Pilates is well known for targeting the core. But it has way more benefits. There is a range of Pilates-based classes — from basic mat to reformer to chair to tower and so on — but at the foundation of them all are a few principles that make for a solid workout and lead to major results.
If you’ve shied away from Pilates, here are nine reasons to sign up for a class now:
1. THE CLASSES ARE SMALL
Pilates originated as more of a one-on-one style of training, and studios today aim to keep that intimacy. “This is not the kind of workout where you can come and hide in the back corner,” says Jenn Seracuse, director of Pilates at FLEX Studios in NYC. “We want to be more hands-on and help people learn about their bodies, not just get abs. A small class guarantees I can get around and help each person at least one time with one exercise.”
2. THERE’S LASER-LIKE ATTENTION TO FORM
Precision and control are two of the major principles of Pilates. “It’s not just about doing the workout — it’s how you do the workout that makes the difference,” Seracuse says. Naturally, the more accurately you perform an exercise, the more you get from it. “The angle of your body in every exercise is what’s going to allow the proper muscles to fire and work effectively and efficiently,” explains SLT lead trainer Tracy Carlinsky.
3. PILATES INSTRUCTORS REALLY KNOW THE BODY
Many Pilates studios hire instructors who have anatomy backgrounds or train their instructors about anatomy. Knowing the three muscles that make up the hamstring, for example, allows them to know what to look for when teaching so they can help each person adjust their form. “Our instructors can quickly scan and see, ‘She needs to get out of her hip,’” Seracuse says.
4. SMALL ADJUSTEMENTS MAKE HUGE DIFFERENCES
Seemingly minor changes in form can make your muscles go from “ho hum” to “holy sh*t!” in Pilates class. Part of this is because we’re working tiny muscles we don’t use much in everyday life. The other part is we have habits built into our bodies. “We naturally default to the place it’s easiest to exist, but that’s not the most efficient way to exist. To be efficient, you have to turn on muscles that weren’t firing,” Seracuse explains. “You may be sitting out of alignment as you are normal,’ so a slight push of the hip down may feel ‘Holy moly!’ but it’s just getting you back into place.”
5. SLOW, CONTROLLED MOVEMENTS EQUAL BEAUCOUP BENEFITS
“We move slowly in every exercise because we’re targeting that slower-twitch muscle fiber,” explains Carlinsky. “When you are moving slowly in both directions of an exercise, you’re forcing the muscles to contract in the shortening and lengthening phase. Keeping muscles under tension for longer like this builds endurance and strength and burns fat.”
6. PILATES-BASED CLASSES WORK MORE THAN JUST YOUR CORE
In machine classes like those that use a Pilates reformer or chair, you work your core — all class long — but you’ll also get a total-body workout. “We focus on maximizing the 50-minute class and trying to target the entire body,” Carlinsky says. “So we may do a leg sequence, but at the same time, your arms are working and your core is working. Every move we do is very functional, lending to more stability for day-to-day activities outside of class.”
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7. PILATES IS EXCELLENT FOR CROSS-TRAINING
No matter if you have a HIIT habit, are serious about indoor cycling, run amok, love lifting — you name it, “Pilates is a great balance to any other type of workout,” says Rachel Piskin, co-founder of Chaise Fitness. “It keeps you body moving, increases flexibility, builds core strength and improves body alignment and posture.” Seracuse adds, “You will only see better results from adding Pilates.”
8. PILATES GIVES YOU REAL-WORLD BENEFITS, TOO
All of this attention to your body helps you better understand how your body functions, how you carry yourself and how much you are using your abs and core in the rest of your movement, Seracuse says. “Once you learn how your abs come into play on the machine, you can tap into that feeling and those muscles anytime and move more functionally,” she explains. Piskin has even had students alleviate low-back pain from taking her classes.
9. PILATES IS HARD!
“People are often surprised at how challenging our workouts are, yet they want to conquer that challenge because it’s not intimidating,” Piskin says. Or, as Seracuse puts it, “We work our booties off!”
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT