What is Pilates?
Pilates is a form of exercise that was developed in the 1920’s by Joseph Pilates. Like many things it was an invention born of necessity. While in a forced internment camp during WW1 he began to develop floor exercises. He started to work with other detainees rehabilitating them with his newly developed methods. These exercises are known more commonly today as Pilates mat work.
Mat – based Pilates is the most common form of Pilates. It involves a series of exercises that are performed on the floor using your own body weight and gravity to provide the required resistance.
Equipment-based Pilates uses specific equipment designed to provide resistance. The “Reformer” is a common example of this which is a moveable carriage that you push and pull along the floor. The equipment work is often performed with trained physios for rehabilitation work.
Pilates is a wonderful non-aerobic form of exercise that can be easily modified to suit a wide range of people from beginners, seniors, people in rehabilitation for injury, pregnant women and the more advanced exercisers. It can be a safe and challenging exercise routine for anyone.
The principle behind Pilates is to strengthen the “core/spinal” muscles that are deep in the abdomen and back. These are the internal muscles we don’t see that give us our core strength and stability. They give us our good posture and help prevent injury. It is for this reason that Pilates is often used successfully to treat back pain or injury. As the core muscles are strengthened and your stability improves, the pressure on the back is relieved, the body moves more freely and is less likely to suffer injury.
Whilst developing and stabilizing the core muscles Pilates also focuses on strengthening and stabilizing the pelvic floor. This makes it a great pre and post natal routine as the pelvic floor is often overlooked.
When used on a regular basis Pilates transforms the way your body looks, feels and performs. It builds strength without the excess bulk, strengthening and elongating muscles, creating a sleek, toned body with slender thighs and a flat abdomen. It teaches body awareness, good posture and easy, graceful movement.
A typical Pilate’s workout includes a number of exercises performed at low repetitions in sets of five to 10, with session lasting up to 45 to 90 minutes. Each exercise is performed with attention to proper breathing techniques and abdominal control. The quality of each posture is more important than the number of repetitions you can do or how energetically you can move.
In order to gain the maximum benefit, you should do Pilates at least two or three times per week. You could notice postural improvements after 10 to 20 sessions.
Pilates focuses on awareness of breath, alignment of the spine and the strength of the “core” muscles. There are six main principles that are the key to progress;
1. Centering: Pilate’s exercises are sourced from the body’s centre which is the powerhouse area between the lower ribs and pubic bone.
2. Concentration: If one brings full attention to the exercise and performs it with full commitment, maximum value will be obtained from each movement.
3. Control: Every Pilates exercise is done with complete muscular control. No body part is left to its own devices.
4. Precision: In Pilates, awareness is sustained throughout each movement. Maintain proper form throughout each movement for safe, effective results.
5. Breath: Joseph Pilates advocated thinking of the lungs as a bellows — using them strongly to pump the air fully in and out of the body. He emphasized using a very full breath during the exercises. Full inhalations and exhalations are important because they aid in movement control during difficult abdominal exercises. Avoid holding your breathe at any point during your workout.
6. Fluidity: Pilates exercise is done in a flowing manner. Fluid, continuous movements are goals applied to all exercises.
Although Pilates is a low impact form of exercise, certain people should seek medical advice before embarking on a new program, including:
- Pregnant women
- People aged 40 years or more
- People with a pre-existing medical condition such as heart disease
- People with pre-existing musculoskeletal injuries or disorders
- Anyone who has not exercised for a long time
- Those who are very overweight or obese.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Pilates teacher
- Pilates-trained physiotherapist
Have a look at our latest Pilates videos on Efit30, our Pilates instructor is very experienced and has some excellent routines and can answer any questions you may have.