Think that Pilates is a super mellow, stretch program?- think again.
Pilates is taxing and you train your muscles in all new ways, with slow and controlled movement that stems from your core.
There is a reason that celebrities like Lady Gaga, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Tiger Woods swear by it.
What is Pilates?
– Joseph Pilates
The Pilates Method was developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s while in an internment camp during World War I.
Joseph Pilates had an extensive movement background as a personal trainer, bodybuilder, circus performance and self-defense trainer for police schools.
Of course, while away at war, his usual training equipment wasn’t at his fingertips — so he began devising “Contrology.”
“Contrology” and Pilates Method stemmed from his deep-seated belief that the modern way of life did not support overall health — particularly in posture and breathing, which, he believed, would lead to sequential health issues like muscular atrophy, heart and organ malfunction, and even neurological disorders.
Pilates is a low-impact training technique that boasts better: alignment, breath, core stability, flexibility, strength, and body awareness.
It specifically targets the core – what Pilates terms the “powerhouse”- to support all other movements.
The “powerhouse” — a.k.a. the core which is defined as the whole trunk of the body, from the tops of the shoulders to the base of the pelvis.
Pilates connects the powerhouse to the breath for all the movements.
Ultimately, that connection would increase core strength and stability and allow freedom for the rest of the body to move.
You might hear, in a Pilates class, that exercises and movements “radiate from the navel center.”
That is to say, the energy and stability expand from the core to support full range of motion, alignment, and posture.
What is Mat Pilates?
Originally, there were fewer props and equipment in Pilates.
Now we have Pilates balls, circles, the Reformer, the Cadillac, the Chair, and more to both support the movements as well as create more challenge.
However, the first and most familiar form of Pilates is Mat Pilates.
The traditional series persists without assistance from props, expecting that one’s body awareness and strength is increasing.
How Is It Different From Other Pilates?
Mat Pilates is exactly what it sounds like, it’s done with a mat (rather than on a Reformer). Usually, a Pilates mat is slightly more cushioned than a typical yoga mat.
Classes run about 45-60 minutes in length.
However, this could change as there are classes on Pilates like Bootcamp Pilates, Pilates Mat Express, Cardio Pilates Fusion, and PiYo (Pilates and yoga fusion).
Classical Pilates Format
The Classical Pilates series is 34 exercises in length and ALWAYS begins with the Hundred.
The Hundred is intended to warm up the body quickly with pulsing arms, toes pointed at an angle towards the sky, and the body curled into a U-type “crunch.”
The Hundred is termed “the Hundred” because you pulse the arms 10 times, with quick inhales and exhales, for 10 rounds total (10 x 10 = 100).
From there the exercises become more challenging and require more body control.
What is Reformer Pilates?
If you wish to accelerate your Pilates practice or need additional support to heal an injury or to correct a movement pattern occurring in the body, I would recommend checking out the Reformer.
The Reformer is a closed-chain environment, with springs and pulleys to add resistance and more intention to the exercises.
Beyond the extra challenge that the Reformer offers, it also adds a layer of symmetry work. Due to the pulley system, each half of the body needs to work in coordination.
Great For Recovery
In this way, the Reformer is excellent at building strength to assist in the healing from injuries.
It is also a fantastic tool to identify and repattern movement sequences in the body to be more efficient and effective.
Pilates is a great addition and supplement for other exercises and athletic endeavors.
Why Do Pilates?
Training the core is amazing support for all other physical activities.
The practice encourages natural body mechanics and functional strength and movement.
That might look like turning your head, twisting through the spine, leg swing to walking pattern gait, or reaching the top shelf.
If you are a runner or a cardio bunny, Pilates can help correct lower body alignment, especially — from the hip to knee to ankle which improves how the knee tracks as it bends.
This is helpful for runners and other athletes that have quad dominance and need to develop the stabilizing muscles surrounding the knee.
There is a sense of equal and opposite energy for PIlates-style stretching and flexing, which creates length and space in the body.
In Pilates, you learn how to move better — in both quality, intentionality, and strength. The body learns more efficient and stable ways to move.
These discoveries will help you find momentum and ways to coordinate the body to reduce effort and maximize safety and efficiency.
It will also teach you to support all movement with your breath and core with exercises like the Spine Stretch to open and find more mobility through the back and hips.
My Bootcamp Pilates Experience
As a dancer, I have known about Pilates for quite a while.
Especially during my modern dance days of college, Pilates movements were incorporated into almost every warm-up sequence.
In my movement analysis courses, Pilates was included as a study into how movement patterns develop through time — from birth and onward with respect to injuries, accidents, and other types of physical training.
First Time Doing Bootcamp Pilates
When I entered the Pilates studio for a Bootcamp Pilates class, I did not know what I was in for.
In this 40 minute class, we did all the things under the sun.
Not only did we carve our cores with the Hundred to the Saw to the Side Kick Series and finally, the Jackknife.
The instructor threw in some added HIIT-style exercises like mountain climbers, jump squats, and, my least favorite of all time, pushups.
My core and legs shook for almost a week after! I was sore in the BEST of ways.
If you’ve done Pilates for a while, Bootcamp Pilates might be just the mix up that your routine needs.
Increase The Pace
If you’ve been avoiding Pilates for fear it’s too slow, Bootcamp might be for you too — it will definitely bump your heart rate up!
Plus, the top 40 playlist will keep you in the zone and on the beat too!
On the other hand, I love the traditional series and I’ll always go back to it.
The slow, controlled, almost balletic movement is delightful for me. I really tune into my movement quality.
Focus On Smaller Muscle Groups
Unlike my weight lifting and cardio routines, in Pilates, I am curious about and invested in using smaller muscle groups and finding more range of motion while remaining strong.
One example is the side kick series.
As I lie on my side, head cradled in my hand, and simply kick my top leg forward and back, it’s a challenge to keep the upper body still.
I am always pushing to find more length in my leg as well as the ability to kick my leg further front and back.
No matter the practice that you choose, incorporating some Pilates to your fitness routine is good practice.
It really sheds a new light on your strength, conditioning, coordination, and breath connection.
Understanding Your Body
As Pilates advocated for, the practice is an opportunity to really get to know your body on a deeper level and refine your mobility and stability.
It’s awesome cross-training for your other athletic endeavors as well as injury prevention or rehab.
You simply can’t go wrong with Pilates!
Don’t Be Afraid to Try!
If you haven’t already, I would definitely encourage you to check out a class and see what Pilates could offer to YOU.
If you want to chat more about Pilates, hit me up!
Can’t wait to hear what your experience is like!