What are Pilates?

by Jodee on December 6, 2010

Pilates are a form of exercise named after Joseph Pilates. Born in Germany in 1883, Pilates developed his system of exercises to strengthen the mind and the body. He believed that a person’ s physical and mental health were related.

This type of exercise involves starting from a strong core and then making controlled movements. Modern Pilates routines use several types of exercise equipment to help participants improve their fitness, including small weighted balls, foam rollers and rotating disks. Large exercise balls and exercise bands are also used to stay active and improve fitness.

Principles of Pilates

Pilates routines are developed based on the following core principles:

Concentration

The person performing the movements must give the exercise his or her full attention.

Control

The person performing the Pilates exercise is required to be in control of his or her body at all times. Muscles must work against gravity; if a piece of exercise equipment is being used, the muscles must also work against that apparatus to complete the required movement.

Centering

The group of muscles located in the center of the body (abs, upper and lower back, buttocks, hips and inner thighs) are an integral part of this exercise technique. Collectively, they are called the “powerhouse” and all Pilates movements start in this part of the body and move outward to the extremities.

Efficiency of Movement

Once a person gets some experience performing Pilates exercises, they are meant to be performed in a fluid movement. The goal is for the individual to build strength and increase stamina as he or she performs the movements.

Precision

All the Pilates movements are meant to be performed in a precise manner. Strength is built up by performing a few concentrated movements rather than several sluggish ones. This concept of precision is meant to eventually influence the Pilates participant’s everyday life as graceful movements.

Breathing

Deep breathing, with full inhalation and complete exhalation, is part of performing Pilates. The breathing is directed into the lower ribcage in order to keep the lower abdominal muscles close to the spine. As the person practicing this type of exercise gains more experience in the specialized breathing techniques that are part of a Pilates exercise routine, they learn to coordinate their breathing with specific movements.

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