Sam Crane Pilates Instructor

From incline reformers to pilates during pregnancy, you can learn all about pilates and find a knowledgeable pilates instructor right here.

Everything you wanted to know about Pilates

Pilates combines low-impact exercises with improved flexibility, muscular strength and endurance movements. Exercises emphasise correct postural alignment, core strength and muscle balance – as well as offering mental health benefits.

Table of contents

Professional personal trainer and a qualified Pilates instructor

As both a professional personal trainer and a qualified Pilates instructor, I provide one-to-one pilates tuition to my clients in Winchester. I ensure they obtain the maximum benefit in a short time while ensuring their form and posture are correct to guard against pain and injury.

I’ve written this guide to share my knowledge so everyone can learn all about pilates, and how it can help in so many different ways. If you book a one-to-one session with me, I’ll help identify your specific issues and put together a bespoke step-by-step pilates training plan. This will ensure you complete the best exercises for you in a safe and controlled way and without straining yourself. A pilates consultation is the first positive step to getting on the path to a healthier and better quality of life.

1. The benefits of doing Pilates ​

When Josef Pilates invented his namesake’s exercises, he did so with the philosophy that physical health and mental health were connected. One of the benefits of doing pilates is that it can improve your mental wellbeing. The scientific literature detailing the benefits of exercise is extensive. Many people will already be aware of the relationship between physical activity and the release of endorphins – which enhances your mood.

Yet, pilates offers further mental and emotional benefits. Pilates exercises can include deep breathing exercises which can improve blood flow, blood pressure and reduce stress. These benefits all have a positive knock-on effect to improve daily aspects of life, including improved sleep quality. Aside from the mental health benefits of pilates, it offers multiple physical benefits. These include:

  • Better balance - exercises within a pilates class do not just encourage the exerciser to perform movements with good balance and coordination. They need to be performed at a controlled pace which keeps the mind alert and keeps you thinking about the movement. By increasing awareness, it simultaneously enhances your balance.
  • Improved flexibility - pilates exercises are great for improving flexibility for a couple of reasons. One reason is that the exercises focus on extending muscles with extension and abduction movements, rather than shortening muscles. The second reason is that pilates incorporates dynamic stretching. This is a type of stretching that is done actively compared to static stretches that are held in one place. This increases your range of movement and promotes a healthy posture.
  • Core strength - core strength goes beyond having strong abdominals. It also includes the strength of many smaller muscles closer to the skeleton. These smaller muscles stabilise the spine while performing movements with your limbs. Pilates exercises engage both the surface.

2. What is a Pilates Reformer?

Pilates reformers are part of gym and exercise studio furniture everywhere. Even if you are not sure what they do or do not recognise their name, it is likely that you will have seen them before. These pieces of equipment were also invented by Josef Pilates and remain popular today.

A Pilates reformer looks similar to a bed frame with a flat platform within it. This platform is known as the carriage and equipped with wheels that roll backwards and forwards along the frame. One end of the carriage attaches to the reformer’s frame with springs. These springs can be adjusted to offer different levels of resistance, making the apparatus perfect for exercisers of different abilities. To use the reformer, the exerciser lies flat on the carriage. Shoulder pads are also present to help the individual remain in place during exercises and to provide additional comfort.

At the same end of the reformer where the springs are equipped, there is also a bar. This bar is there for the exerciser to hold or place their feet on while they complete exercises by moving the carriage. The top end of the reformer includes resistance bands with hand/foot straps; these are used during some pilates exercises to provide resistance. The best reformers can be adjusted to suit different body shapes and sizes.

A reformer offers the opportunity to perform an array of pilates exercises. Many of them will involve the participant moving the carriage in a controlled fashion while seated or lying in one of many different positions. Others will require the exerciser to hold their position still under resistance.

3. How a Gravity Incline Reformer Can Be Even better for Pilates​

Changing the gradient of an exercise can go a long way to increase its intensity – and its benefits. Just ask those hill runners. Now Pilates can also enjoy these benefits with a gravity incline reformer. These pieces of workout equipment are gaining support from those who want to step up their performance while keeping exercises controlled.

The differences between a Gravity Incline reformer and a traditional reformer are the resistance method and solidity. With traditional reformers resistance is added or subtracted by attaching or unattaching different numbers of springs. With a Gravity Total Gym Machine you just increase or decrease the tower height to work against Gravity more or less. Springs resist in one direction and assist in the other, gravity however is a constant force so muscles need to work in both directions. Traditional reformers are often made from wood and have a 1960s feel, the Gravity machine is a modern piece of professional gym equipment, smooth and solid and a joy to use. Incline reformers, alike regular reformers, can be adjusted to different body types so exercises can be performed correctly and safely by all participants.

An example of the Gravity Total Gym Incline Reformer in action:

4. Mat Pilates ​

Yet, pilates does not always require sophisticated equipment. You can also perform Pilates exercises with just a mat. This allows many of the benefits of Pilates to be enjoyed by people who do not want to spend money on equipment and by studios with limited space. The exercises performed in mat pilates use bodyweight as resistance and occasionally other small equipment like small balls, bands and magic circles. Exercisers use the floor and their own body weight to provide resistance in slowly executed and controlled movements. The inclusion of the mat is to provide a level of support and comfort while performing these exercises on a hard surface.

5. The Most Popular Pilates Classes explained​

As with all exercises and sports, taking progressive steps is important to safeguard against injury and to prevent burnout. This is also true with pilates. You should make sure that you attend a class that suits your abilities. It is important to work yourself up through the levels, but what are the levels?
  • Beginner sessions - beginner sessions are perfect for people who have never tried pilates before and are maybe apprehensive about attending a class – or even nervous about exercising in general. These sessions offer a great introduction to exercisers and give an insight into what to expect. They offer sympathetic support to encourage participants to stick with it. Exercisers are also less intense, making these classes also ideal for people coming back from an injury or as part of a bespoke rehabilitation programme.
  • Standard classes - most standard pilates sessions will work at an intermediate level to balance the need for support and instruction but to also test your abilities and get results. The content of these classes can be exceptionally diverse to keep repeat pilates-goers engaged and to continually improve strength, flexibility and balance.
  • Reformer classes - many pilates lovers prefer to attend classes that use reformers instead of mats. This includes those incline reformers we discussed earlier. This is because they offer such a wide variety of exercises for different abilities. Some of which can be exceptionally intense – but others are great for newcomers too.
  • One-to-one sessions - having your own personal trainer is one way of getting the most from a pilates session. With a knowledgeable professional they can give you personal feedback during the whole session to facilitate swift progressions and even better results. They are also there to make sure exercises are performed correctly and safely. It is often said a single one-to-one session is worth 10 classes!
  • Convenient/Shorter classes - the benefits of pilates can be achieved without setting aside a full hour. The original matwork sequence can be performed in around 30 minutes, and the first 10 minutes can provide an even shorter routine. With one-to-one tuition you can learn this routine to do as a home session, warm-up, or part of your gym session.

6. The Best Pilates Exercises​

The original matwork sequence has 34 exercises. I love this original sequence, the genius of Josef Pilates was 50 years ahead of it’s time! I perform it myself every week – it takes around 30 minutes. I and all Pilates teachers love to share this and guide you through the true Pilates. However, it is challenging and if you haven’t the core strength required there are modifications and pre-pilates exercises – those you find taught in most classes – so you can eventually reach the ability.

We have many different pilates exercises explained towards the end of our guide. These exercises are grouped so you can learn which exercises offer certain results. Here is a starting point:

  • The pilates curl - a pre-pilates exercise to develop strength in the upper abdominals. Lying flat on your back with your knees bent and your palms against a pilates mat, curl your chin towards your abdomen by lifting your shoulders off the mat. Avoid crunching your neck to prevent injury or later pains.
  • The hundred - the name of this exercise may send a shiver of fear to new pilates enthusiasts, but the hundred should be embraced for its fantastic results. This is the first exercise in the original Josef Pilates 34 exercise matwork sequence, and can be modified for any ability. You perform the hundred by lying face up and raising your legs. Your neck and shoulders should then be raised off the mat and your hands spread out to the side slightly raised off the mat as well. Once set up, you need to motion your arms up and down while controlling your breathing. Start at 20 arm pumps building to 100.
  • The roll-up -the 2nd exercise in the matwork. Lying flat on your back with your arms extended and pointed straight towards the ceiling, you must curl your chin towards your chest and roll your body to a sitting position while maintaining extended arms and pointed fingers. This movement is then progressed to reach forward and touch beyond your feet, all the while keeping correct posture. The original sequence requires just 3 perfect slow controlled reps.
Remember that all exercises should be performed in a controlled manner with the correct technique. Pilates is very subtle and precise and it is highly recommended to seek advice from a pilates instructor to ensure you are performing any pilates exercise safely – and to get efficient results.

7. Can Pilates Help in Pregnancy?​

Just because you are pregnant does not mean that you have to give up on training. Pregnancy does not have to come in the way of your workout routine, although it may need some adaptations. During this critical time, it is important to get the help and support of knowledgeable and trained professionals that know what exercises are and what exercises are not safe at this time. There are specific qualifications that personal trainers can acquire to coach pregnant ladies safely.

When a safe exercise programme is devised, pilates can really help with pregnancy. Pilates is really effective at strengthening your stomach, pelvic floor and back muscles without risking injury to joints. Therefore, pilates targets the exact muscles and areas that can become an issue during and after pregnancy. Other benefits from doing pilates while pregnant are that it eases back pain, helps you control your breathing and it can enhance your balance – which is especially important during your clumsier months.

8. Pilates Vs Yoga​

Tomatoe – tomato. Yoga and pilates are the same, right? Actually no. Both exceptional types of exercise have some similarities, but they are far from the same. They are the same in terms that they both include low-impact exercises and low octane activities – not to be confused with easy! They both also aim to enhance stability and are highly inclusive.

However, they do differ in many ways. Modern “yoga” in the UK is a modern form of Hatha yoga, consisting mainly of exercise postures called asanas. This yoga has evolved over thousands of years from the Ancient Egyptians via India (and in the UK mainly via America too) and has many gurus that have branded their own regimes. Pilates stems from Ancient Greek callisthenics known as gymnastics in Germany, and was invented by one man Josef Pilates. Josef was in his time a UK boxing coach, a circus performer, a New York ballet dancer movement guru, and a First World War self-taught rehabilitation physiotherapist. After his death in 1967 his partner Clara, and other original pupils branched out and created their own schools and systems and Pilates now has many “styles” all teaching similar exercise and principles. These include Romana’s Pilates, Basi Pilates, Body Control Pilates, Power PIlates, and Pilates Conservatory.

The main difference in terms of the exercises of yoga and Pilates is in their main aim. Yoga predominantly focuses on range of movement and flexibility. Pilates focuses on good posture, stability and strength (mainly core strength). This does not mean that yoga cannot enhance strength and that pilates cannot make you move better; it is a matter of priority and focus of the specific exercises involved. Both exercise systems are usually performed mindfully with breathwork involved – the type of breathing pattern is also different for both. Vinyasa Yoga and Josef PIlates original Pilates matwork share many similar postures. They both have roots in callisthenics style gymnastics of 100 years ago which came to India via the British soldiers.

9. Pilates for Runners ​

Running is a high-impact activity that may lead to injuries and issues. This makes being able to train beneficial muscles without putting the body under further stress an appealing thought for runners. Incorporating Pilates into a runner’s training programme reduces the potential for injury, and it also has the potential to enhance performance.

How? Good question. One of the biggest benefits of pilates is that it strengthens core muscles to support the movement of limbs. Our core is influential in our ability to carry out many physical tasks and – surprise – that includes running. Pilates does not just strengthen the surface muscles of our core. It also strengthens muscles located much deeper near the spine. These muscles are responsible for stabilising our spine and preventing aches and pains when in an upright position for a long time. It also addresses imbalances so we have strength on both sides of our body. As we are all left-handed or right-handed every day movements can result over time in some quite lopsided runners! Moreover, some pilates exercises target inner thigh muscles (such as the adductor longis and the adductor magnus) and the leg stabilisers glute medius and minimus, which runners often cannot target in regular training routines.

Ultimately, pilates offers significant benefits to runners in different but interwoven ways. It helps to reduce the stress placed on the body compared to other aspects of training, while still offering ways to improve performance. It manages to target muscles that runners struggle to engage in conventional training and can help reduce back pain from being upright for long durations.

In 2017 Brazilian scientists showed that the better posture that results from just 12 weeks of Pilates allows better breathing, and increases your VO2 max score (the ability of your body to process oxygen and send it to the muscles), ultimately making you able to run a 5km faster, and what runner doesn’t want a new P.B.?

Start your pilates journey today

If you are looking for help with pilates exercises, then please book your bespoke one-to-one session here. Through my science-led and research-based personal training, you’ll receive the support and guidance you need to obtain the best results for YOUR body without risking new injuries or worsening any pre-existing issues.

Every client is different, and some will need to focus more on posture and core strength, while others may want to focus on mobility or imbalances. As every session is designed just for you, I’ll ensure you get the maximum improvements in the minimum time. Remember one private session is worth 10 classes!

10. Pilates for lower back pain

Back pain and aches are a common complaint today due to the nature of our modern sedentary lifestyles. Technology has meant that we no longer have to get off the recliner to answer the front door and many of us spend our working days sat at a desk. This has resulted in many people complaining about bad backs and exhibiting poor posture. But the suffering does not end there. Prolonged aches can reduce quality of life and make some daily tasks unmanageable – which may then lead to emotional and mental health issues.

Some people will choose to tackle their pain with physiotherapy and others may turn to medication or even surgery. However, pilates has proved to be an effective alternative at reducing pain. Academics at the forefront of research on pain have discovered that the brain creates pain to protect itself and you can actually do many forms of exercise while the pain exists to help reduce it. Naturally, this should be done with caution and while using safe techniques. Speak to a personal trainer for help and if you are older then you may want to find a trainer with experience at training elderly exercisers.

The bottom line is that movement is medicine – and pilates is one of the best ways to move cautiously without risking further complications. There are many reasons why Pilates is beneficial to those suffering from back pain. One of them is because the exercises are performed in a controlled way, so you can easily identify if you are overdoing it. Another is because pilates significantly strengthens deep-lying muscles around the spine which go on to stabilise a wide range of everyday movements.

11. The Best Pilates Workout to Burn Fat and Get a Lean Body

Pilates can help you burn fat and get a leaner physique. To get these results, you need to focus on specific pilates exercises. Here are some of the best ones to lose inches in all the right places:
  • Double-leg stretch - the double-leg stretch is one exercise that engages your stomach muscles while also improving your flexibility. Variations exist so beginners and advanced exercisers can complete it safely.
  • Pelvic tilt - the pelvic tilt will help you get lean, but it is also one of the exercises that are beneficial for pregnant women. It involves raising and lowering the tailbone in line with a consistent breathing pattern.
  • Bridge - a progression of the pelvic tilt exercise is the bridge exercise. It builds on the aforementioned movement. Performing multiple sets of the bridge is excellent at toning your body.
  • Circles - leg circles could have easily made it into the-best-pilates-exercises section. The exercise involves having one leg in the air to perform controlled circular motions while the other leg raises the lower abdomen and improves stability.
  • Toe taps - toe taps are perfect for people of all abilities. They are relatively straightforward to perform and go a long way to developing stability and finding the deep tummy-flattening transverse abdominis muscle.
Pilates exercises may be performed slowly but they require careful thought and attention to detail. It is mindful exercise. Remember to ask your personal trainer about the best ways to lose weight and enquire about nutritional advice as well if you wish to lose weight effectively.

12. The Best Pilates Workout to Build Muscle and Strength

As we have already highlighted, pilates is not predominantly about losing weight. It is also about strength and there are many exercises that can help develop muscular strength, including but not limited to:
  • Chest lift with rotation – this exercise enables you to complete a chest lift but with the addition of a controlled rotation to engage your obliques. As your core plays a significant part in your overall strength, this exercise is key to help build muscle.
  • Back extensions – when we think of strength, we usually envision strong thighs or bulging biceps. Yet, back extensions can enhance muscular strength significantly. Improving strength in our back muscles, such as the scapular depressors or scapular retractors, is especially important in today’s often sedentary lifestyle.
There are many other exercises to improve overall strength, some of which were mentioned previously such as the pelvic curl and the supine twist. If strength is your aim, then you may want to discover other strength training programmes that you can pair with pilates for holistic health and significant strength gain.

13. The Best Pilates Workout to Strengthen your Core

Saving one of the most significant benefits of Pilates exercises until last, here we have some options for those wanting to zone in on their core strength. Nearly all pilates exercises engage surface and deep core muscles meaning they all are great for enhancing your core strength. However, here are a few top picks from me:
  • Single-leg stretch - the single-leg stretch is somewhat similar to the double-leg stretch. It involves you lying on your back and holding one leg with both hands while the other leg is extended upon each rep.
  • The ball roll - the ball roll exercise is one of the best to work core muscles and improve your balance. However, there is a risk of rolling onto your neck and causing injury, so you should consult a pilates instructor to help with your technique.
  • Crisscross - the crisscross includes a similar setup to the single-leg stretch but hands are placed behind your head while each leg is extended in turns. Elbows are pointed toward the opposite knee while exercising and breathing must be aligned with your movement.
  • The saw - the saw is performed by sitting upright on a mat with your arms and legs spread wide apart. The right palm the moves towards the left foot and vice versa. This enables the core muscles to be worked with a good range of motion and increases your overall core strength.
Pilates exercises are a sure-fire challenger for the best ways to strengthen your core. There are also many other ways to develop your core strength which can be discussed with a knowledgeable personal trainer.

What my clients say about me

If you are a client and would like to leave a Google review please click on the write a review link below. I love getting positive feedback from my clients!
Sam is not just an amazing personal trainer : she is a real life changer!She is extremely knowledgeable and carefully plans each session according to my specific needs. She pushes me beyond my limits while keeping me fully engaged and smiling! As a result, I have never been so stronger and fitter - both physically and mentally - Can’t really recommend her highly enough!
Marie Christine
Marie C.
Sam is the perfect gravity coach for my style.Very acurate very clear and a good sence of humor. Paul
Live Strategy
Live S.
Sam is amazing. Having developed a well rounded body after years of eating and drinking, Sam was recommended to me.The difference she’s mad is unreal. Each session is different so I never get board, despite the diet being the same, I’ve lost two stone and ran the London marathon in just over four hours.
Andy C
Andy C
Sam is a fantastic personal trainer! I highly recommend her for anyone looking for a PT in Winchester or even further afield.
Ben Sisson
Ben S.
Having never used a gravity trainer before I was very pleased to receive very clear and concise instructions as Samantha took me through an exercise routine. She gauged my level of fitness (or lack of it) perfectly and the hour sped by. She gave very good advice on my posture and how to improve it with a simple exercise.
Ann Crane
Ann C.
Sam does a great job of coaching technique whilst pushing you sufficiently so you feel like you’ve had a good work out, very friendly and good with people.
Richard Lane
Richard L.
Sam is a great motivator both through words of encouragement and explanation as well as physically making sure we use the equipment in the right way and are positioning our bodies in the right way. She is always cheerful and always gives a varied routine each week
John Kimmance
John K.
Sam was a great pt, was incredible at helping me with my hip problems. Would really recommend her to anybody, so sad I’m to far away to see her at the moment.
Charlotte Robins
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Sam is very friendly and knowledgeable and a great PT. Can't recommend highly enough!!
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Sam is a fantastic trainer - really knows her stuff, happy to explain everything, and has taken the time to really understand my needs. Most importantly, I am seeing the results I had hoped for. If you need a trainer, go for Sam!
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Samantha Crane Personal Training is rated 5 out of 5. Based on 11 reviews.