What is Pilates?

Physiotherapy

The main muscles that are targeted in Pilates are the core stabilising muscles of the body.   Pilates works on strengthening and toning the entire body.  It is one of the most effective forms of exercise to target muscle imbalances, especially from a whole body perspective.  The aim is to strengthen any core muscles that may be weak and stretch any muscles which may be tight.  Potential muscle imbalance can occur between:

  1. Small deep stabilising muscles and the larger/more superficial muscles eg.  Weak gluteus medius and minimus, overactive TFL
  2. Anterior versus posterior muscles  eg.  Weak hamstrings and tight overactive quads and hip flexors
  3. Muscles on the right side versus muscles on the left side  eg. Weaker in all of the left leg, arm or abdominal muscles than the right

Once we determine any imbalances, we work on correcting them.  Pilates also helps to correct posture through strengthening the postural muscles.

In the mat work repertoire this includes the stabilisers of the spine, pelvis, and scapula: the transverse abdominis and pelvic floor, multifidus, gluteal muscles, lower and mid trapezius and serratus anterior, and the deep neck flexors.  Once these core stabilising muscles are activated and isolated, we progress these exercises to become more dynamic and functional, having to maintain stability whilst working the larger more superficial muscles. 

Pilates is similar to weights in that it is a strength based exercise program, but in Pilates, correct muscle activation and control is the focus.  Focus is on the core muscles – these deep muscles contract at a low level intensity and need to remain activated to stabilise the body throughout an exercise.  Muscle control and activation, together with correct muscle patterning are the aim.  As an instructor we observe to determine correct technique is maintained throughout the exercises with cues to prompt and remind to keep technique on point. 

It is of utmost importance that the posture and muscle recruitment for each exercise be correct to achieve the desired result from the exercise.  This is particularly important if a client has an injury or pain – you do not want to have incorrect muscle recruitments and postures.

Home exercises can be prescribed once correct technique is achieved.

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