A complete training and guide

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By now you’ve probably heard of Pilates – it’s become a household name.

Yet Pilates is much more than what pop culture touts. Yes, this is a great and fantastic workout for your core, and it helps you maximize your strength.

In addition, Pilates is a method that supports your body structure by balancing strength, mobility and flexibility (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Pilates is for everyone, regardless of your age, size, race, gender or ability. With over 600 exercises and variations, Pilates can be modified to suit all levels. It is effective for absolute beginners and professional athletes.

If you’re curious, new to the method, and wondering where to start, read on to find out more.

Originally called “Contrology,” this whole body exercise method was created in the early 20th century by Joseph H. Pilates.

Mr. Pilates has trained and healed a number of people from all walks of life, including a number of artists. A small group of mostly artists became the Guardians, known as the “Elders”. Thanks to them, Pilates developed, eventually becoming a household name (6).

Pilates consists of mats and exercises on specialized – and often spring loaded – equipment such as the Reformer, Tower (or Cadillac), and Stability Chair. It is a sought-after method recommended by doctors and used by physiotherapists.

It benefits people of all ages and skill levels as it is a low impact exercise method that aligns the body, building strength through muscle balance and neuromuscular adjustment.

Pilates can be both invigorating and powerful. Although this is not a thrilling cardiovascular exercise, you can sweat while feeling your muscles working in a new way. It’s known to work the smaller, deeper, and often underused stabilizer muscles that support the joints.

As a result, the challenge you experience with Pilates may be a little different than what you are used to feeling in the weight room or when pushing yourself hard in a spin class. Still, there is a huge benefit to be had when you start Pilates.

Pilates’ long list of benefits includes improved posture, core strength, flexibility, and balance, as well as reduced back pain and stress.

Consistent good practice is supposed to provide ease and power. It helps you to carry out your daily activities with less pain and more freedom and vitality.

Yes, Pilates is good for beginners.

A considerable amount of marketing for Pilates emphasizes its more acrobatic exercises or features dancers on machines doing the splits. Don’t be intimidated.

Pilates exercises work gradually, from beginner to advanced.

Even top athletes start with the basics. Many advanced practitioners prefer to do a beginner’s workout to solidify their foundation.

A good teacher will tailor the exercises to where you are, making them safe, effective, and stimulating enough.

It is important to listen to your body, do whatever you can, and continue to be consistent in order to progress further.

When you start a Pilates practice it is important to understand that it is a journey. With consistency, your understanding of its concepts will deepen.

Pilates works the whole body; while you stabilize one part of the body, another moves. Some movements or ranges of motion may need to be smaller at first and increase over time as you get stronger.

Control and precision are two principles of the method. Always choose quality over quantity – and you will reap more benefits for your body and your life.

Breathing, another important principle, is essential in Pilates exercises. Pilates breathing increases your lung capacity and is the precursor to movement (7).

Pilates breathing focuses on three-dimensional breathing through the rib cage and diaphragm to allow deeper trunk engagement. Your core includes the muscles of the lower back, abdominals, glutes, hips, inner thighs, and pelvic floor.

When engaging the core muscles during Pilates exercises, aim for flexible activation compared to the brace or grip. Think of your core as a curl and lift as opposed to a “sucking in your belly.”

Don’t worry if your instructor uses hints that seem a little strange at first. Pilates is a unique exercise, and it can often feel like you’re learning a foreign language when you first start out.

Try to approach the movements with an exploratory spirit, and you might be surprised at what you find.

All you really need to start a Pilates practice is your body, a small towel and a mat or soft surface (preferably something like a mat, not a bed – it’s too soft!).

Usually, a yoga mat is too thin, and with Pilates rolling exercises, it can be uncomfortable. If your budget allows, invest in a thicker and softer mat. Alternatively, you can place a thick towel or blanket on your mat.

Some teachers and classes may use additional props or equipment. The accessories are intended to support, add variety or increase the level of difficulty.

Small accessories may include the magic circle, light weights (or cans or bottled water), a mini ball, therabands, and even the Swiss ball.

If you had to pick one thing to focus on or master at the beginning, it would be your breathing.

Your breath adds vitality, works in sync with, and serves as a key to effective core engagement. It is the basis of all exercise.

Regular practice of Pilates three times a week is ideal. Twice are enough, and daily practice is possible and not tiring for the body. Try to find a rhythm that works for you.

Your body is different from moment to moment. As your self-awareness increases, you will be more in tune with your body’s needs.

Every workout will be and should be different. On the occasion when you feel tired, pace yourself. If applicable, try to do some, if not all, of the exercises to feel invigorated again.

Always consult your healthcare practitioner when embarking on a fitness program.

There are specific Pilates programs for various populations, such as pregnant people, the elderly, and those with lower back injuries or low bone density.

If you experience pain during the exercise, stop and reassess. With experience and increased body awareness, you can learn to modify or skip a movement.

If possible, work individually with a qualified Pilates instructor. Even a few sessions to solidify a foundation and learn specific modifications to your body are beneficial.

There are many opportunities for continued growth with Pilates, both online and in person.

There are many sources of on-demand and live Pilates classes available online. Healthline even offers 22-minute Pilates workouts as part of our Fit It In video series.

If you’re curious about getting on the Pilates machines, check out local studios in your area. Almost all studios offer individual sessions and group lessons.

Matwork and Reformer based exercises are the best known and most popular aspects of Pilates. Many studios offer Reformer-based group classes at a higher cost than mat-based ones, but they’re cheaper than one-on-one sessions.

Some studios have other specialized equipment classes involving the chair or tower or may offer a mixing or circuit class.

When looking for an instructor, you’ll want to check their credentials, meet with them, or attend a trial class to see if their approach is right for you.

In general, you will need a Pilates instructor with extensive training and much more than weekend workshop training.

Pilates has many benefits and is a great workout for everyone.

A beginner’s workout not only creates a solid foundation from which to grow, but it immediately builds strength and self-awareness.

Pilates exercises can be broken down or modified to meet you at any stage of your life. Consistent practice supports and enhances your lifestyle by allowing you to move with ease, vigor and renewed vitality.


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