As most of you know, I’ve been a fitness writer/editor for some time now, and I’ve done tons of workouts. From Barry’s and SoulCycle to the class by Taryn Toomey and kettlebell class to hot yoga and power barre to boxing and TRX and even a class called “headstrong” that’s supposed to challenge your brain as much as your body (it was wild).
And if you’ve spoken to me in the past 18 months, you most likely know that I’m freakin’ OBSESSED with Pilates (related: my wellness gift guide).
With everything I’ve seen, tried, and sweated through, I can hands down claim (in my opinion, that is), that Pilates is THE workout you should be doing. Everyone should do Pilates. always. all the time. forever.
I’ve been on a solid, consistent Pilates routine for over a year and a half now, and am more affirmed than ever that this is the best workout. Here’s why it’s great, and what else you need to know.
benefits of pilates
Pilates is like the perfect combination of body-sculpting, physical therapy, and recovery.
- Strong core. This workout is ALL. ABOUT. THE CORE. The principles of Pilates (the original ones, at least) are concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing — and a lot of this comes back to the core (the center of the body). A strong midsection provides so much strength for the rest of the body — and you’re going to get some crazy abs (related: my ab “secrets”). Strong, developed abs also help protect the back, which leads me to…
- Healthy spine. The literal backbone of this workout is spinal health. One of Joseph Pilates’ famous quotes: “You’re only as old as your spine.” When I got in a car accident and injured my thoracic spine, it was Pilates that not only provided intense pain relief, but helped me heal and protect from future injury.
- Physical therapy/injury recovery. Speaking of which, many physical therapists are also Pilates certified because it works as a form of PT for many types of injuries. This was the only type of workout I was able to do while I recovered from my spinal sprain.
- Injury prevention. As mentioned above, Pilates can help prevent injury by creating healthier movement patterns and strengthening weakened muscles to lessen the impact on joints and the overcompensation of other muscle groups.
- Low impact. Pilates is an ass-kicking workout, but won’t kick your joints asses… if that’s a thing. Do joints have asses? Anyway. The modalities of Pilates allow you to get a seriously strengthening workout (and a cardio workout, if that’s what you want!) with zero gravity thanks to the reformer. This means you’re not beating up your body like you would be in a plyometric-heavy class or on a run.
- Low injury risk. Because Pilates classes are small (and often one-on-one), there’s less chance of hurting yourself because you’ll be carefully supervised by a trainer. Compare this to your class-of-sixty bootcamp in which you’re getting zero feedback on your form — it’s a night and day experience when it comes to injury risk.
- Breath work and stress reduction. One of those original core tenets of the practice is breathing; every movement is connected to an inhale or an exhale, just like it is with yoga. This style of concentrated, conscious breathwork helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you reduce stress and anxiety. Mental health benefits!
- Functional movement. Pilates helps you with your form, posture, stride, and way you move your body. You’ll create healthier movement patterns that help in unimaginable ways. The way you walk and stand can impact your entire posture and alignment, creating pain and dysfunction with even the slightest misalignment. By going to square 1 and ensuring you’re moving the right way, you’re not only preventing pain down the line, but giving yourself a healthier body every single day.
- Weight loss and muscle sculpting. And in terms of aesthetics? Pilates at one point was for dancers to rehab injury; they committed to the workout because it helped their bodies stay strong, and in turn they had long and lean physiques. Everyone else caught on to their workout and decided they wanted to sculpt and get lean, too.
styles of pilates
There are so many tools and apparatuses that can seem intimidating at first, but they’re so fun once you get acquainted. It’s amazing how much you can do with these, and how your workout constantly feels new and different.
- Reformer. The classical reformer has taken on many shapes and forms today. A reformer (pictured in the image at the top with the bright blue exercise balls) has a carriage, a footbar, springs, and often straps. This is one of the main machines and methods of Pilates (and my favorite type of group class).
- Mat. Mat Pilates is a machine-free class, typically concentrated on ab exercises and breathwork. This class format (usually) is based on Joseph Pilates’ original workouts.
- Chair. I love a chair class! This is a smaller apparatus, but allows you to get a full-body workout. It has a seat, pedal, and springs.
- Multi-apparatus. Some classes and many private sessions are mixed format, and use more than one machine or apparatus, including the cadillac (the machine I’m hanging from, above). This challenges your body in all sorts of ways and keeps the workout fresh.
- Private. The most expensive but most incredible and customized workout you can get. Private sessions usually cost around $100 for an hour, and if it’s within your means, I’d STRONGLY recommend getting at least one session a month. If you’re asking “Why is it so expensive?” you have to know that it’s not a markup — it’s honestly quite justified. For starters, your instructor didn’t get certified online; it takes upwards of 500 hours, thousands of dollars, and several exams to become a Pilates instructor. Secondly, the equipment is expensive. And third, instead of packing a class with 60 people (as mentioned above), this is one-on-one. Obviously.
- Megaformer (not actually pilates). Megaformer is often called Pilates… it’s Pilates inspired, but a completely different workout. It’s much heavier, much faster paced, and not rooted in the same principles. Sebastien Lagree developed this machine and method to be a fusion of Pilates and bodybuilding.
places I love
If you’re in California (particularly San Diego) I have plenty of recommendations for you!
- SAN DIEGO
- OC, LA, SF
And there it is: my obsession with Pilates and a basic explainer. Any more questions? Need more pointers? Let me know in the comments or DM me on Instagram at @dommymichelle.