21 May The top 5 reasons to do Pilates exercises
I first tried Pilates years ago and recently completed my Pilates training. I have to say I love teaching it and it is something I try to add to most of my personal training sessions.
Pilates is defined as a body conditioning program designed to teach efficient movement patterns and provide general well being using controlled exercises and deliberate breathing patterns.
You may not be jumping around or burning heaps of calories, but there are some great benefits to this program so here are my my top 5 personal and professional reasons to do some Pilates in your training routine.
1. Core Strength
First let’s start with the difference between the stomach muscles and your core. Your stomach consists of four main muscles:
- The rectus abdominis: One big sheet of muscle tissue that runs from your breastbone down to your pelvis,
- The external obliques: Run from your ribs to your hips in a forward direction,
- The internal obliques: Run from your ribs to your hips in a backwards direction,
- The transverses abdominis: Located deep in your abs, underneath the obliques.
Now the core goes way beyond these four abdominal muscles and includes the muscles of your lower back, your pelvic floor, and your hips. In fact if your chopped off your head, arms and legs, what you are left with is your core.
Think of your core as a muscular box with the abdominals in the front, the paraspinals and gluteals in the back, the diaphragm as the roof, and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the floor. Your core is your body’s powerhouse because it’s the central region providing a girdle of strength whenever you move, lift and even breathe.
Almost all Pilates moves will assist in strengthening your core and this is going to give you better posture, give your more strength to lift, reduce the chance of developing back pain, help you move faster and even breathe better.
There’s a reason so many athletes practice Pilates—improving flexibility, joint mobility, reducing the risk of injury and significantly enhancing your performance in other physical activities (even just every day activities).
The slow, deliberate stretching that is performed during Pilates strengthens the basic muscle groups in a logical sequence, while also targeting the smaller muscles groups. These smaller muscles are typically ignored in weight lifting and other workouts resulting in weakness that can sometimes lead to injury. Nearly all of the exercises you learn as part of Pilates will bolster your flexibility.
3. Improves muscle strength and tones your whole body
Your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks (the ‘core muscles’ of your body) all remain contracted and engaged during a Pilates workout. This constant tension helps keep the core muscles lean and builds better endurance and strength.
The slow and deliberate movements maintains the tension in the muscles. It incorporates the whole body, rather than isolated muscles. By exercising muscle groups rather than individual muscles, Pilates enables you to tone and tighten, build strength and flexibility—without adding bulk.
4. Increases awareness of your body
The founder of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, was adamant that Pilates, or contrology as he called it, was about “the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.” This is one of the secrets of Pilates exercise: we practice each movement with total attention. When we exercise in this way, the body and mind unite to bring forth the most benefit possible from each exercise. The Pilates principles – centering, concentration, control, alignment, precision, breath, and flow, are key concepts used to integrate body and mind.
With Pilates, you become more aware of your posture when you sit or stand, as well as everyday movements. This helps you become better able to relate those habits to the aches, pains or injuries you have or have had in the past, and hopefully reduce the pain in the future.
5. Anyone can do Pilates
Now this is what I really like – anyone can do it. You can adapt the moves to any fitness level and being low impact, it doesn’t put stress on your knees, back or other joints.
With so many possible exercises and modifications, Pilates workouts can be tailored to individual needs. I always start with the basic moves and when they are mastered, I will make them a bit more challenging while always keeping perfect form and a neutral position.
Whether you are a just starting to exercise, an elite athlete or somewhere in between, the foundations of Pilates movements applies to you. Building core strength, focusing on proper alignment, and a body/mind integrative approach makes Pilates beneficial for everyone.