How Pilates Tones & Builds Muscle
You may have heard that Pilates can make you leaner, more toned and more flexible. It's not just hype. These safe, beneficial exercises were created by athlete Joseph Pilates (1880-1967) to strengthen and elongate your whole body while sitting or lying down.
With Pilates you can build muscle, improve balance and flexibility and even JUMP without straining your knees, ankles or other sensitive joints.
So how does Pilates work? Pilates machines use "spring resistance" to lengthen muscles as they resist force, creating that coveted, long, lean look. But, surprisingly, "Joe" Pilates invented his signature exercise machine, called a Reformer, not to look better, but to help his sick friends improve their health while lying down.
Unfairly confined to a German internment camp during World War I, he moved the springs in his bunkmates' sickbeds so they could build muscle and immunity by pushing against them with their feet. Legend has it his group was the only one to survive a deadly influenza.
Today's Pilates reformer has evolved but uses the same mechanics. You lie on a cushioned carriage and push yourself forward and back along a spring loaded track. Arm work and matwork complete the workout, and music makes it fun.
“The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.”
— Joseph Pilates, age 86
Best of all, everyone can benefit from Pilates: Runners, athletes, energetic 20-somethings, pregnant moms-to-be and even couch potatoes. All you need is desire and a knowledgeable instructor.
Joe's story didn't stop at the camps. After WWI, he settled in New York and opened a gym near several dance studios. Dancers discovered the benefits of his workouts, then called "Contrology, " and he and his wife, Clara, became sought-after trainers.
At my Culver City, California studio, Pilatesblue, I've seen Pilates do remarkable things for people who want to be more toned, can't touch their knees or ache getting out of bed. They're able to regain balance, feel stronger and move more freely.
How can Pilates benefit you? Here are the top 3 questions new clients ask me at Pilatesblue:
Will Pilates help me lose weight?
Yes, as part of a weight-loss program. Pilates burns calories, but you need more cardiovascular activity to get rid of fat. The best way to lose weight with Pilates, fitness experts say, is to eat a low-fat diet, do regular Pilates sessions and aim for 5, 30 minute sessions of cardio exercise / week.
Can Pilates help with balance and flexibility?
Yes. Pilates teaches you to use your core, or abdominal muscles, to stand and sit instead of your neck, shoulders, legs and feet. Strengthening your core gives you better balance. Pilates also includes short to medium repetitions of leg, back and arm exercises, boosting flexibility in your hamstrings, calves, lower back and shoulders.
Can Pilates offer relief from back pain?
Yes. Pilates strengthens the muscles around the spine that support it and aligns the neck, shoulders, back and pelvis, evening out imbalances that cause cramping and pain.