Pilates Frequently Asked Questions
Pilates is a system of over 500 controlled exercises that engage the mind and condition the total body. It is a balanced blend of strength and flexibility training that improves
posture, reduces stress and creates long, lean muscles without bulking up. Pilates works several muscle groups simultaneously through smooth, continuous motion, with a particular concentration on strengthening and stabilizing the core (the abdomen, back and
pelvic girdle region, sometimes referred to as the “powerhouse”).
The focus is on quality of movement rather than quantity, which makes one feel invigorated rather than exhausted after a session. Pilates takes a balanced approach so that no muscle group is overworked and the body works as an efficient, holistic system in
sport and daily activity. Pilates exercises can be performed on a mat or on specialized equipment such as a Reformer, Cadillac and Ladder Barrel.
This may seem a strange question to ask about an exercise method that was invented almost a century ago and has had a devoted following for many long decades.
But the answer is simple: no. And so is the reason: Because it works.
Joseph Pilates always said that his method was 50 years ahead of his time The current growth in popularity of Pilates is simply the fulfillment of his longstanding prediction.
With regular committed Pilates workouts you can expect to:
- Tone and build long, lean muscles without bulk
- Challenge deep abdominal muscles to support the core
- Engage the mind and enhance body awareness
- Efficient patterns of movement making the body less prone to injury
- Reduce stress, relieve tension, boost energy
- Restore postural alignment
- Create a stronger, more flexible spine
- Promote recovery from strain or injury
- Increase joint range of motion
- Improve circulation
- Heighten neuromuscular coordination
- Offer relief from back pain and joint stress
- Correct over-training of muscle groups which can lead to stress and injury
- Enhance mobility, agility and stamina
- Compliment sports training and develop functional fitness for daily life activity
- Improve the way your body looks and feels
You should start with a private session with an instructor who will discuss and assess your medical history and your exercise goals. You are then guided through a Pilates workout where your physical condition is assessed and a program is tailored to suit your needs. You can continue with private sessions or you can work in small group-sessions (1 instructor with up to 4 clients) where you work on your customized program. These sessions are generally 60 minutes and you will continue to be guided, monitored and progressed safely on an individual basis. Your Pilates Professional will let you know when you are ready for beginner Pilates Mat classes or Pilates Reformer Classes.
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A Mat Class is within a group setting with no more than 10 people to ensure specific instruction. During the class you will lie on a mat, sit or stand and learn the principles of Pilates. The Pilates principles will be integrated into each exercise. The exercises use your own body weight and should be mortified for your fitness level and become more and more progressive and challenging as you develop awareness, strength, flexibility, coordination, endurance and strength.
The Pilates Reformer is the most well known piece of Pilates equipment. It is a bed like frame with moveable carriage where a person sits or reclines and does his or her stretching, is an excellent way of exercising without hurting the joints while strengthening muscles.
To attend a group reformer class you should have at least five (5) Private lessons from a Pilates professional or attended a specially designed Reformer Introduction class. You must know the names of basic reformer exercises and how to adjust Reformer settings on your own. Classes should be no more than 6 people to work in unison with a staff member directing class and assisting in corrections. This class is geared toward those who attend private lessons and want to work out at a steady pace with limited personal attention.
Wear comfortable but snug fitting clothing (Ladies – leotards, tights and T Shirt, Men – bike shorts with shorts and T Shirt). Pilates is basically non-aerobic so bring a sweatshirt with you just in case.
For hygiene requirements, please bring a small towel and clean socks - you don’t need gym shoes. Please do not where excessive perfume. If you are attending a Pilates Mat Class I would recomend that you bring your own mat. Having your own mat will also alow you to work out at home.
Cell-phones need to be switched off at all times!
Pilates can be beneficial for virtually all ages, fitness levels and body conditions.
Pilates is still popular with dancers, gymnasts, athletes and others in their physical prime but it is equally suitable for almost any age.
Indeed, one of the beauties of Pilates is that we tailor it to suit each personage and physical condition.
Many of our clients are middle-aged or elderly. Indeed, more than a few start doing Pilates specifically because they have reached ‘a certain age’, realised that they no longer take any exercise and suddenly thought, ‘My goodness, I have to start to do something, or else I’ll fall apart’.
Older clients still might have to ask medical advice before taking up Pilates and to start more slowly. Many people, however, do Pilates into their eighties and nineties. A properly tailored Pilates program is one of the best-known ways to ward off the infirmities of old age. J
Your true age, in the end, of course, is as much a function of how feel as of the date on your birth certificate. As Joseph Pilates himself put it: ‘If, at the age of 30, you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If, at 60, you are supple and strong, then you are young.’
Far from it. Pilates, after all, was invented by a man, Joseph Pilates, originally for his own benefit – and was only later adapted for women.
Men, what’s more, tend to be less flexible than women, and so to need Pilates even more.
In fact countless celebrity devotees of Pilates, from Hugh Grant to Martin Amis, John Cleese, Ian McKellen, Patrick Swayze, and an ever-growing number of famous footballers, rugby players, cricketers and other professional athletes.
It’s not a matter of one being better than another. The fundamental Pilates workout can be performed on a mat alone, and great results can be achieved through beginner,
intermediate and advanced moves. However, the various equipment pieces such as the Reformer, Cadillac and Chair incorporate light spring resistance that works like concentric and eccentric muscle contractions to safely sculpt, tone and stretch the muscles. The
various Barrels provide support that allows you to safely manipulate your body to stretch and engage muscles otherwise challenging to isolate. Smaller Pilates equipment pieces such resistance bands, circles and balls also provide an element of variety and focus to a
A complete and satisfying workout can involve exercises on the mat alone or can be combined with various pieces of specially designed Pilates equipment. Each session can
offer variety so that no two workouts are alike.
How do I get started on a Pilates exercise program?
Mat-based exercises make a good starting point to those new to Pilates. Take the opportunity to enjoy a group mat class in a club setting or workout at home with a Pilates video and learn the principles behind the discipline. You’ll definitely feel it -
especially deep in your abs.
Once you’ve got a better handle on integrating all the principles (it takes a while), branch out and try some Pilates equipment. Small props like Resistance Bands,
Circles and Swiss Balls can add variety and interest to a mat workout, but if you want to experience the traditional Pilates equipment, the Reformer is a popular piece to start with. Try a small group class or a private session with a personal trainer at a Pilates studio or fitness facility that has a Pilates program (more and more are popping up every day).
Try to work out 2-4 times a week, taking a day off in between sessions to rest or enjoy some kind of cardiovascular activity (walking, bicycling, swimming). This kind of regular, consistent practice will help you make the mind-body connection and integrate the various Pilates principles (list). You should start seeing and feeling results in about 10 to15
Pilates instructors are highly trained professionals who have invested hundreds of hours studying the technique. They learn over 500 exercises for both the mat and Pilates equipment. They learn the philosophy and theory behind each movement, spend considerable time observing and mastering proper form and sequences, and apprentice to fine tune their teaching skills prior to taking a rigorous written and practical exam.
They learn more than just a series of moves, they learn how to assess their students’ posture, how to adapt exercises for various body conditions, and how to customize the optimum Pilates program for each individual. This kind of specialized training, combined with the expenses of furnishing a fully equipped studio, commands a $40 to $80 per hour price range.
Ideally your Pilates instructor should be certified through a comprehensive training program, one comprised of lectures, observation, practice, hands-on apprenticing plus a
written and practical examination. This level of training is especially important if you are going to be working out on any of the specialized Pilates equipment – some courses only cover mat exercises while others educate trainers in the full range of apparatus. Find out if your trainer is educated in handling clients with specific injuries or body conditions that might warrant a modified approach. A professional Pilates instructor should keep up
with the latest developments in exercise science, choreography, small prop usage and more through continuing education workshops. Any background or teaching experience in other movement disciplines such as dance, aerobics or yoga is also a plus. A professional
instructor should make good use of visual, verbal and tactile cueing to ensure students are exercising with proper form and technique. Whether you are working out in a group setting or one-on-one personal training, make sure your Pilates instructor is confident,
knowledgeable, responsive and personable so you can have a safe and effective experience.
Every Pilates studio, health club and fitness facility has its own program, however the following types of classes are often available.
Group mat class: This is a great place for beginners to start, and a fun, social way to continue Pilates practice. Ideally these classes have a manageable student-teacher ratio (10-15 students) so the instructor can monitor each individual’s form and progress. Classes should be designed for beginner, intermediate and advanced students.
Group Reformer class: With the advent of smaller, more economical Reformers such as the Allegro , more and more fitness clubs are adding group Reformer classes to
their Pilates roster.
Session for 2-4 students: Sometimes called duets, trios and quads, these small group
sessions are a little more economical per participant than a private session, but still allows for plenty of individual assessment, guidance and monitoring. Various mat and equipment exercises can be approached in these sessions.
Private one-on-one session: A personal training session is the most effective way to learn, practice and perfect your Pilates performance. The instructor devotes undivided attention to your specific needs and develops a custom program for optimum results.
Absolutely. There are hundreds of titles of Pilates exercise videos, DVD’s and books on the market that are a good companion to learning and practicing this method of exercise.
Through books you will get a good understanding of the philosophy behind the method and can practice some moves through their descriptions and step-by-step pictures. Through Pilates videos and DVD’s you will be able to see each movement executed correctly plus hear explanations and verbal cues to help you try each exercise
yourself. Giaim, Stott Pilates and Winsor Pilates have produced quality series of Pilates videos that you can try at home.
That being said, personal instruction with a Pilates professional is the best way to ensure you are using correct form and technique. Many moves engage deep muscles difficult to isolate and subtle body adjustments can make the difference between effective and ineffective exercise. Try some beginner books and tapes at home to get an idea of what Pilates is all about, but then join a group class or get some one-on-one instruction to ensure you are performing properly. Once you’ve had some fine-tuning and are
confident you are on the right path, you can continue to workout at home along with the guidance of Pilates videos , DVD’s and books.
No, you should also take some form of aerobic exercise, such as walking, running, cycling, tennis or swimming – but preferably done in a way that does not place damaging strain on your body.
Although similar to yoga exercise, Pilates requires you to set a posture and then challenge the torso by moving the limbs, whereas yoga will move from one static posture to another with no repetitions.
What kind of results can I expect?
Practicing Pilates on a regular basis will help you to achieve a healthier body and mind. As a runner you can expect to build long, strong muscles, improve flexibility and lessen your chance for injuries. The way Pilates opens up the vertebrae in the lower back, in particular, helps to prevent the sort of back injuries which can result from constant impact involved in running.
Physically you can expect to:
- Lose inches
- Increase mobility and flexibility, especially in the low back, shoulders, and hips
- Improve balance and coordination
- Decrease back pain and stiffness
- Improve your posture
- Achieve a flatter stomach
- Shorten recovery time following strenuous activity
Mentally you can expect to:
- Gain body awareness
- Improve focus and stimulate the mind
- De-stress the body and mind
Yes! Thanks to its basic principles, the Pilates method can be used for orthopedic rehabilitation. The control needed in all of the exercises and the synergy between the abdominals and the lower back help reduce the risk of injuries and relieve back pain. Most of the exercises are carried out in an horizontal position or sitting, so that spine joints are never stressed and bad postures are avoided. A correct posture not only means elegance of movements but, most important, releases spine from bad postural habits so that you may become a few centimeters taller!
Pilates requires precision, control and concentration in order to create movement that is fluid, easy and rewarding. Unlike some workouts, Pilates requires you to continuously think about what you are doing. As a result, you’ll find your Pilates workouts absorbing and even rejuvenating. It may be the one hour of your day when you’re able let go of everything except the present moment.
Absolutely. There’s no age limit in the practice of the Pilates method, as many of the very first pupils of Joseph Pilates show. Indeed, despite being 70 and 80, they are fit and still working – among these Lolita San Miguel, founder of the Puerto Rican Ballet Concierto, who was certified officially by Joseph Pilates. The Pilates method works against the natural “stiffening” we all suffer from when getting older. Exercises improve flexibility, stretching and toning up muscles.
It varies depending on the institution. You can obtain certification to teach mat classes in a couple of weekend workshops, especially if you are already a fitness professional. However, if you want to be able to teach on the arious pieces of Pilates equipment it takes considerably longer. The more reputable institutions require hundreds of hours of
lecture-based coursework, hands-on training, observation and apprentice work before a rigorous written and practical exam. Usually, as a prerequisite, each student must have studied anatomy and already be a certified fitness professional or licensed rehabilitation practitioner before being accepted into a course. Plus there are continuing education requirements to maintain certification status throughout one’s career. See the Pilates
Training and Certification section for more details.
name=12>Will I lose weight through Pilates exercises?
In essence, Pilates exercise is not a cardiovascular workout and burning calories is not it’s main focus. However, in conjunction with a sensible diet and some cardio work such as brisk walking, bicycling, aerobics or swimming, Pilates can factor into a weight loss program.
The Winsor Pilates video series has a faster paced program performed in a particular order they call “dynamic sequencing”. They claim this can give a boost to the
metabolism and help one lose inches.
Pilates exercises help strengthen, sculpt and tone the body while building long, lean
muscles. Whether the number on the scale goes down or not, you will tend to look and feel better through continued Pilates practice.
There is a lot of debate on the subject of pregnancy and exercise in general. Generally speaking, moderate exercise is safe throughout a normal, healthy pregnancy and many gentle Pilates exercises are appropriate. However, keep the following cautions in
The American Council of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) states that a woman in the 20th week of pregnancy should not lie on her back for exercise for any other reason due to the compromise to the vascular system and possibly the vascular system of the fetus caused by compression of the aorta and the vena cava in the supine position. – Reference: ACOG committee on Patient Education Patient information hand out Copyright May 1998.
I Have a back problem – will Pilates help me?
If you have any sort of back or joint problem you should always check with your doctor or specialist before embarking on any new exercise program. However, Pilates is recognized as being of particular benefit to many back problems. By using and developing the strength of the deep abdominal muscles, the supportive spinal muscles, the muscles of the pelvic floor and the stabilizing muscles of the upper back and shoulder area, you will learn to correct your posture, reduce strain and stress and realign the body. Your back will get stronger and your pain will gradually reduce. Many osteopaths, physiotherapists and doctors now recognize the benefits of Pilates based exercises and recommend the technique to their own patients.
Joseph Pilates was inspired by both eastern and western forms while developing his method, so there are many similarities. The breathing is different, and you are asked to pull your stomach in rather than allowing it to fill with breath. Pilates is also movement, rather than the holding of postures that is yoga.
Pilates is named after Joseph H. Pilates, the man who developed the exercise regimen back in the 1920s. Purists devoted to Joe’s original teachings believe the word “Pilates”
should be trademarked specifically for this tradition and not for the variations on the theme that have emerged throughout time. However, in a 2002 landmark court case, it was legally determined that the word “Pilates” is a generic noun that can apply to both
Joseph’s specific approach and the exercise adaptations it inspired.
Some camps feel this dilutes the credibility of the word (and to be fair, there are some less-than-scrupulous programs and practitioners jumping on the Pilates bandwagon), but others believe it is time the word got off its perceived pedestal and joined the popular vernacular that denotes an exercise method – much like the word “yoga” or “karate” does. Several reputable training programs have emerged that teach a Pilates-inspired regimen, and new accessories are being added to the mix as the “movement” evolves. Now these programs can proudly and legally stand under the Pilates umbrella. Just be aware, not all Pilates programs, studios or instructors are alike.