“Pilates is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit.”
Although this exercise discipline has been around since the beginning of the 20th Century, only in the last couple of decades has Pilates become popular as an exercise modality. Hollywood A-listers – such as Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu – has made Pilates a popular discipline. And their sleek abdominal muscles show how this exercise benefits a person’s mid-section.
However, there are so many other benefits to Pilates. Here are some of them.
A full-body workout
While the most talked about claim to fame of Pilates is its ability to tone and sculpt a gorgeous set of abdominals for a person, what is often overlooked is that Pilates provides the practitioner with a fabulous full-body workout. In particular, the exercises done work – for example – the:
- Hip Flexors
During the various exercises, the strength that powers these exercises comes from the core powerhouse of the body. This is why, before any Pilates exercise, you’ll be instructed to inhale and activate your abdominals before proceeding with the required movements.
What is the core powerhouse?
Many don’t realise that your abdominals are not just the muscles between your diaphragm and your pelvis – in other words, the transverse abdominis, the rectus abdominis and the external obliques. The muscles present in your core powerhouse also extend to your lower back muscles. This is why, if you suffer from lower back pain, you’ll probably find that you have a weak core.
Besides providing a full-body workout, Pilates is also a form of resistance fitness training. You may have been mistaken in believing that the only type of resistance, or strength training, that you could do is weight training – either with free weights or weight machines. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
The essence of resistance training is that a muscle needs to contract in order to move a force. Take the simple bicep curl. Your bicep will contract in order to lift the dumbbell, barbell or kettlebell. With Pilates, instead of the force being a dumbbell it is your own bodyweight. The exercises are designed in order for your muscles grow and develop using this force.
A huge component of Pilates is the breathing. And this breathing is coordinated with the movements that are performed. The sequence of breathing is usually the following:
- Inhale to activate your abdominals.
- Exhale and perform the first leg of the movement – whether it be lifting your legs into a table-top position when you’re lying, on a mat, on your back or if you’re pushing the reformer out.
- When you reach the top of that movement, inhale to return to your starting position.
This concentration on your breathing performs two functions:
- It helps to calm your mind because you’re blocking out the worries and anxieties of the day and are bringing your focus to your body and what you’re doing.
- In addition, it also helps you to contrate on the movements and getting them right. Remember that Pilates is about very slight movements but the key is to focus on activating the right muscles so that you get the benefits that were intended to be gained from the particular exercise.
The secret to Pilates is to focus on what you’re doing and to make sure that you’re doing the movements correctly. Even though you may not feel stiff – as you would after a spinning class – you’ll notice the benefits that this form of exercise has on your body and mental well-being.