Pilates for Core Strength, Balance and Flexibility

How Pilates Can Enhance Core Strength and Flexibility

Man doing Pilates on Machine
Getty Images/Allison Michael Orenstein

Pilates started out like many fitness trends, with many of us wondering if it would be around for the long-term.

With our focus on connecting the mind and body and building a strong core foundation, it's not surprising that Pilates is not only still around, but growing each year. While Pilates is like yoga in many ways, it has a different focus and provides different results. If you haven't tried it, learn more about what Pilates is and what it can do for you.

What Is Pilates?

Pilates (pronounced puh-LAH-teez) is something like a cross between yoga, stretching and calisthenics. Pilates:

  • Enhances body alignment
  • Strengthens the abs, back and stabilizer muscles
  • Stretches, strengthens and relaxes your body
  • When modified, is gentle enough for pregnant women, yet challenging enough for advanced exercisers.
  • Incorporates exercises that target your abs, back and legs, making your body strong and flexible.

While Pilates helps with flexibility, posture and strength, it isn't much of a cardio or strength training workout, so it should be an add-on to a regular routine.

Pilates Movement

What makes Pilates different from Yoga is that it's more focused on stabilizing and strengthening the pelvic floor as well as the core. In many moves, you hold your torso in place while moving your limbs in different directions, which challenges your balance, core strength, stability and flexibility.

One of the core moves of Pilates is '100's which challenges your abs and back in a whole new way as you take your legs to a 45-degree angle while pressing your hands up and down. See my Yoga & Pilates workout for more ideas.

Finding Pilates in Your Neighborhood

If you belong to a health club, check the aerobics schedule to see if Pilates is an option.

Or, search for Pilates studios in your area. Another option is to consider home Pilates equipment for your own home gym, if going to a studio isn't an option. In most Pilates studios, you'll either perform your workout on specially designed equipment or on a mat. Most Pilates classes these days have been adapted to the mat and may use other equipment such as a ring, band, ball or even a BOSU.

Pilates at About.com

The best place to start, if you're a beginner, is with our very own Pilates Expert, Alycea Ungaro.  She knows everything there is to know about Pilates. Here's where to start.

Pilates Videos

Videos are another great option for getting started with Pilates. Below are some great resources for Pilates videos:

  • Collage Video is your first stop for finding a huge variety of PIlates videos.
  • Videofitness.com provides a database of video reviews for over 20 Pilates videos.
  • Pilates Anytime has online Pilates workouts you can do anytime, for a fee

However you get started, you'll find that Pilates will enhance your daily functionality by improving your posture and flexibility.

Not only will your body feel better, your mind will remember how to relax and your spirit will feel rejuvenated. However, don't think this workout is easy. You may find the exercises difficult at first as your body adjusts to the balancing and strengthening movements.

Start slowly and only go as far as your body will let you. Gently work up to the more difficult exercises and be mindful of what you're doing. Staying in the moment will help you get the most out of your Pilates workout.

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