We’re always hearing about the popularity and benefits of Pilates, but what does it actually involve?
What is Pilates? Is it a type of yoga? Do you break a sweat? Does it require special equipment?
Pilates can seem like a mystery if you’ve never taken a class in it before. Put simply, Pilates is a system of exercise which has been specifically designed for total body conditioning, strengthening and improving the stability of the body.
It was invented in the 1920s by a German soldier named Joseph Pilates, who had developed and implemented his fitness regime whilst being held on the Isle of Man during the First World War.
Pilates was a firm believer in the link between the mind and body, and this belief formed the basis for his exercise system.
In a typical Pilates class, you can expect to work on a yoga mat and use your body weight as resistance, but you may also incorporate other pieces of equipment in order to make your workout more effective.
The benefits of Pilates are many: in addition to promoting general physical and mental wellbeing, Pilates is often praised for helping people improve their posture and preventing injury.
If you’re interested in learning more about the practice of Pilates, read on!
Pilates for Men
It must be noted that Pilates was invented by a man and tested on other men while it was being developed – so it’s safe to say that this form of exercise is pretty much designed around the male body.
So, what aspects of Pilates are the most beneficial for the male body?
There are many ways in which men can use Pilates to complement their training regime, or simply maintain a good level of fitness.
Pilates has long been used as a means of rehabilitation for gymnasts, ballet dancers and soldiers who have sustained injuries, which makes it a great way to transition back into doing sport if you are recovering from an injury.
The strength gained by doing Pilates not only promotes a good posture, improves performance and tones your muscles, but it also makes your body more evenly balanced. The result of this is that you will have greater control over your body and its movements. In fact, before it became widely known as ‘Pilates’, this popular form of body workout was known as ‘Contrology’ because of its focus on the relationship between mind and body and promotion of body awareness.
If maintaining a trim figure and washboard abs is a concern of yours, Pilates could be the perfect workout for you. The Pilates method has been hailed as a hassle-free way to stay toned by GQ magazine. By doing Pilates training just three times a week, it’s possible to sculpt a muscular figure.
Discovering that you’re going to become a mother can be as joyous as it is life-changing. Being pregnant requires lots of adaptations to your usual lifestyle in order to ensure that you and your baby are as comfortable and as healthy as possible, and this is why so many mums-to-be sign up to antenatal classes.
Pre-natal classes are all about providing a support network for expectant mums as well as providing information on caring for newborns and teaching breathing and exercise techniques to use when giving birth.
In addition to classes in birthing and breastfeeding, many leisure centres hold exercise classes which are specifically designed for pregnant women – a lifeline for those who want to maintain their active lifestyle throughout their pregnancy.
Stretching exercises such as yoga and Pilates are gentle yet effective methods of exercise which train and relax the mind as well as the body, and can be adapted for pregnant women who want to maintain their fitness in a way that is safe.
- Strengthen your pelvic floor, abdominal muscles and back: Being strong in these key areas will decrease your chances of having problems such as back pain and bladder issues both before and after birth.
- Improve your balance: Pregnancy causes major changes to your body which can impact your sense of balance and coordination. By strengthening your core with Pilates, walking and moving around should be easier, and you will have less trouble as your bump grows.
- Get baby in the right position for birth: In your Pilates classes, lots of the movements require you to support yourself using your hands and knees. Not only does this take the strain off your spine, but it has also been known to help unborn babies get into the correct position for birth.
There are many ways you can practice Pilates as a mum-to-be. For instance, there are many pregnancy Pilates videos you can watch on YouTube that show you how to exercise safely. This means that you can exercise in the comfort of your own home – and it’s completely free!
However, exercising during pregnancy always comes with a warning, so be sure to seek medical advice before you go ahead with this.
If you would prefer to be instructed by a professional who has experience teaching expectant mothers, you will probably be able to find Pilates classes specifically for pregnant women at your local gym or Pilates studio. If there are no classes near you, there is always the option of attending a regular Pilates class and informing the teacher that you are pregnant. However, make sure that there is an instructor who can make adjustments for you beforehand.
Pilates at Home
Although many Pilates exercises involve bulky, specialised equipment such as the Pilates reformer, it is also possible to complete a Pilates routine using your bodyweight alone to provide resistance – all you need is a Pilates mat!
So, what kind of Pilates workouts can you do at home without an instructor?
If you’re not an expert on Pilates, it can be helpful to seek advice before attempting to carry out your own Pilates session at home. Such advice can be sought from your Pilates teacher, the internet, or even Pilates apps that can guide you through a routine.
The NHS website even has a 45-minute Pilates workout for complete beginners that you can follow!
If you’re looking for information on specific movements to perform at home, here are two common Pilates exercises that you can do using exercise mats:
- Glute Bridge
This is a simple exercise which works on the buttocks.
Start by laying on your back with your arms by your side with the palms of your hands on the ground. Bend your knees so that the soles of your feet are flat on the floor and hip-width apart. Next, push your pelvis up so that your back is straight and in-line with your thighs. Return to your original position in a controlled way, then repeat this movement for a total of fifteen reps.
- Side-Lying Hip Abduction
This exercise targets the inner hips and improves core strength. Since it is performed while laying on your side, it is perfectly safe for pregnant women to do!
Begin laying on your side. Support your head with your hand, resting your elbow on the mat. Your shoulders should be in-line with each other so that your spine is straight. Keeping both legs straight and your body still, lift the top leg towards the ceiling then slowly bring it back down. Repeat this on each side up to ten times.
Many people believe Pilates to simply be a more dynamic version of yoga, however, there is another major difference between the two exercise methods: equipment.
Although both yoga and Pilates can be performed with or without equipment, there are several pieces of equipment which are essential to Pilates movements, whereas, in yoga, equipment is mainly used in order to make certain exercises easier or more effective.
- Pilates Cadillac
This is a very large and very specific piece of apparatus which was designed by Joseph Pilates to help people exercise their bodies in a way that promotes whole-body health and wellness by allowing them to work almost every part of the body.
- Pilates Resistance Ring
The resistance ring, also known as the ‘magic circle’, is a far simpler piece of Pilates apparatus than the Pilates Cadillac.
Just as it sounds, this piece of equipment is a ring which is designed to help people find their centre and provide resistance during movements to build strength.
Although this is most often found in Pilates studios, its size and price mean that you can have one of your own at home, too.
I found all this equipment and some great yogis at the studio of yoga near me!