Pilates Primer

Pilates (pronounced Pi-lah-teez), is a great exercise technique that focuses on the core muscles. Originally used by dancers for deep body conditioning and injury rehabilitation, pilates is a 70-year-old exercise technique first developed by German immigrant Joseph Pilates.

Pilates has migrated from the fringes of traditional fitness methods to the more common fitness arena like aerobics and weight training. Hollywood has been a key factor in turning the spotlight on Pilates, as numerous models and actresses pay homage to Pilates for their toned and fit bodies.

Focusing on the Core

The abdominal and back muscles are often collectively referred to as the body's core. Pilates exercises are designed to strengthen this core by developing pelvic stability and abdominal control. In addition, the exercises improve flexibility and joint mobility, and build strength.

How can one exercise technique claim to do so much? The Reformer, a wooden contraption with various cables, pulleys, springs and sliding boards attached, lies at the foundation of Pilates. Primarily using one's own body weight as resistance, participants are put through a series of progressive, range-of-motion exercises. Despite the appearance of this, and several other equally unusual-looking devices, Pilates exercises are very low impact. Instructors, who typically work one-on-one or with two to three participants, offer reminders to engage the abdominals, the back, the upper leg and buttocks to stabilize the body's core. Exercise sessions are designed according to individual flexibility and strength limitations. Pilates exercises are not limited to specialized machines, however. In fact, many gyms across the country, including 24 Hour Fitness, offer Pilates floor work classes. These exercises also stress the stabilization and strengthening of the back and abdominal muscles and can be a great addition to your exercise routine.

Connecting With Pilates

The mind/body connection associated with yoga and meditation also plays an integral part in Pilates. Unlike exercise techniques that emphasize numerous repetitions in a single direction, Pilates exercises are performed with very few, but extremely precise, repetitions in several planes of motion.

So, what will all this focus and stabilization get you? Well, according to regulars, Pilates can help you develop long, strong muscles, a flat stomach and a strong back, as well as improve posture. Of course, these changes are dependent upon other lifestyle factors, such as a well-balanced diet and regular, aerobic exercise. (Though some may claim that Pilates is all you need to develop stamina and endurance as well, an additional cardiovascular component may be beneficial.)

Whether you work out at a studio or in a group exercise environment, Pilates is an excellent way to challenge your muscles, improve flexibility and incorporate the mind/body element into one effective exercise session. You can find a PiYo (combination of mat method based Pilates and Yoga) or a Strength Fusion class at a 24 Hour Fitness 

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This information and other information on this site is intended for general reference purposes only and is not intended to address specific medical conditions. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam. Prior to participating in any exercise program or activity, you should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition.