Sam Crane Pilates Instructor
Everything you wanted to know about Pilates
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:
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.
4. Mat Pilates
5. The Most Popular Pilates Classes explained
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:
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
12. The Best Pilates Workout to Build Muscle and Strength
- 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.