Pilates Workout Basics

Core Strength, Muscle Tone, Flexibility and a Flat Tummy

Pilates is now one of the most popular exercise workouts around and many Hollywood stars rave about it. The reason is simple: Pilates works.

Pilates lengthens the spine, strengthens the core, builds muscle tone, increases body awareness and flexibility. Many Pilates exercises derive from yoga, gymnastics, and dance but there are lots of original moves as well. With over 500 exercises, most people can find ones that work for them. The Pilates method is also excellent for the rehabilitation of the back, shoulder, knee, hips, and for repetitive strain injuries.

Although many Pilates classes focus on mat work, there are also several good pieces of equipment, taking workouts to a whole new level. These include the reformer, the wunda chair and the Cadillac. Most good Pilates studios will have this equipment and it is important to find a qualified instructor, as learning the correct moves is essential.

Pilates mat work is a series of exercises performed in a specific order. Going through the series in order and completing a whole workout is important. Joseph Pilates, who developed these exercises, understood a great deal about the body’s muscle balance. He developed a series of exercises that make sense to the body when done in the correct order starting with an exercise to warm up the spine, followed by exercises that bend the spine in one direction then by movements that reverse the action, and so on.

The Eight Principles

In his book titled Return to Life through Contrology, Joseph Pilates laid out the eight principles that inspired his method. Understanding these principles lays the foundation for any Pilates workout and is the difference between getting the most out of your workout and just doing a series of exercises. The eight principles are control, breath, flowing movement, precision, centering, stability, range of motion, and opposition.

The Powerhouse

Pilates builds strong abdominal, bottom, back, and deep postural muscles and focuses on supporting the skeletal system muscles which act as the body’s ‘powerhouse’. This term was devised by Joseph Pilates himself and as these muscles are the main stabilizing torso muscles; they are particularly important in preventing back injuries. These powerhouse muscles protect the back from potential injury and strengthening this area will also help existing problems. Working from the center of the body takes stress off the joints and spine. Best of all, those who do Pilates regularly have a nice toned tummy, back, and bottom. Can it get any better? Well, actually yes!

The Lean Pilates Look

The controlled movements in Pilates contribute to what is often called the lean Pilates body. Although you will not get a six-pack doing Pilates, using your powerhouse to control movements will eventually create the look of a flatter belly. Pilates equipment involves exercising against spring resistance. Unlike a free weight, the amount of resistance changes as you stretch, building long and lovely muscles.