8 Myths about Pilates—Debunked!

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8 Myths about Pilates—Debunked!

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When I tell people I’m a Pilates instructor, I get mixed reactions. Some gush about how much they love the practice, and how it’s helped realign their bodies. Others aren’t as familiar with Pilates, and many have misconceptions. Here are 8 of the most common myths—debunked!

1. Pilates is only for women Pilates was created by Joe Pilates, a German national living in Britain during World War I. He developed the practice of using the mind to control muscles, initially calling it “Contrology,” while exercising with fellow Germans on the Isle of Man. Pilates is for men and women, as the practice focuses on core muscles and building balance throughout the body to provide support for the spine and joints.

2. Pilates goes really slow The speed or pace at which Pilates is practiced can vary based on the intensity of the work. Specificity is lost when certain movements are completed fast—leaving all the work to larger, primary muscle groups. Moving at a slower pace often intensifies the work by pinpointing smaller muscles and perfecting form. Once you perfect your form then you can increase the speed, if needed, to further challenge your body.

3. Pilates is only for ballerinas Dancers took to Joe Pilates when he first arrived in the U.S., as his exercise style became known for improving flexibility, stamina, and strength. While Pilates is still popular in the dance community, other types of athletes have added the practice to their routines as well. Pilates is so versatile, its programs can be tailored to your individual needs. For that reason,Pilates is also a great compliment to physical therapy. It can help accelerate rehabilitation and progress, since the low impact movements can range in difficulty and resistance.

4. Pilates is for old people False! Often someone finds their way to Pilates after an injury, or when the fitness routine that worked in the past no longer fits their abilities. But that doesn’t mean Pilates is just for seniors. Pilates helps with functional movements and moves the body in all planes of motion, allowing you to stay mobile and fit as you age. The younger you are when you start the better off you will be—and you may even be able to continue your favorite activities longer.

5. I’m not flexible—I won’t be any good at it It can be challenging to attempt to do things you aren’t good at—but why not get better? Having a limited range of motion in any joint can be uncomfortable, and it could lead to injury because forcing our other joints to work harder to compensate. With the help of Pilates, your flexibility can only improve.

6. Pilates is easy I’ve had friends and clients tell me the Pilates classes they tried at the gym or on a DVD at home were super easy. Friends, you probably weren’t doing it right. Pilates works to improve the strength of your smaller, stabilizing muscles and when you aren’t in the correct positions those muscles may not be working to their maximum potential—the big muscles you work more often begin to take over. To get the most out of Pilates, it’s important to work with good form, and to work with control and specificity of the movements. Take a one-on-one session or a small group class to get the corrections you need. It won’t be so easy any more and your hard work will pay off!

7. Pilates equipment is expensive You don’t need to buy a reformer to get the most out of your Pilates practice. Pilates can be done without any equipment, and a lot of the smaller tools are very affordable. A magic circle, foam roller, Fletcher Towel, and small weighted balls will challenge your Pilates workouts without breaking the bank.

8. Pilates and Yoga are the same Pilates and Yoga have some similarities, but they are very different. Yoga is an ancient practice with roots in meditation, relaxation, and reflection, and most forms of yoga encourage your body to relax and flow freely through postures. Pilates, on the other had, is relatively new—it was created in the 1920s, and the technique emphasizes structure and attention to detail, ensuring small muscles are engaged. While different, the two practices complement each other nicely. You can use yoga to improve your flexibility to deepen your range of motion for Pilates, and Pilates will improve your core strength to increase your endurance for Yoga.

Have you tried Pilates yet—how was it? If you’ve haven’t, what’s holding you back? Tell us in the comments below!

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  • wheird

    How about the myth that Pilates lengthens the muscles and gives them a sleek appearance?

    • usmcmp

      I would say this is the MOST common myth and it wasn’t addressed. Could we please have this point added to the post. Muscle length is finite. You can only stretch it so far before it tears.

      • wheird

        You also cannot change its attachment point of tendons, making it impossible anyway.

    • AJ

      Because they know saying things like that will make it appeal to women.

    • bri fox

      I have never heard of myths 1-7. #10 is missing, listed above. The myth that yoga and pilates lengthen your muscles to give you a leaner look is perpetuated all over MFP.

  • wheird

    However, I would like to say that I find nothing wrong with Pilates. And if it does indeed engage the stabilizer muscles, it may have its place for people like powerlifters and bodybuilders.

  • EiramAnna GB

    The first time i tried pilates was about 8 years ago, it helped toning my abs, arms and legs. Upto this time i still incorporate Pilates in my gym workout, I feel good after doing it.

  • JofJLTNCB6

    Will Pilates make me look like a dancer?

  • Anonymous

    Complement. Not compliment.

    That feels better lol. Glad to get it out there

  • chelsea

    I’ve been doing pilates regularly for about 6 years now, and it has dramatically changed my body alignment and posture. It has really helped tone my body, and completely eradicated all of my lower back pain. I’ve recently taken up karate as well and am progressing pretty quickly, which I attribute to the increased body awareness I’ve gained through the practice. I hope to keep it up my entire life! Side note: I made such gains through it that my husband started doing it too and loves it 🙂

  • susieq

    I have tried in vain to find an affordable class around here. There are tons of yoga classes but the Pilates all seem to require first a private meeting and evaluation as well as instruction on the Pilates machines in the studios and then the classes are expensive…kching, kching. I tried DVDs but they just honestly seem like calisthenic recordings… would like to try a real class sometime, lol

  • helen

    finny, I have never been because I thought it was too hard! I have bilateral hip replacement and one knee replacement (the other on the way)- so I feared pilates…

    • Olympia

      I am surprised that they didn’t suggest Pilates as part of your recovery program. If you go through a physiotherapist they should pick the right exercises for you. They will consider your hip and knee replacement. See your doctor first

    • KateBruin

      I took private reformer classes covered by insurance at a Pilates studio/physical therapy office after I had a two level spinal fusion. I found it more effective than water PT. Depending on where you live you might have access to a PT/Pilates studio.

  • Olympia

    I have always done Pilates on and off, but now for over a year I have been doing Pilates twice a week and Yoga once a week. Once a week I do floor Pilates and once a week I use the reformer. Since I have been doing them, my body alignment and posture has improved, even my doctors who measured me said I have grown one inch and I am 44years old. I am trying to lose weight and now that both cardio and toning is very important to take part in. I am not a Gym type of person and just love what Pilates have to offer. Everyone is different, their body is different and they need to do exercise that they feel comfortable with to make a life time commitment. There are myths with nearly everything in life, you just need to choose what suits you.

  • keitntnsm

    I would like to get involved with Pilates. I am 68 with two total knee replacements and need to learn how to modify the moves to accomodate the knees.