What Does Pilates Do For You?
Why You — Yes, You — and Everyone Else Need to Be Doing Pilates
There are so many workouts we love, but one in particular offers a bevy of benefits that are absolutely invaluable: Pilates. Honestly, everyone can benefit from doing it, and we're not exaggerating. Addicted to group fitness? This needs to be part of your routine. Never had a personal training session? Get to a Pilates studio. Injury? Jump on that reformer.
While group fitness is awesome (it's encouraging, welcoming, inspiring, and seriously fun!), more often than not, a group fitness class doesn't take the time to teach you proper form and functional movement in necessary depth, leaving you potentially injury-prone. A Pilates class is the exception to that rule, rendering it the necessary addition to your weekly routine.
Let's take a look at what makes this workout so special.
It's an All-in-One Package
In Pilates, what you're paying for is far more than just a great workout for 40 to 60 minutes; you're getting a bit of physical therapy and a whole lot of education on how to properly move your body well beyond the carriage, chair, and box.
While I still love my group fitness classes, more than ever I've come to recognize the importance of supplementing my boot-camp-and-cycling routine with reformer Pilates — the ultimate hybrid of low-impact exercise, strength training, physical therapy, and physical education.
And you're still getting a kickass workout! "Some folks think that Pilates is an 'easy' workout because it can be easy on your joints," said Cricket Wardein, founder of Mighty Pilates. But it's far from the case. "[These classes are] intense and focus on building long, lean muscles and a strong core."
You Get More Specialized Attention Than You Would in Most Other Group Fitness Classes
Pilates is still a group fitness class, but you actually get specialized attention in Pilates that you don't normally see in other sessions.
Similar to personal training, if you have an instructor who knows their stuff, you're not only getting an excellent strength-training session, but you'll be learning a better mind-body connection that you can take with you into other workouts. "Pilates is about gaining an awareness of your alignment while creating a balanced muscular structure," said Rachel Reis, a Balanced Body Pilates trainer at EHS Pilates in San Francisco. "It is also about connecting your breath to movement and activating your core, which can translate to any sport or movement-based practice."
"You'll not only be getting an excellent strength-training session, but you'll be learning a better mind-body connection that you can take with you into other workouts."
Diana Guerci, Pilates instructor at Mighty Pilates, agreed but noted it's not just limited to workouts and sports. "The cues that your teacher is giving you during a Pilates exercise are also cues that you should bring with you in your day-to-day life — from driving to washing the dishes to walking to holding your kid, etc."
You'll Learn a Lot About Your Body
That breath-to-movement idea is just one part of the body awareness you'll gain in Pilates classes. You'll also probably pick up a few anatomy terms that'll help you better understand how your body moves and functions ("cervical spine" and "transverse abdominis" are sure to impress at parties).
The body awareness you gain from a class like this is "the key" to staying safe in all other workouts, according to injury prevention expert and personal trainer Liz Letchford, MS, ATC. In her one-on-one sessions, Liz says, "The first thing I teach my clients is postural awareness." A Pilates session creates space for the instructor to teach "proper body position while guiding you on what sensations you should be feeling in each exercise and position," which can bridge the gap between group fitness and personal training. Liz also noted she is "a huge fan of Pilates's emphasis on core stability and control," which impacts all other areas of functional movement.
During a recent reformer class I took with Diana, I immediately noticed her knowledge of the human body; instead of calling out generic cues like "Keep going!" or "Go faster!", Diana coached with an educational style. "Articulate your thoracic and lumbar spine" and "You should feel this in your postural muscles" were a few standouts from class — not to mention how she quickly picked up on my naturally hyperextended knees and gave personalized tips and adjustments on how to protect my vulnerable, injury-prone joints. In my experience, this doesn't happen in your average group fitness class.
Pilates (Typically) Offers All-Star Trainers
Finding an excellent coach can be tough; while every studio is different, for the most part, Pilates instructors are able to provide expert-level advice because of their serious education — one that doesn't just end once a certificate is issued. "We offer ongoing training for our instructors," said Cricket, who referenced Mighty Pilates's advanced Pilates training with expert Courtney Miller. Diana described her own training program experience, which required almost one thousand hours of education. Needless to say, she knows her stuff — and chances are, your local instructor does as well.
It's Ideal For Working Out With an Injury or Special Need
Perhaps you're past the point of injury prevention and you're already injured. This is yet another reason to check out Pilates; it's one of the most modifiable exercises and is adjustable for all types of physical needs, whether it's an injury, a posture issue, or pregnancy. "My background in movement has helped me grasp the interconnectedness of the human body . . . this has helped me work with a variety of bodies with all kinds of history and be able to speak generally in a group class setting to assist and bring something to the table for every student in the class," said Diana (It's true — the aforementioned instance with my hyperextended knees and her eagle-eyed awareness is proof!). "With every Pilates class, we are working on reversing [injury and postural problems], starting from the alignment of your feet to the crown of your head," she said.
Whether you're preventing injury, currently injured, need special attention, or just want to have excellent form and get stronger, Pilates could provide you with priceless, absolutely essential tools and benefits. "Pilates is a great foundational practice for other workouts because it is rooted in moving with both precision and concentration," said Katie Warmuth, instructor at Pilates ProWorks. "Every exercise incorporates not just a movement, but a breath and an objective, making you more aware of what muscles you are working and for what benefit. Bringing this kind of mind-body awareness into your other workouts helps you better understand your strengths and weaknesses and modify exercises accordingly to avoid injury."