Pilates, founded by and named after the late Joseph Pilates, is a low-impact exercise regime designed to help men and women develop strength, flexibility, endurance and posture without building bulk or stressing joints. It builds core strength and stability, improves alignment and balance, tones muscles, enhances athletic performance and relieves stress and back paint. A Pilates workout is controlled and smooth. It can be highly varied depending on the instructor and studio, and may be performed on the mat, using a reformer, or using a number of other apparatuses. Coupled with focused breathing, Pilates has proven itself to be an excellent fitness regimen as well as a beneficial adjunct to sports training and physical rehabilitation. The equipment is designed to both challenge and support the body while helping individuals learn how to move their muscles more efficiently. Uniquely designed equipment, including the reformer, Cadillac, step barrel and chair, complement challenging mat-based exercises. The reformer is comprised of an elevated mat, back and neck supports, straps, bars, and tension springs. There is a seemingly endless number of exercises that can be performed on the reformer. Individuals at all levels, from a first time student to an experienced instructor, can challenge their body and benefit from the various exercises. The popularity of Pilates continues to increase and is now offered at many different venues, from local gyms and specialized studios to public schools. We highly recommend finding a studio where you feel comfortable in the environment and with the instruction. Search for a Pilates studio near you and look for a Core Degree Certified Studio where instructors have completed rigorous training programs and are up to date with their continuing education certifications.  You can also provide insightful reviews of your favorite Pilates studio to help other Core Degree readers select a high quality studio with great instructors.

With dedicated practice, Pilates will yield numerous benefits. An individual will learn to increase their lung capacity and circulation through deep and controlled breathing. Core strength, flexibility and posture are key components and direct benefits of an effective Pilates program. Further, it is believed that bone density and joint health improve over time.

Pilates mat classes can be extremely challenging. Do not be discouraged if you are unable to hold each posture for as long as the other students. The instructor should assist you in helping to modify the exercise for your level of experience. Over time, you will develop greater muscle tone and strength and you will likely be amazed at how strong you become in a few weeks. Pilates equipment aids movement and can help you become stronger in preparation for the mat classes. We recommend new students try a variety of different classes and instructors to find the best match for your interests and lifestyle. Do not be intimidated by the machines. Book a private lesson to receive uninterrupted professional instruction and to give you the chance to build your confidence and comfort with the Pilates exercise method.

Classical Pilates

Classical Pilates refers to the teachings of the actual exercises that were created by Joseph Pilates. A Classical Pilates teacher may modify the exercises to assist a client and help them build the strength or flexibility to be able to do the ideal version of the exercise.

Mr. Pilates created a set order of exercises on the mat and reformer and a classical Pilates teacher will teach only within that order. The instructor may omit certain exercises based on the level of the client. The exercises follow a certain sequence to give the body a warm up, a challenge session and a cool down period. Further, it is designed to strengthen and stretch the abdomen, arms and legs while using gravity to challenge clients while lying down, sitting up, kneeling and standing.

With so many Pilates teachers receiving their certification from many different training venues, there are bound to be slight variations and miscommunication as instruction is translated from one teacher to the next and then to the student. In addition, Pilates instructors often have a background in physical therapy, dance, yoga, or another form of fitness, that can bias their understanding of pure Pilates, which is then passed to the student. We are not trying to cause any worry or alarm in selecting an instructor, but rather we are pointing out the fact you will likely find slight variations in instruction within the Classical Pilates community.

Joseph Pilates developed a full body workout centered on core abdominal strength. The following is a list of intentions in the manner which he practiced and taught:

  • Maintain a neutral pelvis to open each vertebra and lengthen the spine.
  • Keep the buttocks and glutes relaxed to keep the lower back of the pelvis open and balanced.
  • Draw the shoulder blades back (vs down) and open the collarbones to develop a correct body posture. Developing abdominal strength will help you reduce the tendency to shrug your shoulders and draw back the shoulders.
  • Work the legs in a parallel position. This is modified when exercising in the Pilates position with heels together and legs rotated outward, which helps to strengthen the adductor muscles.
  • While some movements resemble a dance-like style, Pilates movements are not dance movements, but rather strengthening exercises that create balance and long, lean muscles.

We found this post to be a helpful description covering the intentions of Joseph Pilates.

Contemporary Pilates

A decision by the US District Court in 2000 determined that the term Pilates could not be trademarked. As a result, the industry has evolved to include a number of different courses that vary from the original intentions and exercise regime created by Joseph Pilates. These newer courses may incorporate some of the traditional Pilates principles as well as modern science-based knowledge about the body. Contemporary Pilates programs include, among others, STOTT PILATES, Balanced Body, and Peak Pilates. Some believe newer styles that are not restricted by the order of Classical Pilates can offer more up to date exercises by incorporating recent kinesiology research.

  • STOTT PILATES is a contemporary approach to the original exercise method pioneered by the late Joseph Pilates. Co-founders Moira and Lindsay G. Merrithew, along with a team of physical therapists, sports medicine and fitness professionals, have spent over two decades refining the STOTT PILATES method of exercise and equipment. This resulted in the inclusion of modern principles of exercise science and spinal rehabilitation. STOTT PILATES incorporates modern exercise principles, including contemporary thinking about spinal rehabilitation and athletic performance enhancement. There are more preparatory exercises and modifications to cater to many different body types and abilities, making it applicable to everyday life.

Method Pilates

Method Pilates is based on the original teachings of Joseph Pilates and incorporates four major technique levels: (i) One Dimension Compression, (ii) Two Dimensions Contraction, (iii) Three Dimensions Connection and (iv) Four Dimensions Consciousness. Each level focuses on the core muscles of the torso. Students learn how to incorporate your pelvis and pelvic floor muscles, maintain a neutral spine, and stabilize the shoulder blades. Method Pilates offers a steady progression that typically move from seated or lying down exercises to standing exercises or from standing exercises to mat exercises. Overall, the focus of Method Pilates is on strengthening, stretching, toning and endurance.