What if you were told you could tighten your muscles, improve your core strength and increase flexibility without ever lifting a weight or performing a single crunch? You would probably think someone was trying to sell you some sort of fitness gimmick that doesn’t work….Well, here’s the thing, Pilates is no gimmick. What began as a fitness regimen for dancers has now become one of the most popular means of exercise for just about everyone—from the average gym goer to professional athletes.
What is Pilates?
So what exactly is Pilates? Joseph Pilates developed this exercise system in the early twentieth century. He wanted to create an exercise system that wasn’t just good for the body, but also good for the mind. He was a firm believer that mental and physical health went hand in hand (smart guy!)
A big part of Pilates is using an “apparatus”. Each apparatus is specifically designed to help you build strength, aligning your body and stretch. While there are many, the most popular apparatus, the Reformer, is widely used today in Pilates studios and gyms all over the world.
The Nitty-Gritty: The Principles of Pilates
Pilates consists of small, controlled movements that can improve your flexibility, strength, coordination, and balance. The focus is on your “powerhouse”, or core (abdomen, low back, and hips). The core is crucial to your stability so strengthening it should be your first priority.
If you want to try Pilates to supercharge your current fitness routine, here are a few rules to do it safely and correctly:
- Breathing. Always inhale fully and exhale with strong effort. This type of breathing is believed to cleanse and invigorate your body. Your breathing and your movements should work as one.
- Control. All movements should be done deliberately and with complete control.
- Centering. Control of your body starts at the center—your powerhouse. This is where all movements begin.
- Postural alignment. Stand and/or sit up straight. Pilates exercises should be done with correct posture which also helps improve imbalances.
- Precision. The exercises should always be performed exactly the way they are intended. Doing a perfect set of eight reps is better than doing an imperfect set of twenty reps.
- Relaxation. The more you are relaxed while doing Pilates, the more focused you will be and the better equipped you are to perform the exercises correctly.
Remember, as with yoga, you don’t want to just go through the motions and the movements. Think about what you are doing, what muscles you are working, breathe, and stay as focused as your mind allows! Mental sharpness is also important.
Pilates Exercises You Can Try on Your Own
Pilates has many exercises that you can do on the Reformer. However, not everyone has access to it which is why there are Pilates exercises you can easily do on the floor while still getting the same physical and mental benefits Pilates offers. A few popular exercises you can do on your own include:
- Pilates hundred
- Roll up
- Twist and reach
- Shoulder bridges
- Leg swings
- Kneeling sidekicks
- Wall chair
The Benefits of Adding Pilates to Your Fitness Routine
Pilates is not just a way to get your body moving. It’s a corrective form of exercise that can help you function and feel better. After you begin a Pilates program, here are some of the benefits you may soon start to see and feel:
- Less slouching when you sit or stand
- A stronger core
- Better body control (Pilates exercises rely on your entire body working in unison rather than as separate pieces)
- Improved breathing and blood circulation
- Greater flexibility
If you want to give Pilates a try, there are many ways to do so whether it’s at a Pilates studio, a gym or at home. FitOn has several Pilates programs that you can easily follow at home for your convenience. And, as you get better at the movements, you can always increase the intensity or use more advanced versions of the exercises. Either way, you will reap the many benefits that Pilates has been offering for decades.