Pilates offers a functional, balanced, lean muscle building resistance workout that will improve strength, flexibility, and posture. What's the problem?
I was scrolling through my Google alerts today and found an interesting article, A Problem With Pilates by Florida Personal Trainer Marissa Lysaght, owner of Fitness Redefined. Lysaght starts out by telling us about her former love for Pilates mat exercises which she really felt in her abs (of course all the ones she mentions are on the back in flexion - 100, teaser, seal) and then takes us through her fitness certification journey and back to Pilates.
Now part of the problem in the second round was her new Pilates teacher, who insisted on extolling the virtues of Pilates while putting down other forms of exercise (never a good idea when you are teaching a fitness trainer, by the way). But part of the problem also is teachers who do not teach the full system, including the more difficult standing, planking, and bridging exercises that are in Pilates.
So what's the problem with Pilates? In general, it is not a functional method of training. Similar to traditional body-building, many Pilates exercises target muscles in isolation rather than the movements we experience in daily life. For example, if I throw my back out lifting groceries or tying my shoes, why would I lie on the floor or attach my limbs to an elaborate machine to train my "core" muscles? It's in the standing position that I was injured. (I should hope that I can handle not getting hurt while lying down!) Quite simply, this type of training does not adequately translate to the performance demands of life. Moreover, training in isolated positions limits the number of calories burned. And when it comes to weight loss, it's all about the caloric "bang for your buck."
OK, first of all Pilates as a system is very functional. There is a lot of standing, spine extension, kneeling, planking, side planking, and bridging work in Pilates with and without the equipment. Squats? We have 'em. Lunges? Push ups? Shoulder presses? All accounted for.
Second, good Pilates teachers focus on stabilization as well as range of motion, so there is always strength with the stretch. Most teachers start every new client with basic work primarily on your back, so if you don't hang out for a few sessions you may never experience this.
Finally, the most efficient way to burn more calories is to increase your percentage of lean muscle mass, and Pilates is all about building lean muscle mass through resistance training. So there is a caloric "bang for your buck"!
Now I do Pilates as well as kettlebells, TRX, cardio, and cross training. I believe in multiple activities and having fun. But if you were to choose Pilates as a primary form of exercise and add some cardio you would be fine. Just make sure you have a great teacher.
And I would love to invite Marissa Lysaght to come do a Pilates session or two with me at Real Pilates. I promise that her views would change!