Is Pilates the Right Exercise for Me?

By Dr. Brandon Siegmund

January 20, 2016

When most people hear the term “Pilates” they tend to think of a form of exercise that is one step above yoga but is considered nothing more than some glorified stretching on a machine known as a reformer. This could not be any further from the truth. I had the same mentality when I accompanied my wife for the first time but after the workout was done I was absolutely spent.

Most group exercise sessions take 30 minutes and incorporate every part of the body. The reformer machine is used to help provide resistance by using a set of springs on a sliding platform. Your instructor will inform you during the workout which spring should be used based on your tolerance level.

The idea of “no pain, no gain” is not used in this form of exercise and all movements should not cause pain and if so then the resistance must be lowered. The following are some of the best benefits in making Pilates a part of your normal exercise routine this year.

1. Pilates is Whole-Body Fitness

Unlike some forms of exercise, Pilates does not over-develop some parts of the body and neglect others. While Pilates training focuses on core strength, it trains the body as an integrated whole. Pilates’ workouts promote strength and balanced muscle development as well as flexibility and increased range of motion for the joints.

Attention to core support and full-body fitness provides a level of integrative fitness that is hard to find elsewhere. Pilates also teaches you how to become efficient with your body. Very few exercises can help your body become more efficient in its movement. Being efficient means that your body moves in a way, that is smoother, safer, and less prone to injury. By practicing Pilates on a regular basis, you can train your body more to move in a much safer and more efficient manner.

2. Adaptable to Many Fitness Levels and Needs

Whether you are a senior just starting to exercise, an elite athlete or somewhere in between, the foundations of Pilates movement apply to you. With thousands of possible exercises and modifications, Pilates workouts can be tailored to individual needs.

As a result, the benefits of Pilates have been particularly noted in older adults. Even adults undergoing serious rehabilitation therapy can use Pilates to increase their range of motion and overall muscle strength.

Consult your medical professional if you have any doubts about your Pilates program. If you are suffering from severe degeneration or physical pain, you should take extra care before beginning a Pilates program. You should never feel pain while practicing Pilates. If you do, you know that there is something wrong. Don’t be afraid to pull back if you feel overwhelmed.

3. Creates Strength Without Bulk

Long, lean muscles without the bulk but with all of the strength are one of the main benefits of Pilates. In Pilates, the goal is to build toned muscles that work perfectly within the context of the body as a whole, and the functional fitness needs of a person as they move through life.

Most conventional workouts tend to create bulky muscle. This is because in most workouts, the emphasis is placed on repetition and building strong muscles. This causes already-strong (or big) muscles to get even stronger, and thus bigger. Pilates does not rely on frequent repetition, and thus no overgrown muscles.

4. Increases Flexibility

Pilates works toward a safe increase in length and stretch of the muscles and range of motion within the joints. You won’t find quite as much stretching in Pilates as you might in yoga, but a body that can stretch and bend to meet the flow of life is a very realistic goal.

5. Develops Core Strength

The core muscles of the body are the deep muscles of the back, abdomen, and pelvic floor. These are the muscles we rely on to support a strong, supple back, good posture, and efficient movement patterns. When the core is strong, the frame of the body is supported. This means the neck and shoulders can relax, and the rest of the muscles and joints are freed to do their jobs. A nice side benefit is that the core training promotes the flat abs that we all wish for. The proper breathing control that is stressed in Pilates also helps contribute to the core strength

6. Improves Posture

Good posture is a reflection of good alignment supported by a strong core. It is a position from which one can move freely. Pilates increases the strength of the spinal stabilizing muscles that may not be commonly worked out in a standard exercise program. Strengthening these muscles allows you to have proper posture over a longer period of time.

Dr. Brandon Siegmund

About the author

Dr. Brandon Siegmund was born and raised outside of Fort Worth. After he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2006, Dr. Siegmund performed clinical research at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Click Here To Read Full Bio

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