Pilates is a physical fitness system that was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates (hence, where the name of the fitness system came from). This system is very popular in many countries throughout the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and more.
Pilates is a body conditioning routine that can help to boost the endurance and muscle strength in your legs, hips, back, abdominals, and arms, as well as increase your flexibility. The key behind this system is the emphasis placed on the proper pelvic and spinal alignment, as well as proper breathing through the center of your body, known as your core.
Pilates can be done by those new or experienced at fitness. The system can also be modified to increase the difficulty over time as your body becomes more accustomed to doing the exercises, making it a very flexible system.
Joseph Pilates was a physical-culturist from Monchengladbach, Germany. It was during the first half of the 20th century where he developed a system of exercises that were designed to help strengthen the human body and mind. The system was designed to help both because Pilates believed that a person’s mental and physical health were interrelated. He had practiced many of the physical training regimens that were available in Germany, and from hence he developed his own system.
Pilates has many connections to the physical culture of the late 19th century, which claimed that physical exercises could help to cure ill health. Additionally, Pilates was related to the tradition of “medical gymnastics” or “corrective exercise,” as was described by Pehr Henrik Ling.
The Pilates system has evolved over time, including Classical moves that Joseph instituted, as well as more modern moves that were brought about by Joseph’s students, including Romana Kryzanowska, Kathy Grant, Jay Grimes, Ron Fletcher, Mary Bowen, Bob Seed, Eve Gentry, Bruce King, and Joseph’s own niece, Mary Pilates. “Contemporary Pilates” incorporates both “Modern” Pilates that was partly derived from the teachings of first-generation students and “Classical” Pilates that was based more on Joseph’s own work.
When Pilates was first introduced, it was originally confined to the few and practiced in a specialized studio. Today, the many different forms of Pilates can be found in gyms, physiotherapy rooms, community centers, and elsewhere. These forms often incorporate various forms of Pilates with forms from other disciplines. Joseph Pilates didn’t approve of these other methods, and, in fact, died as the sole master and intellectual property owner of his own method and apparatus. The only event that changed that fact was the Lawsuit of October 2000.
As you can see, Pilates has evolved from the original form as taught by its creator, Joseph Pilates, into the many forms of Pilates that you see today. It often incorporates Classical and Modern forms as taught by Joseph’s students through the years, plus incorporates other disciplines into the movements.
The essential element is proper breathing and flexibility that leads to a stronger core that can handle more challenging movements over time. It continues to grow in popularity and is expected to continue to become even more popular in the coming years.
The Benefits of Pilates:
Pilates is sweeping the nation and the world. More and more people are doing this style of exercises that was introduced by Joseph Pilates in the 20th century. The form of Pilates has changed some since he introduced it many decades ago. What has not changed, however, is the benefits one can receive from Pilates when the exercises are done properly. What are some of these benefits you can receive? We will discuss them below.
One benefit of Pilates is body awareness. When you do Pilates properly, you learn about pulling your stomach in, pulling your shoulders down, and breathing in and out fully. This involves focus, one of the six main aspects of Pilates. The side-benefit is that this focus on proper body form and breathing extends outside of your workouts.
Your body and mind will work together in greater unison than ever before, even on a subconscious level where the movements will be second-nature and natural to you. You won’t have to think about breathing deeply or keeping proper positioning when you’re doing daily tasks, even sitting at a table; you’ll just do them automatically.
This can help to take stress off of aching muscles and joints that are often the result of leaning on them when you’re doing daily activities such as sitting at the desk at work or sitting on the couch at home. This all comes from having a stronger core that can help you to put less pressure on the muscles and joints you should not be putting pressure on.
Another benefit of Pilates is the aforementioned stronger core. The core involves the muscles in your abdomen, lower and upper back, inner thighs, and buttocks. Many people associate a stronger core with flatter abs, but they aren’t necessarily the same.
You may get flatter abs over time by strengthening your core, but the key to Pilates isn’t really weight loss and flatter stomachs, but rather a stronger midsection and back. This will lead to greater flexibility, greater strength, and proper form when you’re sitting at a desk or on the couch, when lifting heavy objects, and even when walking, running, and working out.
A third benefit of Pilates is body control. When you realize what is keeping you from having proper posture and proper body symmetry, your body will move much more freely. Plus you’ll be able to control your body to a greater degree where you’ll be able to work out your whole body at once instead of just focusing on specific muscle groups. In addition, the muscles of your body should be working in harmony with each other; this leads to greater strength and stability, as well as less risk of injury.
The above benefits are just some of the rewards you can achieve when you practice Pilates. The main benefits discussed here include being aware of your body and how it should properly move. It also includes developing a stronger core for stronger stability and proper form, and better body control so you can strengthen all areas of your body and lessen the chances of injury. All of these benefits can help your physical and mental health, which can help you to feel better and to achieve more goals in your life.
Which is Better for My Body…Pilates or Yoga?
Thousands of beginners ask themselves this question when they decide to take their health and fitness seriously. It’s tough to make a decision because many commercial gyms offer both, Pilates and yoga classes. Oftentimes, these classes are very popular.
So which is better?
The answer is… neither is better than the other. You need to choose one that is better FOR YOU. That’s what really matters. Comparing the two is akin to comparing karate and kung fu… neither is better and there are people who are experts at each art… and there are those who are beginners at each.
There is no right or wrong answer here because both yoga and Pilates have their own unique benefits. You can even do both on alternate training sessions and get the best of both worlds. They’re not mutually exclusive.
To the layman, both seem very similar and there is little difference between Pilates and yoga. However, the truth is that both have very different objectives. To make things more confusing, there are several types of yoga and Pilates too.
Making a comparison is not an easy task… but this article shall try to highlight the differences between the two.
For starters, yoga is a much more ancient training style and it originated in India about 50,000 years ago. In comparison, Pilates is a lot more recent even though it was created in the 1920s. Yoga doesn’t really credit any one person as a creator. There are many gurus… but no founder.
Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates to help people rehabilitate from illness and injury. What that means is that yoga has evolved a lot over time and there are many more variations and styles when it comes to yoga. Pilates does have variations, just not as many.
If you decide to choose yoga, you will always have new yoga techniques to learn. Hot yoga, Ananda yoga, Ashtanga yoga, etc. are some of the many types being taught till today. So, if variety is your thing, perhaps you may wish to try yoga first.
Secondly, yoga is more spiritual. It focuses on making a mind, body and spirit connection. On the other hand, since Pilates is more about rehabilitation, it concerns itself with strengthening the body, with special focus given to the powerhouse area.
People who are more spiritual and looking for inner peace and serenity would do well to take up yoga. Whereas younger people who want to get stronger or wish to get rehabilitation from sports injuries, etc. will benefit from Pilates. Different courses for different horses.
Another difference between the two is that since yoga has evolved more, it is more fluid in the sense that there are modified poses that can cater to people with different needs. If you need healing, there is one type of yoga. For strengthening, there’s another type of yoga. Focus on flexibility, breathing, spirituality, etc. are highlights of the different types of yoga.
On the other hand, Pilates is more structured and the classes similar to a large extent. While there is some variation, it doesn’t come close to the degree of variation that yoga has.
Other differences would be that yoga uses the body’s own weight as a form of resistance whereas Pilates workouts employ both bodyweight training techniques and machines.
Deep breathing known as pranayama is a yoga trademark. Yoga places a lot of emphasis on correct breathing. There is some core training in yoga but the focus is on the breathing to achieve the meditative state that is part of yoga. Pilates doesn’t have meditation as part of the training.
There are certification and accreditation boards for both Pilates and yoga. Always check that your instructor is properly certified before joining any class. It’s important that they know what they’re doing if they’re going to guide you. There are many self-taught individuals who are conducting classes for unaware participants.
If you can’t decide on one yet, go ahead and attend 3 classes of each style and see which one you like more. Stick with that. At the end of the day, as long as you choose one and do it consistently, you will see benefits in your life.
Five Reasons Why You Should Take Up Pilates:
Pilates is a holistic method of exercise created by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th Century. He felt that the mind and body are connected and that an exercise regime should include both for it to be effective. It is now a popular fitness regime used around the world. The following reasons will show you why you should take up Pilates.
1. Pilates is Suitable for All Fitness Levels:
Unlike many other exercise and fitness programmes where it is assumed that you are already fairly fit, Pilates is suitable for even the most unfit. Joseph Pilates developed his programme in the expectation that it would be used by people of all fitness levels. He also used his Pilates with injured soldiers during their rehabilitation period with success.
Pilates is easily adaptable and the workouts can be tailored to accommodate a range of needs. As fitness and health levels improve the workouts can be changed to ensure that the challenge and benefits are always high.
So whether you are young or old, fit or unfit, healthy or unhealthy there is a Pilates workout suitable for you! Of course, if you have any health issues or worries then you should speak to your health practitioner first before taking up any new fitness programme.
2. It is a Whole Body Fitness Regime:
Pilates is a whole body fitness regime that ensures that no part of the body is neglected. There are many exercise regimes that can be undertaken but many tend to focus on specific areas and not the entire body. At its heart is a focus on core strength. However, through the exercises the entire body is worked upon. Strength, flexibility, alignment and range of motion are all important and worked upon.
If you want a workout that will help you improve your posture, flatten your stomach, help tone muscles and increase your range of motion then Pilates is perfect for you.
3. It Develops Core Strength:
The core or ‘Powerhouse’ as it is often known are the muscles in the upper and lower back, abdomen, hips, thighs and the buttocks. These muscles are important because they support the back and help posture. They are at the center of the body and a robust core ensures that the entire body is braced efficiently.
The fact that the body’s frame is effectively supported and moving easily will ensure that the neck and shoulders are able to relax. The body will be able to move freely and efficiently.
Should you want to increase your flexibility, ease tension and stiffness as well as ensure that your posture is improved Pilates the Pilates is ideal as a workout regime for you.
4. It Improves Coordination:
By having a strong focus on control over movement, over time you become more aware of your body’s movements. Fluidity of movement is also crucial to the exercises and this will also provide greater awareness of the body and how it moves. Awareness of the body and its movements will ensure that coordination will improve.
Pilates is ideal for you if you would like to improve your coordination and control of your body.
5. Pilates is Holistic:
Designed by Joseph Pilates as a workout for the mind and body, Pilates is a holistic exercise regime. Instead of expecting you to undertake quick repetitions with little thought, Pilates is designed to focus on the quality of the movement. Focus and control are key tenets of the program and this is applied to the mind as well as the body through the use of concentration and control during the routines.
Pilates is perfect for you if you want an exercise programme that will help develop your mind and body.
The Main Concepts of Pilates:
Pilates continues to sweep the United States and the world when it comes to popularity. Many people like the calm nature of the exercises where you don’t have to do strenuous working or weightlifting in order to achieve good fitness.
While there are several forms of Pilates that have evolved since the “Classical” forms instituted by its founder, Joseph Pilates, there are six main concepts inherent in all forms of Pilates taught today. We will discuss these main concepts below.
The first main concept is concentration. Pilates demands intense focus and concentration in order to properly execute the movements and achieve the best results possible from doing them. One of the main keys to Pilates is concentrating on your body to achieve smooth movements. In fact, many supporters of Pilates state that the exercises themselves are the most important feature, but rather, how a person completes the exercises.
This is the second main concept. Joseph Pilates’ preferred name for his method was “contrology,” referring to the idea of muscle control that needs to be exhibited during the Pilates movements. There is no haphazard or sudden movement when completing Pilates. Great focus is needed to exhibit the type of control that you want to have during each stage of a Pilates exercise. All muscles are to be controlled as they lift up against the weight of gravity and the resistance of the springs on the apparatus. This helps to provide a person with greater control of his/her body.
This is the third main concept. The center is the starting place and the focal point of the Pilates Method. Many Pilates teachers refer to the muscles in the inner thighs, hips, buttocks, lower and upper back, and abdomen as the “powerhouse” because they make up the center of the body. Pilates teaches you to execute all movements from the muscles that make up the center of the body outward toward the limbs.
Movement or Flow:
The fourth main concept is efficiency of movement or flow. One of the main themes in Pilates is the elegant sufficiency of movement in the exercises where the movements flow within and into each other in order to build stamina and strength. All movements are supposed to begin in a strong core and move smoothly toward the extremities.
This is the fifth main concept. The maximum benefits from Pilates come from executing the movements properly; failing to do this will nullify much of the benefits you receive from Pilates. You should focus on doing one precise, perfect movement at a time, not trying to do many movements haphazardly with improper form. It is believed that a few energetic, concentrated efforts will lead to a stronger body and better health than doing a thousand listless, sluggish movements. Eventually, you’ll want to be doing this precise, effortless movement naturally in all aspects of your life, not just during your Pilates workouts.
The sixth main concept is breathing. According to Pilates, he believed that proper full inhalation and complete exhilaration were key to cleansing the body via blood circulation. He wanted his students to squeeze out their lungs like you would a wet towel. A Pilates student is to breathe out with effort and breathe in with effort. The breathing needs to be deep that takes in the air into the back and sides of the person’s rib cage, while exhaling using the person’s abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Proper breathing is instructed with each exercise to ensure maximum benefit.
As you can see, there are six main concepts with Pilates, and all of them are vital parts of the Pilates Method. The main benefits of Pilates are achieved with proper, flowing movements that incorporate proper breathing while doing the exercises. This involves intense concentration and focus in order to achieve the maximum benefits of Pilates. Thus, this is often why Pilates is not only cited for its physical benefits, but also for its mental benefits as well.
Can I Do Pilates If I’ve Barely Exercised In Years?
Pilates is a style of training that was created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s as a form of rehabilitation. It was perfect for injured soldiers, people suffering from arthritis, aches and pains, etc.
Pilates became so popular that it took the world by storm and even till today you can find Pilates classes being conducted in most of the commercial gyms.
The entire concept of Pilates revolves around helping bedridden people get strong and healthy enough to move about freely and without pain. That makes Pilates one of the best forms of exercise for people who have led sedentary lives for years.
If bedridden people can recover and benefit from this style of training, there is absolutely no reason why the average person who has been inactive can’t benefit.
You can definitely start doing Pilates even if you’ve hardly exercised before. In fact, it’s recommended that you start with Pilates rather than jumping into a strenuous CrossFit or HIIT program.
Let’s look at how Pilates will benefit you.
* Pilates helps to align the body and promotes better balance
By doing Pilates, the different poses and moves will help your body to align the muscles, ligaments and joints. Since most people do not get enough exercise, there is misalignment in the body that results in aches, pains and restricted or impaired movements.
Most people notice that their posture improves after several sessions of Pilates and they no longer have a paunch. Their abdominal muscles have developed enough strength to hold the organs in. As a result, there’s less pressure on the back which leads to relief from back aches.
* Pilates improves flexibility
It’s inevitable to get stiffer and less flexible as we age. This is mostly due to a sedentary lifestyle that makes us move within a limited range of motion. Since the body doesn’t get a chance to move much, we become less supple and flexible.
Pilates corrects all that and improves your flexibility because the moves require you to stretch and move through a wide range of motion.
* Pilates will make you stronger
Muscle atrophy is part and parcel of aging. If you do not engage your muscles enough, it will wither and you will lose strength. The beauty of Pilates is that it uses your bodyweight as a form of resistance training to tone and strengthen your muscles.
After 2 or 3 months of Pilates training, you’ll notice more definition in your muscles and more overall strength. You’ll be able to execute the moves fluidly and hold the poses without quivering or trembling.
Even people who have not exercised in years can start doing Pilates and move at their own pace. There is no rush with this style of training. You will not pant, gasp or end up breathless from intense cardio. Pilates is all about slow, controlled movements that allow you to progress slowly but surely.
If you’ve been inactive for years and you’re thinking of embarking on an exercise program, Pilates has your name written all over it. Go ahead and give it a try. You will enjoy it so much that you’ll wish you had started earlier. Get on board now.
Important Benefits of Using Pilates as a Fitness Regime:
Pilates is a fitness regime that is well-known and respected. However, many people do not know the important benefits that it can have on both the mind and body.
1. Pilates Relieves Stress:
Pilates is a fitness regime for the whole person. The workouts are designed to develop control, breathing and body awareness. The development of control over movement and breathing ensures that the mind is fully occupied during workouts and cannot be affected by outside concerns. Additionally, the strengthening of the core and breathing patterns help to improve posture and release stress.
2. Pilates Increases Flexibility:
Quite often attempts at exercising regularly fail due to the fact that exercises are too difficult and the body cannot manage to perform them. Pilates is a versatile and adaptable workout programme and a major benefit is that no matter the fitness or flexibility level you have when you start it will improve as you continue to follow the routines.
A major benefit of Pilates is that it can increase flexibility as it works through controlled movements and involves the entire body. The exercises are designed to strengthen, tone and lengthen the muscles. They are also designed to improve the range of motion in the joints over time.
3. It Tones and Shapes:
A major benefit of Pilates is that it tones and shapes the body as a natural outcome of following the programme. Due to the fact that the quality of movement is essential each is made in a controlled manner ensuring that the mind and body are working together.
Muscles become toned and lengthened. Posture is improved and due to the increased core strength alignment improves as well. Visible results will provide fantastic motivation to continue working out regularly.
4. Pilates Heightens Awareness:
Through the development of control over movement, mind, alignment and breathing, awareness of the body and how it is positioned, moving and feeling increases. As awareness of these things grows it is possible to identify when problems are beginning to develop and to take remedial action. As awareness grows you will also find yourself standing taller, sitting correctly and moving with more ease.
5. It Improves Coordination:
By having a strong focus on control over movement, over time you become more aware of your body’s movements. Fluidity of movement is also crucial to the exercises and this will also provide greater awareness of the body and how it moves.
6. Pilates is Holistic:
Designed by Joseph Pilates as a workout for the mind and body, Pilates is a holistic exercise regime. Instead of expecting you to undertake quick repetitions with little thought, Pilates is designed to focus on the quality of the movement. Focus and control are key tenets of the program and this applied to the mind as well as the body.
Should I Do Pilates at Home or Join a Class?
Pilates is one of those training methods that can be done in the comfort of your own home or you could join a class and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with a group session.
It all depends on your personal preferences and personality. Some people are shy and feel intimidated in group setting. For such folks, learning Pilates at home by watching a video will still be beneficial and should suffice. Of course, it will be important to get a video where the instructor is a certified professional.
Your budget may be a deciding factor too. A Pilates DVD is a one-time investment and will probably set you back by $30 to $50. Whereas joining a class with an instructor will cost much more and the fees will be recurring as long as you stay enrolled.
If your budget is tight, then it’s fine to train at home. When choosing a Pilates DVD, do check that the course focuses on the 6 core principles of Pilates. Also note that there are videos for both beginners and advanced practitioners. Choose a video that’s appropriate to your skill level. Make sure that the DVD is formatted for the zone that you live in.
There is a drawback to training at home. You will not have a professional instructor to check on your form and correct any mistakes that you may be making. This is especially true for people who are trying to do Pilates at home by learning from a book. At least with a video, you’re able to see how the moves are executed. With a book, all you have are photos and diagrams.
Ideally, it would be best to go for a few Pilates classes at a Pilates centre where there is a qualified instructor. Once you learn good form and can do the moves correctly, you can always do Pilates at home. It will also be cheaper since you won’t need to pay monthly.
If you’re the type of person who likes going out and mingling, then joining a Pilates centre may be appropriate for you instead of being a Pilates hermit at home. There is really no right or wrong answer here.
Some people get motivation from training with like minded people. They can always fraternize once the Pilates sessions are over and exchange tips or even go out and have some fun.
At the end of the day, what matters is that you do what is right for you. Make Pilates a part of your life and be consistent with your training. Learn good form and progress at your own pace. There is no rush.
If you’ve been doing Pilates at home and you’re more confident and feel like joining a class, then go ahead. The rules are not set in stone. Always make sure you challenge yourself a little but don’t overdo it.
With time, you’ll notice your posture improve and aches and pains that you had before will no longer be an issue… or at the very least, there will be less pain. Pilates is an exercise that you can do well into your senior years. So, learn it and enjoy the benefits of Pilates.
How to Choose a Reputable Pilates Centre:
Deciding to join a Pilates centre is an excellent decision. Regular Pilates sessions will not only strengthen your body and make you more flexible but it will improve your health and keep you supple.
There are many Pilates centres sprouting up all over the place because of the popularity of this training method. However, all Pilates centres are not created equal. Some are much better than others. This article will show you how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
There are a few things that you must be aware of and take into consideration when choosing a Pilates centre.
* Proximity to your home or workplace:
While this may seem like common sense, many people join swanky Pilates centres that are out of the way just because the centre looks good or is popular. The most important factor to consider is convenience.
You will be much less likely to skip workout sessions if the centre is somewhere close to your home or your workplace. You could easily train and go home. Choose a reputable centre that is nearby and easily accessible.
* Appearance of facility:
A good Pilates centre will look clean and pleasant. Reputable Pilates centres pay attention to detail and customer experience. If the Pilates centre looks messy, grimy or dirty, you should run the other way and not look back.
* Class size:
Ideally, you should join a Pilates centre where the classes are not overcrowded. In this way, the instructor will have time to check on each member’s form and correct them.
It’s also more serene and pleasant to train in a class that has sufficient space to breathe and move around freely.
* Instructors’ qualifications:
You should check that the Pilates instructors in the centre are qualified, experienced and accredited. There are many Pilates centres run by instructors who lack the proper certification. This can actually be dangerous because they will not be able to correct your poor technique and you may injure yourself.
* Number of instructors:
The number of instructors the centre has makes a difference too. There must be sufficient instructors to handle all the classes. You do not want a centre where 1 instructor is conducting 8 classes a day. He or she will be exhausted and not be able to give their best. Some Pilates centres try to cut costs by hiring the minimum number of instructors possible.
Other points to note would be how comfortable you feel with your trainer and the pace of the class. Women may prefer female instructors. Men may prefer female instructors too, but that’s another story.
What matters is that you find one that motivates you and is able to guide you properly. You may join a beginners class and as time progresses, you may go into the intermediate and advanced stages. Check if your instructor will follow you in the classes as you progress… or will some other instructor take over.
Make sure your Pilates centre caters to people at different stages of learning. It would be a mistake to join a centre that lumps beginners and advanced practitioners together and expects the beginners to just do what they can.
There should also be classes staggered at different times of the day. This will allow you some choice, in case your schedule is tight. The equipment provided by the centre such as mats, resistance bands, etc. should be in good condition.
Before signing up for a complete package, ask the Pilates centre if they offer a free trial class so that you can get a feel of the class and see if it’s something you will enjoy. In most cases, if you adhere to the pointers given above, you should find a reputable centre that will foster in you a love for Pilates that will grow with time. You’ll make Pilates a part of your life and never look back.
Equipment Needed For Pilates:
Pilates is continuing to gain in popularity, both in the United States and across the world. This is why you see more Pilates studios popping up virtually everywhere you look.
One of the best things about Pilates is that you either don’t need much equipment or the equipment is provided for you. Thus, you don’t really have to worry about toting around a lot of equipment in order to make use of Pilates in your workouts. Below, we will discuss some of the equipment that you can make use of in your Pilates workouts in order to receive the physical and mental health benefits of Pilates.
There are two main types of Pilates workouts: mat exercises and Pilates apparatus exercises. As you may have guessed, the mat exercises involve a mat on the floor. These exercises require very little equipment; in fact, you can do these exercises easily on a Pilates mat at home.
If you are a beginner at Pilates, it is advised that you begin with mat exercises so that you can learn the basics correctly before you tackle the apparatus. In addition, the mat exercises are adaptable to any fitness level, so even those who are experienced at Pilates will still gain great benefits from continuing to do mat exercises.
One mat exercise is the chest lift, which involves pulling the abdominals down into a deep scoop so that you can slowly control your raising and lowering of your stomach. This especially works your upper abdominals. The hundred involves deeply pulling in the abdominals so that you are forced to use your full lung capacity by breathing into your lower ribs and back. You need to use your abs to hold yourself up; thus, this mat exercise does wonders for both your abdominal muscles and your breathing. One more mat exercise is the one leg circle. As your leg moves, your abdominals will keep your pelvis stable. As a result, your hip flexors, thighs, and abdominal muscles will feel this mat exercise.
Some of the Pilates apparatuses include the “reformer” and the “Wunda” chair (also known as the “Pilates Chair”). These apparatuses are exercise resistance machines designed to increase your flexibility, core strength, and good alignment. Reformers can be made out of wood or metal. They have a foot-bar that is adjustable via the two to four notches on the inside of the frame. The springs, along with your own body weight, will help to provide the resistance that will give you the benefits from the reformer. The springs hook onto the spring bar; different springs can be hooked or unhooked to provide varying levels of resistance, with green springs usually offering the lightest resistance and red springs usually offering the greatest resistance. Adjustments to the gear system can also be made to better accommodate for a person’s height for maximum comfort and effectiveness.
The “Wunda” chair is essentially a box with one side that can be pressed down against the resistance of springs (much like a pedal). On some models, the pedal portion is divided into two parts. These chairs are often made of wood.
Several types of exercises can be done on these “chairs,” and all of these exercises can be used to strengthen the core muscles, the arms, and the legs. The exercises are completed by standing, sitting, lying, or assuming positions on the sides of the chair. You will gain much stability and flexibility by doing various exercises on the chair thanks to the resistance of the springs.
As you can see, most of the equipment for Pilates classes and workouts is either provided for you or is not needed. There are mat exercises and apparatus exercises. Mat exercises are an excellent starting place for beginners to help you learn the balance, flexibility, and control you need to learn in order to properly do Pilates.
Apparatuses such as the “reformer” and “Wunda” chair will help you to improve your flexibility, stability, and strengthening of your core muscles, legs, and arms by assuming various positions and forms on the chair. By learning more about the various exercises and equipment used in Pilates, you can be more prepared to execute the movements necessary to gain the most benefits from Pilates workouts.
Recommended Equipment/Training Aids to Enhance Your Pilates Workouts:
Pilates is a training style that usually uses your bodyweight as a form of resistance training. The poses and techniques also use isometric training to strengthen your body. However, some Pilates centres also use equipment or training aids to make the sessions more challenging.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the most commonly used training aids that add an extra dimension to your Pilates sessions.
* Pilates reformer:
The most popular Pilates equipment is the Pilates reformer. This piece of equipment can be found in most Pilates studios. Some Pilates centres even have Pilates reformer classes where the entire session is focused on exercises that use this amazing contraption.
What makes the reformer so unique is that it was designed and created by the founder, Joseph Pilates, in the 1920s. So, it can be assumed that he knew exactly how the machine would assist with the training he created. Amazingly, the reformer is still as effective and versatile today as it was almost 100 years ago.
The components of a reformer are the carriage, footbar and adjustable springs. The carriage has wheels that sit of a flat frame. This enables the carriage to slide up and down. There are springs and straps attached to the frame of the reformer to add resistance during the movements.
It may sound confusing, but once you see and use a Pilates reformer, you’ll realize that it’s a simple, basic piece of equipment that’s really easy to handle. The versatility of this piece of equipment is unmatched and you would be missing out on a lot if you only did Pilates on a mat without adding in a reformer workout every now and then.
There are hundreds of different techniques that can be executed with the reformer. Your Pilates training has just been opened up to a whole new world of possibilities.
Unlike most weight training machines such as bench press or leg press machine which only have a couple of purposes, the reformer can be used in a wide variety of ways to strengthen your muscles and keep you flexible.
Since the carriage on the reformer is not fixed and requires balance and engagement of your core muscles, you will be working your mid-section without even realizing it.
* Pilates mat:
This is a basic piece of equipment that you’ll need for your Pilates sessions. While most Pilates centres will provide mats, it’s best that you purchase your own personal mat for personal hygiene purposes.
* Pilates ball:
This is just another name for a smaller Swiss ball. The difference in name is simply clever marketing to attract the Pilates enthusiasts. The Pilates ball will help you with core training exercises. You will need to recruit your core muscles and other stabilizing muscles in your body when executing moves with a ball.
* Pilates ring:
These are usually used by women to strengthen their thighs. Most men feel too macho to use this piece of equipment despite the fact that it’s very effective for toning the thigh muscles.
Besides the abovementioned equipment, there are several other training aids that are sold to improve and facilitate your Pilates sessions. A quick search on Amazon.com for Pilates equipment will reveal many interesting results that you may wish to look at.
Always bear in mind that you do not need to get all the equipment. Pilates is a very basic form of training. After all, it was created in the 1920s. You can get a couple of training aids to help with your training but it’s best to keep things simple and focus on your form and execution of the moves. Consistency in your workouts is crucial too. If you can achieve these objectives, Pilates will change your life for the better.
Shape and Tone Your Body with Pilates:
One of the more common reasons for people to take up exercise is to improve muscle tone. Of course weight loss, poor fitness in general and ill health are also common factors and should not be overlooked. Whatever the reason for the desire to exercise there will always be a desire for results. Visible and tangible results so that evidence is seen of the benefits gained from the exercise regime being followed. It is the ability to see the results of physical efforts that helps motivate most people to continue with their workout, week after week and month after month.
Pilates is the perfect exercise regime to follow as it can help shape and tone your body. This is because a key component of Pilates is control of the muscles. Joseph Pilates felt that the way an exercise is performed is more important than the actual exercise. So performing controlled exercises less often is far more beneficial than more repetitions without control.
At the heart of Pilates is the focus on the “Powerhouse” or center. The center is comprised of the upper and lower back, abdomen, thighs, hips and buttocks. Each exercise undertaken in Pilates is designed so that movement flows from the center outwards to the limbs. The movements must be controlled and precise so that the mind and body are connected and both involved. The use of controlled and precise movements ensures that muscles are worked and the body aligned. A more toned and defined body shape will be the result.
Resistance training is a well-known method of exercise to help tone muscles. Pilates includes resistance training in both its traditional and more modern formats. In fact Pilates is the perfect body-conditioning programme. Unbelievably, equipment is not required for you to strengthen your body. Instead you can create resistance through the use of your own body weight. The more effort that you put into your exercises the more effective they will be.
Pilates’ apparatus uses springs to help introduce resistance into the routine. The equipment is large and generally only available in Pilates studios and gyms. Qualified Pilates practitioners often have the equipment available to use with their clients, generally on a one-to-one basis. However, if the larger Pilates equipment is not available a simple resistance band may be used if you prefer to use equipment in your workout.
Due to the fact that Pilates focuses on the center and develops control of both mind and body through deliberately controlled movements it has great success in shaping and toning the body. Improved posture, strengthened core and improved alignment help to ensure that the full effects of the Pilates regime are visible. Following a regular exercise routine using Pilates’ methods will ensure that you can develop a leaner, more defined and shapely body.
Pilates: The Perfect Exercise Regime for Stress Relief:
Modern life is stressful. Indeed, stress is a major contributing factor to many modern diseases and illnesses such as diabetes and a high blood pressure. Stress is known as the silent killer for good reason. Exercise can be a crucial component in the fight against stress and the harmful effects it can have on both mind and body.
So what exactly is stress?
In a nutshell it is the reaction of the body to change; that is any change requiring a response or adjustment physically, emotionally or mentally.
Stress can affect our mental, physical or emotional health. Whilst there are times when stress is beneficial in ensuring that you are alert and able to identify potential dangers and threats, more often it is negative.
The negative effects of stress occur when those challenges and changes are virtually constant and without a break or relief in between them. When this occurs tension builds up resulting in stomach problems, raised blood pressure, poor sleep patterns, headaches and even chest pains. Left untreated the symptoms can worsen and more serious health issues may occur.
Pilates is the perfect exercise regime for relieving stress and preventing further physical, emotional or health problems.
So what makes Pilates so perfect for stress relief?
Breathing: a key feature of Pilates. Deep and mindful breathing is crucial. Breathing should be deep so that all air is expelled; a cleansing breath. Not only is the breathing taught in Pilates designed to cleanse but by building awareness of breathing it develops a sense of calmness and helps release tension.
Posture: the exercises in Pilates are designed to strengthen and tone muscles from the center to the limbs. The purpose is to develop strength, alignment and a poised, lifted and balanced body. This will help reduce pain and tension.
Sleep: breathing, body control and alignment improve by following the exercises regularly. Sleep quality will improve as a result.
Endorphins: these beneficial hormones are released when you exercise; they create positive feelings and aid relaxation.
Relaxation: through the emphasis on control, of both mind and body, the controlling and releasing of the muscles during sessions helps relax the body and mind. The emphasis on breathing also helps increase the sense of relaxation.
Focus: this is a key feature of Pilates. Throughout the exercises it is essential to retain focus on breathing and movement. Whilst focusing on performing the movements and breathing it is not possible for other worries to prey on your mind.
Pilates is the perfect exercise regime to relieve stress as it is holistic. It benefits the mind and body through the emphasis on breathing and control. The breathing techniques developed through Pilates can be used outside of the exercise class whenever situations seem to be overwhelming you. Regular exercise sessions will keep your mind and body healthy which in turn will help you to handle stressful situations in a more positive manner.
Use Pilates to Relieve Back Pain:
Joseph Pilates developed his revolutionary holistic exercise system in the early 20th century. He designed it as a holistic regime where the mind and body work together. The emphasis on improved breathing techniques ensures that the mind helps control the body’s movements. The techniques used were developed by Pilates to improve his own health. They were also successfully used by him with soldiers rehabilitating from injuries suffered during the war.
The American Chiropractic Association has stated that lower back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world and that half of U.S. workers have admitted to having back pain. Indeed it is believed by experts that an estimated 80% of the population will experience back problems at some point in their life time.
Pilates can help relieve back pain through holistic methods and without drugs. It is an effective method of back pain relief due to the fact that it deals with the fundamental imbalances in the body’s structure. These structural imbalances lead to back pain as well as issues such as poor posture and pelvic instability. There are four key ways that Pilates can help relieve back pain.
1. Pilates Helps to Develop Core Strength:
Core strength is at the center of the Pilates workout and methodology. By focusing on the core muscles they become stronger and more flexible. Together these more flexible and stronger muscles at the center of the body work together to support the back and to stabilize it.
2. Pilates Increases Flexibility:
The spine is designed to curve, twist and move from side to side. Misalignment can reduce spinal mobility and cause pain. Through the development of the core muscles the muscles in the back and abdomen begin to work together more efficiently. Their ability to support the spine effectively is increased. In turn spinal mobility is increased.
3. Pilates Develops Awareness of the Body:
Pilates’ workouts are designed to focus on and involve both the mind and body. Control of movement and breathing is a critical factor. As awareness of the body, its movements, alignment and breathing increase within the workout it also extends into the everyday life.
This awareness helps to ensure that the benefits of the workout extend beyond the session. The improved posture helps to reduce back pain due to the strengthened core muscles and knowledge of how to align the body correctly.
4. Pilates Helps to Correct Posture:
By ensuring that the mind is involved in the workout attention can be paid to alignment, muscle use and development. Good posture is crucial to reducing back pain as if spinal alignment is off in any way it can cause stress on the spine. The workouts in Pilates will help ensure that the pelvis and spine are supported effectively and properly placed to reduce strain on the spine and back pain.
Sufferers of back pain as well as pain on movement can find relief through Pilates. A core principle of Pilates is that the mind controls the body and its movements. There is a particular focus on the core muscles and strengthening them. The strengthened core muscles can ensure that the body is balanced and aligned. In turn this provides improved posture as the muscles in the back are able to support the frame more efficiently. Spinal flexibility is also increased and mobility increased. For those who suffer from back pain Pilates can be an effective method of relief from pain.
More Pilates Mat Exercises:
Pilates is becoming more popular as an exercise workout, both for its physical benefits and for its mental benefits. Pilates involves having the mind and body work as one. This is because extreme focus is required to properly execute the movements of each exercise. Each movement is designed to be done smoothly in a nice, easy motion, not haphazardly as many exercise programs often incorporate into their routines.
Pilates mat exercises are a great starting point for most Pilates beginners; below are some of the common mat exercises most Pilates beginners and even experts will do for their Pilates routines or to prepare for using apparatuses.
The teaser works your abdominal muscles and requires you to lie on your back, with your feet lying flat on the floor. Your knees should be squeezed together and your arms should be overhead, stretched out behind you. You should inhale, then exhale, being sure that your spine is sinking into the floor. You must bring your arms forward, with your head and torso following. Roll up to a midway point between lying down and sitting up; hold this position for three seconds. The key to successfully executing this movement is your abdominal muscles. Allow your arms to go back, then lower your torso and head to the floor. You should repeat this entire procedure between six to eight times.
The corkscrew works your legs, back, and abdominals; it involves you lying on your back with your arms toward your sides. Straighten your legs toward the ceiling while keeping your knees and thighs close together. Inhale, then exhale, allowing your spine to sink into the floor. Inhale again while moving your legs toward one side; draw a small circle with your legs while keeping them close together. When you execute the circle, be sure to keep your hips on the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Do this movement five to six times on each side.
The crisscross works your legs and abdominals. You begin by lying on your back with your hands behind your head. Lift your head, while bringing your knees toward your chest. Straighten your right leg and lift it, while twisting your torso until your right elbow touches your left knee. Hold this position between one to two seconds. Repeat this movement on the other side. You should exhale fully as you hold each position. You want to keep your shoulders as high off of the floor as you possibly can. You should do this movement on each side between eight to ten times each. Afterwards, pull both knees toward your chest, then roll up to a sitting position.
The spine twist works your abdominals and back. Begin by sitting up very straight (making a 90-degree angle with your hips is optimal). Straighten your legs out and squeeze them together. Straighten your arms out to your sides at the height of your shoulders and parallel to the floor. Breathe in and attempt to pull your belly button toward your spine. Exhale; while maintaining your upright posture, rotate your torso to one side. While keeping your buttocks on the floor, look behind you. Hold this position between one to two seconds, then inhale and return to the starting position. Repeat this movement on the other side.
As you can see, there are many mat exercises you can do to improve your flexibility and focus. The main keys to proper Pilates is exercising great body control, smooth movements, and core training. The mat exercises above are great for beginners and experts alike, as they will help you to exhibit better body control, better breathing, and better stability. By learning to control your body and executing smooth movements, you can gain the most benefit from your Pilates workouts.