Pilates: A Core Strengthening Exercise Technique

What is Pilates?

Pilates is an exercise technique which is designed to strengthen, elongate and restore the body's balance. Pilates is based on the anatomical interpretation of the body's skeletal and muscular systems. Each client gets a comprehensive exercise program designed by his/her Pilate's instructor. The Pilates classes concentrate on particular areas separately along with exercises that incorporate the entire body to restore and re-train it to optimum skeletal and muscular function. Pilates is differentiated from other forms of exercise by this holistic approach. Many therapists such as chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists and general practitioners endorse Pilates as one of the best and safest methods of exercise today. Pilates is beneficial for almost everyone irrespective of an individual's age and fitness level.

Benefits of Pilates and How it can Help Overcome Back Pain

What are the Benefits of Pilates?

According to Joseph Pilates, "Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. In order to achieve happiness, it is imperative to gain mastery of your body. If at the age of 30 you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If at 60 you are supple and strong then you are young."

Following are the Benefits of Pilates:

Benefits of Pilates in Improving the General Fitness Level

  • Pilates is beneficial in improving flexibility and mobility of the spine.
  • Increases muscle tone and flexibility.
  • Posture enhancement is one another benefit of pilates.
  • Helps in increasing the stability of the shoulders and pelvis.
  • Encourages effective and supportive core.
  • Supplements training for athletes.
  • Pilates improves mobility and support from the surrounding musculature thereby promoting the health of joints.

Benefits of Pilates on Other Conditions

  • Pilates helps in physical rehabilitation.
  • Pilates is beneficial in preventing injury.
  • Helps in improving balance and coordination, especially for the elderly.
  • Pilates acts as a safe and excellent type of exercise for ante and post-natal women.
  • Helps in conserving and improving bone density.
  • Provides relief from aches and pains.
  • Pilates improves circulation and increases the efficiency and function of the lungs.
  • It acts as a safe and beneficial form of exercise for an extensive range of medical conditions such as osteoporosis, scoliosis, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

General Well-being Benefits of Pilates

  • Reduces stress and tension and promotes a sense of well-being.
  • Makes you look and feel better.
  • Combines mind, body and spirit.
  • Enhances quality of life.
  • Increases awareness of the body.

How Pilates Can Help Overcome Back Pain?

Pilates is a core strengthening exercise technique.

The foundation of Pilates exercise is the Core Strength. The deep, internal muscles of the abdomen and back are known as the core muscles. The core muscles are trained in Pilates to be strong and efficient in doing their job, as a result of which they work in harmony with the superficial muscles of the trunk in order to support the spine and its movement. As the core strength is developed, so is the stability throughout the entire torso. This is one of the reasons why Pilates help in overcoming back pain. If the trunk is properly stabilized, then the pressure on the back is relieved thereby resulting in free and efficient movement of the body.

The Six Principles of Pilates

  1. Centering
  2. Control
  3. Flow
  4. Breath
  5. Precision
  6. Concentration

The above six principles of Pilates are important elements in conducting a high quality Pilates workout. The six Pilates principles along with torso stability and core strength set the Pilates method apart from other types of exercise such as weight lifting or aerobics.

Equipment for Pilates

Exercises of Pilates are done either on floor or on a mat. Pilates exercise equipment and mat work is developed by Joseph Pilates. The workout equipment used in Pilates commonly utilizes pulleys and resistance from the participant's own body weight on the machine and categorized stages of springs. One of the best pieces of resistance equipment is "The Reformer." This machine helps in giving you a well regulated exercise resistance which helps in improving your body alignment, flexibility and core strength.

Equipment for Pilates

Reformer Pilates Equipment

The fundamental basis of the reformer equipment is pushing or pulling your body on the carriage against the resistance given by the springs and your own body weight. Some reformers are made of metal and some are made of wood. They may also have ropes/leather straps with it. The basic components of a Pilates reformer machine include:

  • A foot-bar, which you can adjust according to the desired height. You can take the help of your instructor to decide which height is best suitable for you.
  • Springs: There are springs present in reformer, which give you an additional resistance. Your own body weight provides you with the rest of the resistance. The springs are arranged in different colors according to the degree of resistance they provide. Commonly, the green color indicates the lightest resistance followed by blue, then yellow. Red colored spring gives you the highest resistance.
  • Carriage: The region where you lie down or place your body is known as the carriage. This can be moved by pulling the ropes or straps or by pushing against the foot bar. The carriage slides back and forth depending on your effort and the degree of resistance by the springs. You can do exercises on the reformer in various positions such as sitting, lying down, standing or kneeling on the carriage.
  • Headrest: The headrest is for providing support to your head. According to your preference and comfort level, you can keep it completely down or propped up.
  • Shoulder Blocks: The shoulder blocks present in the reformer help in keeping your body stable while you are pushing or pulling the carriage. Shoulder blocks can also be used as props for the hands, knees and feet.
  • Straps: These are attached to the pulleys with handles at their ends so you can grasp it when pulling or pushing the carriage.

Mat Pilates

This is simply where the pilates are done on an exercise mat using your own body for resistance instead of a reformer machine. Pilates mats are more thicker, cushioned or padded than the regular exercise mats. They can stretch to accommodate you entire body's length. You can also use balls, bands and resistance rings when doing mat pilates.

Breathing in Mat Pilates

Focus on the breathing is important in mat pilates. Breathing from the belly is needed here instead of breathing from chest. When inhaling, your ribs expand and your lungs fill with air. When exhaling, there is contraction of your ribs. This breathing technique helps in stabilizing your spine and gives your abdominals are good workout.

Exercises in Mat Pilates

Mat Pilates exercises concentrate on strengthening your muscles present in the back, abdomen and hips. You need to keep your torso stabilized and concentrate on keeping your abdominals contracted while doing pilates exercises. You can later on perform advanced pilates exercises using other pilates equipment like barrels, cadillac and reformer.

So, what are you waiting for? Go join the nearest pilates exercise classes or you can start doing simple basic pilates exercises at home with the help of introductory DVDs on mat pilates to gain that fabulous body, strength and stamina which you have always wanted.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 10, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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