There are six key principles of Pilates: concentration, control, centering, breathing, flow and precision, all of which are developed as skills with regular practice. It was designed as a resistance exercise to promote strength without bulking up.
Pilates focuses on strength, toning, flexibility and great posture with an emphasis on core strength. It works your most powerful, deepest muscle groups: your core, spine, hips and lats, all of which support a strong, elongated body and long, lean, stable musculature.
In short, it’s great for building muscular endurance, core strength and flexibility.
Pilates often requires you to move one body part while keeping others still. Since movement is generated and stabilised by the core, the muscles of your abdomen, back, hips and pelvis gain strength with repeated practice.
Pilates strengthens supporting muscles to keep you upright. The idea is to develop muscles evenly and symmetrically so one group doesn’t take over for others, causing imbalance. Spine health is key to ageing well, so no matter your age and fitness today, it’s key to look after your backbone.
Pilates also improves overall flexibility, which Joseph Pilates liked to say was the result of evenly developing every muscle in the body. Practicing Pilates teaches the body to be strong at extension, meaning your safe range of motion will increase. The more flexibility you have, the more easily blood can flow through your system: improved circulation contributes to cellular health and organ function.
By keeping muscles under constant tension and working against resistance, Pilates also increases the body’s lean mass, building muscle without bulk, which can help increase metabolism and burn fat more effectively. Muscles learn to work harder, and for longer durations without tiring as quickly.
It’s important to pay special attention to the breath cues provided by your instructor: it may seem counterintuitive to move on an exhalation (especially if you’re used to yoga where movement happens on the inhale – and in case you didn’t know, yoga and Pilates are quite different). The amount of space and power generated with breath is integral to the Pilates practice.