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What is the Pilates Method?

Updated on August 1, 2012

Pilates Method


Pilates Fitness Program

Pilates is a fitness program developed during the first half of the twentieth century by Joseph PIlates. He termed this exercise training method "Contrology." He believed that by controlling their mind, anyone can control their muscles. The exercise routines practiced during a Pilates session, can help gain muscle strenght and flexibility, body posture and balance, moreover, it can help injured individuals at their rehabiliattion process after an accident.

The basic idea behind PIlates is that anyone can improve their health by exercising without the inconvenience of strenous, debilitating, exercise practices, and by using the exercising machinery developed by Joseph Pilates. According to Joseph Pilates, "You will feel better in 10 sessions, look better in 20 sessions, and have a completely new body in 30 sessions."

The six basic principles of Pilates method, some of which were not stablished by Joseph Pilates himself, are six: concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing.

Concentration: the best achievements are acquired when you have total control of what you´re doing in order to obtain the maximum benefits.

Control: you have to be in control of every muscle movement; every muscle movement must be done in a controlled combination with the apparatus which is assisting you at the achievement your goals.

Center: exercises should begin in the central part of the body (powerhouse) in the area which comprises the lower ribs, abdomen, and inner thighs.

flow: the exercises should follow a natural flow which has to lead to a suitable transition between each exercise.

Presicion: in Pilates, there is a precise moment for each movement, and the movements should follow a trajectory for each part of the body.

Breathing: it´s important to inhale and exhale adequately during a Pilates session, as it is essential to oxygenize every cell in your body; this can enhance the performance of your PIlates session.

Pilates Cadillac


Special Apparatuses for the Bedridden

As a child, Joseph Pilates suffered from several ailments which could have influenced him in the development of his successful trajectory as a physical fitness instructor. During his youthful early years, Joseph Pilates had the curiosity to study various eastern philosophies, including Yoga, martial arts, and Budhism which he combined with Western physical practices, such as boxing, bodybuilding, and gymnastics. At a very young age he had attained an sculptural body and was in high demand by the body building magazines of his time.

He moved from Germany to England where he worked as a circus performer, boxer, and self-defense instructor. After the outbreak of WW1, he was captured and incarcerated in Lancaster England. It was here where he began to apply his fitness method, which he called "contrology," by devising rehabilitation equipment from the springs of beds for the physically impaired. Many people benefited from the great array of apparatus that Joseph created specially for them. One of the apparatus that can easily be related to the ones he created for them is the "Pilates Cadillac" which resembles a bed.

Pilates Equipment


Various Types of Exercise Equipment

Pilates method develops its fitness program by implementing the set of exercises in two different ways. One way to achieve this is by performing floor exercises using a mat, and the other is by using the various types of equipment designed by Joseph Pilates which assist at complementing the mat work. Each apparatus has been designed for a given set of exercises. Most of these apparatus use springs to help gain resistance and the more the spring is stretched, the more resistance is achieved.

One of the most widely used and considered to be the central piece of equipment in Pilates method if the "Pilates Reformer." The Pilates Reformer is the most commonly used piece of exercise equipment by both men and women. The Pilates Reformer consists of a sliding platform with springs on one end, and it can be moved in two ways: By pulling on ropes or pushing off with your feet.

Other pieces of exercise equipment in Pilates method include the Pilates Cadilac, Pilates Barrel, Pilates Chair, Pilates Circle, Pilates Spine Corrector, Pilates Tower, Pilates Physio Ball, and many others. Other types of equipment are used in modern Pilates practices, including rotating disks, exercise balls, and small weighted balls. Some apparatuses have been adapted to be used by physically impaired people.

Classical and Modern Approach

In the present, Pilates is found in two different modalities: Classical Pilates and Contemporary Pilates. Those who practice classical PIlates try to stay as close as possible to the original method designed by Joseph Pilates; however, those who have adapted a more modern approach of the method have implemented variations according to specific people´s needs.


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