When we think of exercise we often think of all-out, high intensity running, cycling or sports and aerobics. But it might surprise you to learn that one of the most effective ways to safely condition your body is by practicing Pilates.
The method behind Pilates has been around for decades. It was originally used for dancers to strengthen their bodies without risking injuries or building bulk in the muscle. Pilates puts emphasis on alignment, breathing and flow of movement to improve flexibility, coordination and balance, build core strength and develop control and endurance in the body.
Taking a regular class will benefit almost everyone, from a complete beginner to the very advanced. But it’s particularly beneficial for women – why? Well let’s just say there are certain preventative benefits… more on that later.
1. BUILD LONG AND LEAN MUSCLES
Pilates is great for increasing your strength without getting an increase in muscle size. The exercises focus on your posture and alignment and when performing these movements correctly, it will result in a nicely defined body.
2. PREVENT OR BOUNCE BACK FROM INJURY
Many people who decide to try Pilates for the first time do so to help regain strength after injury or as a preventative measure.
Incorporating Pilates into your training program will also get you working on your ‘little’ muscles – the ones that help with balance, core control and stabilize your body.
3. DEVELOP CORE STRENGTH AND STABILITY
Your core is not just your 6-pack ab muscles. It’s your entire mid‑section including your abdominals, obliques, lower back, diaphragm, pelvic floor and more. The best kind of core exercises switch on all of these muscles (like a plank reach) and are not just isolated to the abdominals (like a tummy crunch).
Pilates movements are taught nice and slow until your form is perfected. By learning to keep your spine in the right alignment you will aid your core to work more efficiently.
4. STRENGTHEN THE PELVIC FLOOR
Hate to break it to you ladies, but problems like bladder leakage are the real deal – especially after childbirth. It’s never too late to get into Pilates, but if children are in your future, a regular Pilates practice will help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles in preparation for childbirth.
Although Pilates exercises are low impact it’s always a good idea for new mothers to see a physiotherapist who specializes in post-natal rehabilitation to advise how and when it is safe to return to regular exercise.
5. IMPROVE POSTURE
Posture is often linked to all sorts of problems like back pain and headaches. Having good posture will improve your breathing and oxygenate the body more efficiently.
Pilates will re-teach your body on how to hold itself and begin to minimize the impact of lengthy sitting or staring at your mobile phone.
6. ENHANCE PERFORMANCE
We are at our strongest in a neutral alignment, yet most people are unable to maintain a neutral curve in their lower back. Pilates teaches you how to hold neutral, which can be incredibly beneficial in other areas of your training – particularly to develop good form when lifting weights. For example, dead lifts are one of the most popular strength movements, but can also be the most dangerous if your spine is out of alignment.