Pilates exercises are a favorite fitness choice for many people including movie stars like Danny Glover and Gweneth Paltrow, professional dancers, and even some professional baseball players. Why this fascination with Pilates? What can it do that other forms of exercise can't?
I began doing Pilates several years ago when I was searching for a different look for my body. I had been exercising for many years when I began to experience a level of dissatisfaction with the way my body looked. While I was lean and muscular, my body had a packed, crowded look to it. The more I used weights, the thicker my muscles looked. In addition, no matter how many crunches and reverse curls I did, I still had this abdominal bulge that would not budge. It drove me crazy.
I began to yearn for the body I had as a dancer ? trim, strong, with elongated muscles. That's when I stumbled upon Pilates. The people who did Pilates exercises had the long, lean look that I craved. So I began to do Pilates exercises and I have never looked back.
What are Pilates exercises all about?
They focus on your core.
Pilates focuses on strengthening the core of your body ? the deep abdominal muscles and pelvic stabilizers, the back, the butt, and also creating flexibility in the spine. This continual focus on the core has helped me get rid of my belly bulge and also develop 'six pack' abs .
They work your entire body as one unit.
Many people ask how Pilates exercises relate to yoga poses. In many instances, the poses overlap. However, while in yoga you often hold a pose, in Pilates you are always moving. In addition, no matter what area of the body you are focusing on, you are still engaging your entire body. For example, if you are doing an exercise for your legs, you simultaneously hold in your abdominal muscles and maintain proper body alignment while executing the movement.
They focus on quality, not quantity.
Pilates exercises are focused on quality, not quantity. With some exercises such as The Saw, you might only do 2 or 3 repetitions. In most cases, you will usually only do 10 repetitions of any given exercise. Yet because you are focused on the quality of each movement, you get a greater benefit from each exercise than with traditional strengthening exercises.
They focus on muscle balance and coordination.
Many people who do weight lifting have muscle imbalances. Strong muscles get over trained and weak muscles get more strained. That is because muscles are worked in isolation. With Pilates, you use many muscles at the same time. You also stretch and strengthen muscles during the same exercise. This helps correct imbalances and develops better body alignment. In addition, you learn how to more effectively coordinate movements in your entire body, which will help you as you go about your daily activities.
They focus on body awareness.
In Pilates, you are always focused on your body ? your alignment, your breathing, the way you are doing your movements. This increased body awareness can help you maintain better posture, it can help you relax muscle tension through proper breathing, and it can help you reduce stress.
They are energizing, not exhausting.
With traditional weight lifting programs, your body often feels depleted after you finish your workout. An interesting thing about Pilates exercises is that after you do them, you feel more energized than before you started. The combination of deep breathing, high quality, low quantity movements, helps your body function better as a whole. The result -- you have more energy to go about your day.
I love doing Pilates. I have seen dramatic changes in my body and I exert much less effort than I did when I was using traditional weight training programs. I have significantly strengthened my abdominal and back muscles and I have improved my overall posture. I also look better in a bathing suit.
Try doing some of these exercises for yourself. When you do, I'm sure you'll be hooked on them too.
Della Menechella is a yoga and fitness enthusiast who has been involved in fitness for over thirty years. Her website http://www.beauty-fitness-yoga-source.com/ is filled with practical information about how you can make yoga and fitness a positive part of your life. Visit the site and get your free meditation e-book.