We’ve nearly reached the 100-year anniversary since the iconic founder of Pilates, Joseph Pilates (yes, it’s his real name), set up his first studio in New York. Since then, the style of movement has exploded onto the fitness scene, adored by the likes of everyone from A-grade celebs, to the buffest of bodybuilders to your average gym-goer.
Hailed as a trendy, core crunching and ever-evolving form of exercise with thousands of studios popping up worldwide, Pilates is popular for its low-impact style of workout, continuously raising the bar with reformer beds and hot Pilates now being thrown into the mix.
Mind you, Pilates has certainly not progressed without leaving a trail of pesky myths in its path, and FS8 Senior Athletics Programmer, Georgie Hallett is here to break them down one at a time.
“Pilates is for females only”
The Pilates (and fitness) industry can seem intimidating, we hear you. Pilates and its unique style of movement is often associated with a very feminine energy, but its origins are in fact deeply rooted in masculinity. Little do people know, Pilates was in fact founded by a man, Joseph Pilates and was originally designed during WW1 when Joseph began experimenting with his Pilates reformer bed on soldiers1. Joseph opened his first studio in New York opposite a ballet school, which is where it obtained its dance influence and moved into the physiotherapy and rehabilitation scene.
Georgie has recognised a shift in the industry from when she first started out, when doing Pilates was taboo for men. Today, Georgie has noticed far more men engaging in Pilates due to their conscientious nature around injury prevention and rehabilitation, and the exercises on offer being tailored for all bodies, regardless of age, gender and physical capability.
“Pilates is just rehab, it’s clinical”
You might look at Pilates and think it seems easy, or targeted purely to those recovering from some god-awful injury. This largely stems from the stigma associated with low-impact exercises being “gentle”, with little exertion or effort required. Do not be fooled, Pilates is not for the faint hearted.
With the likes of Tiger Woods, Lebron James2, and FS8 Ambassador, Mick Fanning swearing by Pilates, this form of exercise is just as likely, if not more likely to make you work up a sweat than any old weights session in the corner of the gym. Pilates is demanding, working each part of the body (some parts you might not even know existed) in its own unique way, and people can expect to see significant changes in their body, both in appearance and in strength, in a matter of months.
In saying this, Pilates is incredible for those suffering from injuries. For example, according to Georgie the low-impact nature of reformer Pilates allows for someone suffering from osteoporosis to gain the same benefits of jumping from laying down, only that the impact is the resistance of the spring as opposed to gravity.
“I don’t have time to do Pilates instead of my normal workout”
Many people believe that Pilates is just an extra stretching class to add to your already existing gym routine, yet this is far from the purpose it was designed for. Pilates is not a substitute or an add on. Pilates is its own style of workout where you can achieve everything that you would normally achieve if you went to the gym 3–4 times a week.
The low-impact style of Pilates allows you to gain the benefits from a resistance-based workout without having to rely on heavy bars on your back at the gym. All of the exercises are completed in a supported and guided way, which takes away the fear people have of working out.
“I don’t have a strong core, I can’t do Pilates”
According to Georgie, the core is the most overlooked group of muscles in the body, or rather a group of muscles people don’t know how to use. Pilates is very much core-centric, with the exercises targeting your trunk, otherwise known as the “powerhouse” of your body.
Arms and legs are purely accessories in Pilates and the trunk of the body is what sets us up for success. Doing crunches at the gym is not really working your core; it is working your six pack muscles and will make you look toned, but it is not actually making you stronger or giving you the foundations to control your body and keep it in a place to create longevity of movement as you get older.
“Pilates will give you the core muscles needed to function optimally not just in exercise, but in all aspects of life. It also works to prevent injury by giving you a strong basis of stability and balance, and encourages your pelvis, lower back, hips and lower abdomen to work in harmony. A key part of FS8 is concentrating on what the focus is for each workout and where the trainer needs to guide people; it is about being intelligent with the way we program the sessions,” said Georgie.
“Pilates is the same as Yoga, it’s just meditating”
It’s easy for people to pile Yoga and Pilates into the same box – they’re both low-impact, they’re both practiced on a mat and they both have an element that focuses on breath, we get it. However, the foundations of Yoga and Pilates are inherently diverse.
Yoga has religious and spiritual roots, dating back to Hindu practices over 4,000 years ago. It focuses on connecting with the spirit, using movement to tap into flow and Universal energy, which is why it is often linked to meditation3. Pilates on the other hand is purely scientific with absolutely no association to religion and spirituality, developed in the 1920’s4. Its essence lies in relaxation and strengthening the muscles, and is especially beneficial for the treatment and prevention of injuries and helping improve posture and core.
“Pilates is too complicated, there are too many things for me to think about”
With reformer beds and resistance bands and a whole lot of intricate equipment being added into the Pilates equation, many first-timers are scared, and we don’t blame them. While machines can be used to enhance the practice, all of the basic movements can simply be performed on a mat.
What’s more, the trainers are present in the class to guide everyone from the most experienced Pilates-goers to amateurs on how to perform each exercise.
“At FS8, the 10 TV’s per studio display exercise demos and instructions, making it easy for every member to follow along, as well as the trainers who are walking around to help each member with their form. The TV’s are all synced to match the daily class schedules and workouts, so you can’t miss a beat,” said Georgie.