Pilates: How Mindful Movements Will Transform Your Workout: Part 1
Pilates is a form of resistance training that can and should be integrated into your workout routine!
Pilates traditionally uses springs and body weight for resistance, but many people don’t realize Joe Pilates (the method’s creator) also used light dumbbells, and was continuously inventing new pieces of equipment! In more recent years, common equipment has expanded to include resistance bands, exercise balls, and yoga blocks.
When it comes down to it, Pilates is a method that teaches individuals how to organize their pelvis and ribcage, in relation to one another, to better manage pressure systems in the body. This is hugely important because this is the position we need to be in to maximize our abdominal and core work, and keep our bodies safe when lifting things (whether that be a barbell OR a two year old!) Anything that helps me to work my abs, hamstrings, and glutes more sounds good to me!
The loading in Pilates, whether coming from weights, springs, etc., is lighter than what you’d use for strength training in a gym setting, where the goal is usually to add more weight. Classical Pilates routines use lower reps for each movement, essentially becoming many sets of similar movements. Each movement in a series builds on the ones before it, and as you break down individual exercises, you see more and more of the same skills and positions across the series.
Joe believed in the mind body connection, and that we should be focused on our movements and moving well as a means to stay healthy and lead happy lives. All of that focus on technique means that Pilates lends itself towards quality execution which makes it dynamite for recognizing where movement capacity is limited, and allowing you to improve that deficiency.
As you gain mastery over the Pilates method, the pace starts to quicken and it’s not unlikely for someone to practice 80+ exercises in one class. This is a large part of why—unless you’re an instructor—you almost always need someone to guide you throughout a one hour routine. This is the part that makes Pilates a bit less accessible and, for some, intimidating. When you’re used to working out and moving through circuits, it can be tough to have to learn such a large amount of new exercises in a short amount of time.
One of the positives is that each of these movements flow one into the next—the "transitions" are exercises too! Think of this like going through a circuit and moving as seamlessly as possible from one exercise to the next. You get no rest in between, and your heart rate stays elevated. (Now it makes sense why we don't use one-rep max level loading in Pilates—you’d never be able to recover and begin the next movement!)
This "movement flow” makes Pilates a great active recovery routine, because you aren’t hitting high threshold muscle fibers, you’re keeping you heart rate elevated (probably in the 110-140 beats per minute range), and you’re working on active stretching, or, what I like to call mobility.
Overall, Pilates' focus on a well-designed flow of sequential movements integrates both resistance training and mobility training into one exercise form. Next week, I get more in depth on why—physiologically—it’s a great workout for you to incorporate into your training.