The set of exercises developed by Joseph Pilates has gained wide popularity. This complex has certain features that are worth studying before starting classes.
The term “Pilates” is applied to exercises that enable you to develop a sense of balance and equilibrium. This effect is achieved through:
- Involvement of deep-layer muscles
- Joint mobilization
- Strengthening of the entire muscular corset
Initially, Pilates appeared as a technique focused on the rehabilitation of dancers and athletes after their injuries. Gradually, Pilates turned into a genuine philosophy based on the balanced interaction of three key components: body, spirit, and consciousness. When comparing Pilates with other types of physical activities, you can find both similarities and differences.
For example, there are several similar elements in stretching and Pilates. The difference is that in Pilates, they need to be performed at a more dynamic pace. Callanetics is similar to Pilates in this aspect: it allows you to strengthen your muscles with regular exercise. But Callanetics is characterized by a leisurely pace of exercises and the presence of complex poses. Mastering such poses should take place under clear coaching control. Pilates differs from yoga in the following points:
- Age: Yoga has been around for millennia and Pilates only for a few decades.
- Orientation: Pilates is movement-oriented, and yoga is static. The similarity of these two techniques consists of achieving harmony between body, mind, and spirit.
Among other existing techniques and practices, Pilates stands out due to the principles that the author of the system laid down:
- Control and concentration: All movements should be performed thoughtfully and consciously with strict observance of the technique.
- Centering: Movements should be performed from the center. In Pilates, the center is understood as the muscle groups of the core, lower back, hips, and buttocks. During the whole lesson, the stomach should be drawn in, and the core should be engaged.
- Traction: It’s achieved by pointing the top of the head upwards, stretching the spine, lowering the shoulders, and pulling the shoulder blades together.
- Accuracy: It means aligning the back in one line from the shoulder blades to the buttocks as well as keeping the rest of the body in a symmetrical position.
- Continuity: One exercise should smoothly transition into another without pauses.
- Breathing: It should be clearly coordinated with the movements. You should inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
- Relaxation: The training of some muscle groups should be carried out without tension in other groups.
- Regularity: As in other types of classes, it’s impossible to achieve a lasting positive effect without regularity.
Another important principle laid down in Pilates involves focusing on maintaining proper posture during exercise. Without this, it’s impossible to correct the imbalance in the muscles and achieve good coordination of movements. Correct posture also determines the safety of performing exercises.
The benefits of Pilates classes are expressed in the following:
- Alignment of the spine and acquiring the habit of maintaining posture
- Minimization of pain and discomfort in different back sections
- Flat stomach
- Uniform strengthening of the entire musculature of the body
- Making your figure look slim and fit
- Prevention of selected musculoskeletal system diseases
- Normalization of sleep and psycho-emotional state as well as reduction of anxiety
- Prevention of early age-related changes in the form of stiffness of movements and decreased motor activity
- Strengthening and improving the condition of the heart and blood vessels as well as bringing blood pressure back to normal
- Ability to better control your body and maintain balance
Another advantage of Pilates is the absence of clear restrictions for classes depending on the degree of your physical fitness. Everything is determined individually based on your well-being, health state, and medical recommendations.
Disadvantages and contraindications
The disadvantages of Pilates include the following aspects:
- The need to perform all exercises with high technical accuracy. Without this, classes will be ineffective, and the risk of injury will increase.
- The inability to significantly boost the endurance of the body and strength indicators. Through Pilates, you can only achieve general muscle strengthening and maintaining muscle tone. It’s not suitable for building highly defined muscles.
The inability to achieve radical weight loss can be considered another disadvantage. Pilates can only accelerate metabolic processes. To significantly lose weight, you need to add cardio exercises.
Along with the disadvantages of Pilates, there are also contraindications. The need to give up classes is due to the following conditions:
- Early postoperative period
- Cardiovascular system pathologies
- Obesity and excess weight
- Acute phase of musculoskeletal system disease
- Early pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage
Age doesn’t appear among the absolute contraindications of Pilates. But coaches and doctors recommend that people aged over 45-50 should be more cautious with classes. They should definitely seek medical advice in advance to ensure that training won’t harm their health.
The best option for Pilates classes is practicing with a trainer. You can start self-training only after you’ve mastered the correct technique and have accumulated experience in performing exercises.
Classes with a trainer can be different:
In both cases, a class lasts about an hour and consists of several stages:
- Breathing exercises
- Movements with a small amplitude
- Exercises with complex coordination and strength exercises
The training ends with the final alignment in the standing position. This final stage of the class helps accustom your body to new sensations. As you gain experience and get used to training, it’s recommended to incorporate more exercises in an upright position.
Examples of exercises
It’s best to start Pilates classes with a simple complex. The first exercise in this complex, called the “hundred,” is aimed at training the back and core muscles. It should be performed according to the following scheme:
- Lie on your back and lift your body while exhaling.
- Looking at your stomach, stretch your arms along your body, keeping them suspended in midair.
- On exhalation, make beats in the air.
In one approach, you need to make 5 beats on a long inhale and a long exhale. There should be 10 such approaches.
In addition to the “hundred,” the standard complex for beginners includes the following exercises:
- Twisting: Performed 5 times with relaxed shoulders and vertebral control.
- “Bridge” (lifting of the pelvis): The pelvis shouldn’t touch the floor earlier than the lower back.
- Circles with the foot lying on the side: The body must remain stationary.
Another exercise for beginners in Pilates is “swimming,” which is familiar to many of us. Move your arms and legs in parallel, without taking them to the side. The abdominal muscles should maintain tone.
Equipment and devices
There are two options for Pilates classes:
The first option involves performing exercises with the following types of equipment:
- With springs: It’s intended for learning movements and increasing the length of muscles. Such equipment doesn’t involve strength exercises with heavy weights. An example of spring Pilates equipment is a reformer.
- Correctional: It’s intended for unloading the spine and correcting posture. An example of correctional is a back corrector or a barrel.
The option without equipment is suitable for home training and involves the use of additional devices:
- Mat. It’s necessary for the safety of the spine during training. Its minimum thickness should be 1 cm.
- Magic Circle. It is a special ring that creates additional resistance during movements.
Expanders, rolls and gymnastic balls of different sizes will come in handy for home workouts, too.