Fitness in the Keys…Pilates

Pilates is a system of exercise named after its creator, Joseph Pilates. During World War I, Joseph created a rehabilitation program for injured people using whatever equipment he could find, usually bedsprings that he rigged for exercise resistance.  Over time, he refined his system and created the program that we recognize today.

Why try Pilates? And why has this form of exercise with the interesting-looking Reformer machines become so mainstream? For an explanation of all the benefits of this whole-body exercise system, read on.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is an exercise system that emphasizes strengthening the core postural muscles that help keep the body in balance and provide support for the spine. Strong core muscles help maintain neutral spinal alignment which can alleviate and prevent back pain.  A whole-body exercise system, Pilates has many other benefits including overall muscle strengthening without creating bulk, increased flexibility, improved posture and better body awareness.

Pilates is taught in one of two formats:

Pilates Mat Classes are group fitness classes which take place in the Group Fitness Studio.  In these classes, you will learn all the fundamental Pilates movement techniques.  Maintaining a neutral spine and an engaged core are focused on as participants move through a series of Pilates exercises.  In a mat class, you get all the benefits of Pilates including toning, flexibility, better posture and mobility, and improved mind-body connection. Additionally, mat classes are great preparation for anyone interested in taking the next step – Reformer classes.

Pilates Reformer Classes are very small group classes that take place on a specialized piece of equipment in a Reformer Studio.  A reformer consists of a frame with a flat platform, called the carriage, that rolls back and forth on wheels in the frame. The carriage is attached to springs at one end of the reformer. These springs provide different levels of resistance as the carriage is pushed or pulled along the frame. The carriage can also be moved by pulling on ropes or pushing off from a stationary bar allowing for an amazing variety of exercise options.

Reformer work zeroes in on the “powerhouse muscles,” the muscles of the core.  Toned abs and a strong back, bottom and legs are all results of reformer work. In addition, the reformer can accommodate full range of motion which is essential for building strength while increasing flexibility.  Finally, reformer classes also focus on eccentric muscle contraction which is when a muscle lengthens as it resists force. Research has shown that this type of training can significantly increase strength while reducing risk of injury.  While it’s true that other exercise systems can accomplish similar results, the reformer creates a unique and varied exercise environment that is utterly unique.

Thanks Cornerstone Clubs and author Theresa Whitcomb