Edited by Bob Wells for Bob Wells Fitness
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”
These are the words of Joseph Pilates (1883-1967), the inventor of the Pilates method. He was a man’s man at the forefront of physical culture in the US, and always claimed that he was far ahead of his time. Turns out, he was right: today his method is more popular than ever. What he started in a tiny studio in New York City in the late 1920’s has become a global fitness staple and multi-million dollar industry. Even though Pilates is not a trend of recent years and has been around for almost a century, many people still don’t know exactly what it is and what its benefits are.
Pilates is a method of exercise designed to restore the body’s innate strength, flexibility, and overall movement ability. Simply put, the result is a body that is capable to move effortlessly and without strain through everyday life. In the context of contemporary fitness, Pilates fits in as fundamental and functional strength training and can be your one-stop-shop for exercise, or used to improve your game in any other activity. It works for people from all walks of life – regardless of gender, age, or fitness level.</p
One of the many reasons Pilates is so effective is that it strengthens and stretches the body all at once. By focusing on the portion of movement in which the muscles lengthen against resistance, the muscles become stronger AND more flexible.
Another main benefit is improved alignment and strength of the central body: Any and all Pilates exercises are initiated with a strong awareness of the deeper postural muscles, so that proper alignment can be established and maintained throughout a movement sequence. Good alignment maximizes muscular function and prevents injury, which is why many professional athletes know to incorporate a regular Pilates practice into their training.
However, Pilates is far away from being a “core-only” workout. Just like life, it incorporates your full body – each exercise requires an exact orchestration of effort and exertion all throughout the body, including the brain! With so much to focus on, mindlessness has no place in a Pilates workout. You learn to use your mind to control your body and develop a strong body awareness. The latter might be one of the most important benefits, because it ultimately allows your practice to seep into all your other activities: practicing Pilates simply makes you better at everything you do, from walking down the street to running the marathon.
If none of this sounds like Pilates as you know it, chances are you are yet missing out on a true Pilates experience. Many of the exercises can be performed on a Mat, but a true Pilates practice also involves the use of equipment specifically designed to condition the body, such as the “Reformer”. Check out a fully equipped Pilates studio and see for yourself what Pilates can do for you!