If you’ve been interested in fitness trends at least once, you’ve absolutely heard of Pilates. This trend appeared in the U.S. almost 100 years ago and from a rehabilitation program for athletes and dancers has turned into a way to create a dream body for people of all ages, letting them feel perfect, even if they sit a lot completing work tasks, playing playreactoonz.com/, or chatting with friends. It really is worth trying Pilates because its usefulness has been scientifically proven, but it’s important to take into account some specifics.
Pilates is a type of exercise that develops the ability to control body condition and develops flexibility, muscular strength and endurance at the same time. It’s a fixed set of exercises developed in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates, who gave Pilates its name.
Through close work with the breath and diaphragm, Pilates allows:
- Improve heart function.
- Increase flexibility.
- Strengthen the muscles and joint-ligament apparatus.
- Improve posture and balance.
- Alleviate back pain.
- Increase muscular control.
Pilates is especially useful as a concomitant exercise for sports or during physical rehabilitation, including coronavirus infection, severe influenza and acute respiratory infections.
The workout usually lasts 45 to 60 minutes at a low heart rate, but without pauses between exercises. The emphasis is on controlling breathing and movement accuracy. Exercises are usually aimed at the muscles of the cortex, but almost always other parts of the body are also involved. The result is a full-body workout.
The benefits of Pilates have been confirmed by numerous scientific studies.
For example, Pilates is more effective than yoga at developing body balance and mobility. In 2018, the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation published the results of a study involving 90 people. Participants who practiced Pilates for 1 hour three times a week for eight weeks achieved greater functional changes than people who did yoga instead or not at all.
Another positive effect of Pilates is the development of endurance. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that people who practiced Pilates for 1 hour twice a week for 12 consecutive weeks reported significant increases in abdominal endurance, hamstring flexibility and upper body muscular endurance. Researchers suggest that the main contributors to this are improved mobility of the scapulae with their further stabilization in an anatomically correct position and strengthening of the cortex muscles.
Like other types of exercise, Pilates also has beneficial effects on mental health. A 2018 meta-analysis of 8 Pilates studies found that those who practiced Pilates reported decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety and fatigue, as well as increased energy levels. Of course, no amount of exercise is a substitute for seeing a therapist, but why not provide mental health prevention?
So, Pilates makes your body more resilient and beautiful – sounds like the perfect workout. Ready to get started yet? Just a couple more minutes – we’ve got you covered with an overview of 8 features it doesn’t hurt to know about before you start classes.
There are two types of Pilates: Pilates on a mat or Pilates with more equipment.
In the first case, the exercises are performed on a special mat. It should be slightly thicker than a standard yoga mat to soften the pressure.
The second type of Pilates is performed with special equipment that creates additional resistance when performing the exercises and makes it more difficult to maintain balance. One such piece of equipment, the reformer, is a retractable platform with a stationary leg bar, springs and pulleys that make the workout harder and more intense for the muscles.
Both focus on movement control: in Pilates, muscles work by overcoming gravity and the resistance of springs or bands, if any.
Sometimes additional items are added to a mat class:
- A low chair with padding and springs, for upper body exercises.
- Spine corrector, to align the back.
- Fitball – a soft gymnastic ball, which is used to complicate balance exercises.
- A ring that is clamped between the legs to create resistance, etc.
It’s up to you to do it on a mat or on equipment, with or without objects. For beginners, it’s better to start with Pilates on a mat to practice the basics. That way it’s easier to understand the technique and feel your own body. Objects can be used to perform more complicated exercises. Experienced athletes can alternate between the mat and the machines for deeper muscle work and balance.
For beginners, there is a fixed set of basic exercises that are important to master in order to move forward. Here are some of them.
- Position: lying on your back, legs bent at right angles in the knees, shins parallel to the floor; palms can be used to hold your knees, body tight to the floor and immobile
- Movement: as you exhale, lift your upper body (shoulder blades aren’t touching the mat), make quick hand strokes with small amplitude; try to do five strokes for each inhale and exhale, keeping your body and legs stable.
- Position: lying on your back, legs straight, arms outstretched backward.
- Movement: As you inhale, pull your arms forward; as you exhale, bring your belly button “close to your spine” by pulling your abdominal muscles up from below and twist your body up and forward, starting at the neck and shoulders; lift your body slowly, pulling vertebrae by vertebrae off the floor. Rounding your back, pull your torso forward. Inhale. As you exhale, tense your buttocks, twist your tailbone forward, and begin slowly lowering yourself to the floor, vertebrae by vertebrae, until you reach the starting position.
- Position: Lying on your back, lift one leg up and lock it upright. The toe should stretch toward the ceiling, and the heel should turn slightly inward. Lengthen your torso, relax shoulders and upper back. Place your hands along your body or behind your head; you can rest them on the floor for extra stability. Bend your other leg at the knee.
- Movement: starting the movement inward and downward, make a circle with your foot, as if drawing a circle on the ceiling with your thumb; the leg should be tensed along its entire length and extended behind the toe.
Rolls on your back:
- Position: Sitting on the floor, bend your legs at the knees and wrap your palms around your knees, keeping your shoulders as far away from your ears as possible. Get your feet off the floor and find your balance. Point your elbows out to the sides.
- Movement: Round your back, pulling your tailbone forward and bringing your belly button closer to your spine. Chin touching chest. Start rolling, keeping your body in the starting position. As you move, try to round your back even more. Roll to the edge of the shoulder blades and return to the starting position. During the roll, don’t make the legs overlap.
Once you have mastered these Pilates basics, the basic exercises will get more complicated. For example, in the hundred, you can keep your legs straight – this increases the load on your abs and lower back.
Although in Pilates, you work with your own weight, at low amplitude and without increasing your heart rate, the exercises are quite intense. When you concentrate on each movement, you’re pinpointing the muscles that each exercise is designed to work. In the hundred, for example, you keep your abs in tension for a long time, so at some point they start to burn. After the workout, there is sometimes a delayed soreness of muscle groups that you may not have known you had – like the deep cortex muscles.
If any muscles are sore after a workout, don’t worry: the soreness means you’re straining your muscles in a new way or training muscles that weren’t engaged before. Over time the body will get used to it and it will become easier to tolerate the exercise. Just don’t overdo it: muscle soreness is no indicator of a successful workout.
Every exercise technique has its set of terms, and Pilates is no exception. Many of the phrases and movement names in Pilates are based on anatomy. For example, the phrase “shoulder blades down” means that you need to move your shoulder blades to lengthen your back by opening your shoulders, and “head circumference” refers to supporting your neck with your hands during some back exercises. Don’t worry if you don’t understand something at first and feel free to ask questions.
In Pilates, tight clothes are welcome: this way the instructor can better see your movements, and nothing disturbs you. So a top and leggings made of a pleasant material will be a good solution. As for shoes, you can train barefoot or in socks. Among socks, it’s better to choose models with rubber inserts on the sole, so as not to slip on the mat or simulator.
Inexperienced athletes are not recommended to practice Pilates every day: the body needs a break from the challenging exercises. Imagine, your muscles are stretching, strengthening and aligning at the same time – not a weak job, right? Combining Pilates with other workouts like running, weight lifting or swimming is perfect. Many athletes add Pilates to their core workouts to prepare their muscles for work, improve coordination and balance, and reduce the risk of injury.
If you overdo it with Pilates, it can put too much strain on your muscles. If you feel pain or mobility difficulties that persist throughout the day after your workout, you should suspend Pilates classes and see a doctor.
It’s better to simply avoid such situations. Start your introduction to Pilates with basic movements or beginner workouts with a trainer. Perform each movement slowly, with concentration, and watch your breathing. Finally, even if you want to do Pilates on your own, take a few basic lessons with a trainer to feel more confident and put technique into place.
With epidemic restrictions, Pilates is convenient because it’s available on your own home mat. You can easily find pre-recorded Pilates video lessons or special fitness apps for online classes. If you choose this workout format, be careful: Pilates doesn’t involve the easiest exercises, and you can easily hurt yourself without the supervision of a certified professional.