Thinking of trying Pilates? There is a ton of talk out there about this magical practice – and what it can and can’t do. Will it make you taller? Is it like yoga? Is it mostly stretching? Let’s break down the talk and get to the truth.
Myth 1: Pilates is for Women only.
I hear this constantly. Let’s set the record straight – Joseph Pilates (a man) initially created the workout for men (soldiers in fact). Is it grunting, weight lifting or Crossfit? No. Is it strength combined with stretch? Yes. The act of stretching doesn’t appeal to as many men as women, and therefore more women tend to practice than men. But, it is a full body workout. Just about every pro athlete practices Pilates. If that isn’t masculine enough for you, I don’t know what is.
Myth 2: Pilates Is a Good Way to Lose Weight.
No Pilates studio has ever hosted the Biggest Loser competition. That’s because it’s not interval training, cardio or heavy weight lifting – which is more widely associated with weight loss. Pilates will create muscle tone. And lean muscle burns calories during rest, so truly it can help you shed some unwanted pounds. Not a lot, but some. Pilates does create a toning effect. The combination of stretch and strength elongates the muscles – making them toned, pliable and resistant to injury. Plus, the improvements to posture visually improve your body shape. Translation: Pilates creates muscle tone, helps whittle your middle (a little bit), improves posture, prevents injury and keeps you looking and feeling long and lean.
Myth 3: Pilates is just like Yoga.
Pilates and Yoga are like cousins. They’re part of the same family, but they are quite different. Both are mind-body exercise practices, meaning they focus on breath work and movement with purpose. (Most well executed exercises should be with purpose also, but what I mean is that there is a lot of focus on recruiting the proper muscles, positioning your posture in a specific way, breathing with exertions, etc) However, that’s about where the similarities end. There are so many different flavors of yoga that you’re getting something quite different when you try different styles – Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Yin are just a few – and they are quite different from one another. With Pilates, you will see a consistent thread among all teachers and classes. Furthermore, when you apply the apparatus to your Pilates practice, you conjure a full body, strength-based workout. Great for osteoporosis prevention and bone density building, the Pilates springs create a weight lifting equivalent that don’t tear muscles.
Myth 4: Pilates Makes you Taller.
Total fabrication. Pilates instructors aren’t magicians! The apparatus have a traction effect, which gently pull the vertebrae apart, releasing any compression placed upon the discs. The disc compression is what makes a spine “shrink” or contributes towards “slump” posture. When you alleviate this compression, you are able to stand as tall as you were born to stand! For many with poor posture, continued Pilates practice will make you look taller. For everyone else, you will certainly feel taller, but the measuring tape likely won’t change.
Myth 5: Pilates is only for your Abs.
I certainly make the joke that “Pilates” must translate into abdominals in some language, but it is a full body workout. Mat repertoire is far more core-centric than the apparatus, mostly because it’s hard to challenge your appendages without the use of props, i.e. free weights, the ring of fun, etc. The apparatus are loaded with springs and make for a great well-rounded workout for your whole body. The core (abs, back, inner thighs) will stabilize you in every movement, so yes, it is always a core workout. But thanks to the springs, the apparatus will challenge your shoulders, arms, legs and any other part you can think of!
In summary, Pilates is an amazing workout. You can do it anywhere (Pilates mat repertoire) or if you have access to a full studio, it’s even better. The mindful movement of this technique will build strength and flexibility. The main benefits from regular Pilates practice are reduced / avoid chronic pain, increased core strength, improved posture, more flexibility and strength. If these are the goals you’re after, Pilates is for you. And that’s the truth.