Pilates is an exercise system that builds strength without bulk, improves flexibility and agility and helps to prevent injury. It was developed in the 1920’s by Joseph H. Pilates, who was a physical trainer and the founder of The New York Pilates Studio®. Joseph originally called his method of movement ‘Contrology’ because he believed that it uses the mind to control the muscles. The program focuses on the core postural muscles which help keep the body balanced and are essential for providing support to the spine.
In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and alignment of the spine, and aim to strengthen the deep torso muscles. Pilates was initially created for rehabilitation, in particular of WWI veterans, but was later adopted by dancers and athletes and is now utilised by millions. A beginner class generally consists of very gentle exercises done on a mat in either a sitting or lying down position. The primary focus is on awareness of the spine, proper breathing, core strength and flexibility. The outcome of Pilates training is a balanced body which is strong and supple, a flat stomach, balanced legs and a strong back.
The original Pilates repertoire was 34 exercises done on the floor on a padded mat (matwork), but Joseph Pilates later invented several pieces of apparatus, each with its own range of exercises. Most of the movement done on various pieces of Pilates apparatus is resistance training since it makes use of springs to provide additional resistance. Using springs results in ‘progressive resistance’, meaning the resistance increases as the spring is stretched. The most common piece of apparatus is the Reformer, but other apparatus include the Cadillac (also called the Trapeze Table), the Wunda Chair, and the Ladder Barrel. Lesser used apparatus includes the Spine Corrector (Step Barrel), the Guillotine Tower, the Arm Chair, the Ped-a-Pul (Pedi-Pole), and the Foot Corrector. There are also many props used in Pilates including the Magic Circle, invented by Joseph Pilates, small weighted balls, foam rollers, large exercise balls, rotating disks and resistance bands.