gender, goals, fitness or ability level, Pilates meets you where you are and with regular practice will transform the way your body looks, feels and performs.

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR/BRING TO CLASS?

Comfortable, stretchy, fitted clothing works best, allowing for a full range of movement while staying in place and avoiding unintended exposure. 

Pilates is typically done barefoot to provide to provide traction on the mat & machines and to work the muscles of the feet and ankles.  If you prefer to wear socks, several brands, including ToeSox, offer options with added grip on the soles to prevent sliding.

For mat classes, bring a yoga or Pilates mat (typically Pilates mats are thicker than yoga mats for more spinal and joint cushioning) if you have one (if not, most studios offer mats to rent for $1-2) and a water bottle.

HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO DO PILATES TO SEE RESULTS?

To experience the greatest benefit from your Pilates practice, regular practice is necessary.  2-3 sessions a week are recommended, more often if you can, whether it's in the studio on the machines or at home on the mat. Practitioners dedicated to long-term fitness, rather than a 'quick fix,' will find Pilates the most rewarding.

In 10 sessions, you’ll feel the difference. In 20 sessions, you’ll see the difference. In 30 sessions, you’ll have a whole new body
— Joseph Pilates

IS PILATES LIKE WEIGHT TRAINING? WILL I BULK UP?

The Pilates machines use springs for resistance rather than weights. Different combinations of springs provide varying levels of resistance - heavier springs will not necessarily make the exercise harder. You will gain strength, definition and flexibility from Pilates but the focus is on engaging deep core muscles and strengthening the body equally, leading to long lean muscle development rather than bulk.

IS PILATES AEROBIC? WILL I GET A GOOD WORKOUT?

When starting out, there's a lot of new information for the body to learn, so you probably won't get an aerobic workout at the beginning. Once the movements become more familiar and the pace is increased along with the addition of more intermediate and advanced exercises, Pilates can become more aerobic. 

Pilates combines stretching and strengthening, using both springs and your own body weight as resistance, in a way that may appear easier than other forms of exercise, yet you will actually be working your muscles more deeply.

 

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