Pilates: A Full-body Strengthening Workout
Introduction of Pilates
A popular form of workout, Pilates had its emergence in the early 1900s. The workout is such that it can be done by the most inexperienced and levelled up to challenge even the fittest athletes. Pilates is the foundation for all-around fitness and body stability. So why are people all over the world still opting for this form of workout? You’ll discover that and much more about Pilates in this article.
Pilates is named after Joseph Pilates, a German boy born in the 1880s who suffered from multiple ailments like asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. To overcome his ailments, he devoted his life to fitness, and by the time he reached adulthood, became a healthy boxer, gymnast, skier, and diver.
One of his first jobs was to train the Scotland Yard officers in England in self-defence. During WWI, while stuck in an internment camp, Joseph developed a fitness regimen for the other prisoners and hospital patients by using available props like springs and lifts from hospital beds. Post the war, his refined regimens, later known as Pilates in his name, became the go-to work out for dancers, including the entire NYC Ballet in the 1920s and 30s.
What is Pilates?
The Pilates method is a unique system of stretching and strengthening exercises. It strengthens and tones the muscles, improves posture, provides flexibility and balance, unites the body and mind, and creates a more streamlined shape. It is a recreational approach to exercise which helps the body develop overall health and strength. Through Pilates, you can re-teach your body the correct form of movement to obtain better posture, a strong center, suppleness, and feeling of well-being.
The 6 Principles of Pilates
The most important step is to be physically and mentally committed to achieving your goal, in this case, to achieve freedom of movement and a fitter body. Without a mind and body connection, Pilates will just be another set of movements.
The 6 principles on which Pilates is based are:
- Centering – All Pilates movements arise from the center of the body. The idea behind this is to bring focus to the centre and calm the spirit, and help the proper functioning and development of the muscles.
- Control – In Pilates, control is more essential than speed and intensity. Movements performed with no control have higher chances of causing injury.
- Concentration – It is important to form a mind and body connection while performing Pilates, and the key to forming this connection is concentration. By being aware of your form and what the rest of your body is doing, the benefits of performing Pilates is certainly maximized.
- Precision – Ensuring the form you maintain while performing Pilates moves is essential to keep your body healthy and maximize gains. Precision in one repetition of a form is more important than completing many repetitions of a poor form.
- Breathing – Breathing is an integral part of any exercise. Instead of belly breathing, Pilates instructors will guide you to breathe through your ribs to effectively engage the core while activating blood circulation, awakening the cells and other surrounding muscles.
- Flow – Similar to Yoga, Pilates practitioners will train you to flow smoothly from one pose or exercise to another with continuous, elegant movements to develop both strength and stamina.
Benefits of Pilates
As Pilates focuses on core strength, posture, and flexibility, the health benefits of this workout include:
- Provides good posture.
- Toning of muscles.
- Flat abdominal muscles.
- Increases flexibility.
- Improves physical and mind-body balance.
- Reduces stress.
- Gives you an overall sense of well-being.
Types of Pilates
- Mat Pilates – As this form requires limited equipment, it can be comfortably performed at home by beginners to understand the basics of Pilates. These classes begin with breathing exercises to engage the core and diaphragm. It then transitions to sit-ups, planks, and side planks to workout the core. The next step is working on hip stability by performing exercises like leg lifts, bridges, and various glute exercises. Mat work focuses less on arm workout but sometimes triceps dips and push-ups may be performed.
- Reformer Pilates – Requiring complicated and expensive equipment, this Pilates workout is usually taught in small groups or in private. The essence of this workout session is the “reformer” which is a fitness equipment that has a movable carriage on rails on which the individual can sit, stand, or lie to provide weight resistance while the carriage is moved against the resistance of springs. This workout focuses on the arms, legs and core stability, thus, allowing for a full-body workout.
Pilates as a Physical Therapy
Many rehabilitation clinics and wellness centres now offer Pilates as a form of physical therapy as it is effective in treating injuries and illnesses such as:
- Chronic back and neck pain.
- Hip or knee replacements.
- Multiple sclerosis.
It is especially helpful in the rehabilitation of injured athletes or dancers.
Pilates is a low-impact exercise that can be customized to work on specific areas of the body. However, having a trained and qualified instructor who guides you through the workout is essential to not cause any injuries and damages to the body.