The Benefits of Pilates Go Way Beyond Core Strength—Here’s What To Expect

Photo: Stocksy/Aleksandra Jankovic
If you peek into any Pilates class, it'll look like a lot of small movements and core-focused exercises (and space-age-looking contraptions a la the Reformer). While it's true that Pilates is centered around your core muscles, the low-impact workout has an extensive list of benefits that you might not even realize.

Pilates focuses on stability and controlling your muscles so that you get better mobility (and strength too, of course). "This allows you to find better range of motion and to move with ease," says Rebecca Lubart, Pilates pro and founder of Dynamic Body Pilates. A Pilates class can either take place on a mat or on specialized equipment pieces (Lubart points to the Reformer, Cadillac, ladder barrel, and Wunda chair), but both variations focus on the breath, core activation, and slow, controlled movements.

"In a Pilates class, you can expect to receive a lot of cues to coordinate your breathing and your movement," says Lubart. Unlike in yoga though, Pilates breathing involves engaging your abs in every move you do. Since the exercises are slow and controlled, Lubart says she often hears clients say they've worked muscles they never have before, "and that's because you're simply not working on them in other exercise styles," she says. Another perk of the slow movements? You're working on increasing your range of motion, says Lubart, who adds that speed and momentum are a way of compensating for lack of strength. "That's why your flexibility and strength get improved simultaneously," she says.

Sounds delightful, right? Keep scrolling for more of the perks of practicing Pilates that you should know about.

The many benefits of doing Pilates

1. Improved posture: Since Pilates is all about lengthening and connecting to your muscles, one of the main benefits of that is getting a better posture. "You build awareness of how to find postural support with your muscles, not just to reverse slouching," says Lubart. "An increased understanding and awareness of how you hold your body plays a big role in this as well." In Pilates you learn about correct positioning of the spine and how to support yourself with your legs, glutes, and core.

2. Increased flexibility: Another benefit of working your muscles through their full range of motion? Flexibility. "Pilates does a good job with flexibility training because of its focus on integrity and integration of the muscles," says Aaron Alexander, movement coach and author of The Align MethodLubart adds that it's an added perk because of all the stretching in Pilates and stability work. "The tight muscles you're used to feeling are able to let go," she explains of practicing Pilates.

3. Better balance: In every single Pilates move, there's an element of balance involved. "Any time you're trying to center your body and align your muscles correctly, you're going to be dealing with balance," says Alexander, who adds that "stability is balance," and that's one of the main components of Pilates.

4. Better performance in other workouts: If you practice Pilates on the reg, trainers say it'll do you a favor in all of the other movements and workouts that you do. "Pilates is a very helpful supplement for most any activity, since it brings more awareness into your midsection and to those more postural movement patterns," says Alexander, who says that your midsection is the "hub" of your body mechanics. "If your midsection is off, the rest of your body can be off, and Pilates does a really good job of tying all of your muscles together," he says.

5. Less back pain: With all of the body-lengthening movements done in Pilates, your spine gets decompressed, which is especially beneficial if you're hunched over (with a compressed spine) all day long. It's also working on your hip stability and lower back support, says Lubart, and studies have even pointed to regular Pilates helping those who deal with chronic lower back pain.

Do some Pilates for yourself with this at-home workout, below:

A trainer spills the most basic Pilates moves that everyone should be doing for better overall strength. Also try this Pilates ring exercise sesh to burn out your booty and your obliques. 

Tags: Pilates
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