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What is Pilates and does it help you lose weight?

May 18, 2021 Willie Pep 0Comment

Pilates is gymnastics with your own body weight or on specialized exercise machines. Develops all muscle groups. But it is impossible to “pump up” to some impressive volumes. But to slightly tighten the stomach, make the hips and buttocks elastic, and the posture – correct, easy.

Workouts are held both in specialized studios, where there are Pilates simulators, and in ordinary fitness clubs. But Joseph Pilates himself would not be pleased with such a description. The author considered his technique to be a universal healing method and called it the strange term “counterology”.

History of Pilates

Joseph was born into an ordinary family. Wikipedia says that his Greek father had a simple working profession. And my mother has just 9 children and no work. But the followers of the system are spreading a very different story. Mom was a naturopathic doctor and dad was a gymnast. So Joseph simply developed family habits and perfected them by inventing gymnastic exercises for everyone.

Unfortunately, history has not preserved reliable facts about my mother’s medical practice. But we know for sure that Joseph was indeed a sickly child. In 1883, there weren’t very many options in Germany for people like him. Sick children just grew up in the family as best they could, no sanatoriums, resorts and other things.

Joseph began to improve his health as best he could – to do gymnastics, to move a lot. At the age of 14, he was already moonlighting as a model for anatomical atlases. Pilates chose his profession at the call of his heart – he became a physical education teacher. During World War I, he was interned in the Isle of Man and rehabilitated the wounded there. Counterology, or the science of controlling one’s own body with breathing and muscle tension, was born there.

Then Pilates emigrated to the United States. On the ship, he met his future wife, who turned out to be a very active young lady. Together they opened a school for healthy lifestyles and gymnastics. And although it was a question of a post-war country where there were not too many rich people who wanted to do fitness, things went well. In the best traditions of modern marketing, Joseph wrote a book under the loud title “Bringing Back to Life with Counterology.” He wanted gymnastics to be associated precisely with control over the body and his own life. But the name “Pilates” has taken root among the people. Over time, Joseph’s empire began to develop courses for instructors, sell simulators, and carry out certification of specialists.

Today, Pilates is a multifaceted concept that includes bodyweight gymnastics, specialized stretching exercises, and dynamic elements. In the spirit of everyone’s passion for losing weight, interval training has appeared, combining tai-bo and pilates. Another new trend is piloxing, as well as training in simulators. Strength fitness has quietly pushed Joseph’s brainchild on the celebrity priority list, but this workout is still popular in mainstream fitness clubs.

Тренировка по пилатесу

Pilates Fundamentals

The principles were indirectly described in Joseph’s book and further developed by his students. In the most recent version of the system, these include:

  • Breathing – you need to synchronize muscle contractions with exhalation and slow breathing if the exercise is performed smoothly.
  • Centering – it is to Pilates that we owe the skills to “collect the core” and “stabilize the spine”. The main stance of this gymnastics is that the stomach is tightened by 30 percent, the natural deflection of the spine is removed by twisting the pelvis forward, the hips are slightly tense.
  • Concentration – doing gymnastics, listening to an audiobook and thinking about what you want to cook for dinner? This is not according to the rules. We’ll have to concentrate on muscle contraction and not on mental noise.
  • Control is a principle that does not allow going beyond the permissible amplitude. Pilates involves working in a plane that allows you to support the practitioner’s joint.
  • Smoothness – Pilates was initially against “springs”, “swinging hips” and other newfangled inventions of aerobics aimed at tightening muscles more strongly.
  • Precision – every movement works a specific muscle group and must be technically perfect.

To put it simply, Pilates is gymnastics for those who do not want to “break away” in training and cannot use heavy weights for psychological relief. No wonder the system is called “intelligent fitness”.

Why is Pilates useful?

The system is universal. It will suit both a 12-year-old girl who is not yet able to exercise with weights, but already suffers from back pain due to a lot of sedentary work at the table, and a lady over 50 who wants to keep fit. There are trainings for rehabilitation, for those suffering from diseases of the joints, spine, for postpartum recovery.

The principles of counterology are good for any fitness and strength sports. Actually, they were borrowed from there. Pilates exercises are simple enough for everyone to do, but they work all the major muscles.

The system is not aimed at “pumping” anything big, it makes it universal, suitable even for those who are alien to the aesthetics of bodybuilding and modern fitness.

And it definitely gets rid of:

  • back pain due to muscle weakness;
  • headaches due to hypertonicity of the trapezium and neck;
  • muscle imbalances;
  • violations of posture by “office” and “driver” type;
  • weakness of the transverse abdominal muscle;
  • limited joint mobility due to muscle weakness;
  • pain in the arms due to hypertonicity of the trapezius muscle.

Pilates is marketed as a versatile method of boosting metabolism, a way to “tighten” muscles and increase calorie expenditure. Studies regarding the comparison of the metabolic rate of those engaged in this method and ordinary people have not been conducted. But scientists confirm that before us is a non-drug remedy for the treatment of lower back pain. (source –

Can you lose weight with Pilates?

Pilates is popular with beginners as a weight loss gym. The instructors combine the exercises of the system into dynamic links so that the trainees can immediately feel the increase in calorie expenditure. They work the muscles until they burn and do classes more like standard aerobics. For example, Mary Winsor came up with her own classes on the verge of Ashtanga yoga, Pilates and aerobics. Of course, such complexes will help increase calorie expenditure and tighten muscles.

But absolutely all instructors say that the system needs to be supplemented with rational nutrition if you want to lose weight.

Exercising 3-4 times a week plus a regular “sedentary” lifestyle is little, not average, activity in any calorie counting app. What diet did the author of the system recommend? Like all people familiar with Eastern philosophy, he believed that the main thing is moderate portions, more whole grains and vegetables.

In everyday life, it is best to supplement gymnastics with moderate cardio. This will help increase your calorie expenditure even more. And, of course, eat so that the daily calorie intake is deficient – so that you get fewer calories with food than you spend.

Pilates for weight loss is a trend of the last decade, when thin people were in fashion, on the verge of exhaustion of the figures of models. For those who want to lose weight and get in shape, we recommend:

  1. Start training with the Pilates system and spend 3 months with it, combining with diet and cardio.
  2. Go to the gym and work on your body shape on a “maintenance” diet for 1-2 months.
  3. Add cardio and diet again to burn fat.

With this approach, gymnastics prepares the body for exercise in the gym, the person receives loads of doses, the risk of injury and overwork is minimized.

Упражнение на пресс

Tips for beginners

Ideally, it is better to go to several classes in a group or studio. You can read thousands of descriptions and watch a million videos, but you still don’t understand anything. The instructor will help you deliver the technique. Pilates should be practiced regularly, preferably every other day. There can be any time for training, the main thing is not immediately after a meal.

In Pilates, concentration is important, not reps, so it is important for beginners to train consciously.

If you plan to train at home without an instructor, this approach is recommended:

  1. Watch the video from start to finish.
  2. View it on a rug with stops, repeating each exercise.
  3. Only then practice in “real time”.

When will the first results come? Reduction of cervical pain and discomfort can be expected after just a couple of weeks of regular exercise. Back pain usually goes away after a month or two. Visible changes in the figure occur in 2-3 months. It is important to maintain regular exercise, not to alternate between a two-hour workout and a week of inactivity.

Pilates can and should be combined with other types of fitness, this will only bring results faster.

In our country, for some reason, the principles of nutrition shaping in relation to Pilates are widespread. It is recommended to refrain from meat on the day of training, avoid eating for 5 hours in a row – a couple before and after and an hour directly during the session. Nothing of the kind is mentioned in the books of the followers of Pilates. Food of this format is irrational, it is better to adhere to more classical principles.

Basic exercises and their technique

Press and core

The Hundred

From a prone position on the floor, pull up the front abdominal wall, raise the neck and upper back and perform 5 pulsating blows with your hands in the air, as shown in the video, turning your arms over in the air. The beginner’s feet can either stand on the floor or come off the floor (the second option is more difficult).

Table top

From a supine position, you need to alternately bring your knees to your chest, making a slight twisting of the pelvis with an exhalation. The exercise has several levels – more advanced ones lead both knees at once. The loin should be flat on the floor in all exercises. It does this by contracting the transverse muscle and pulling in the abdomen.

Reverse curl

From a supine position, the pelvic bones are brought to the lower ribs by contraction of the rectus abdominis muscle. Kicks are not allowed.

Roll up

This exercise is similar to sit-ups. It is performed from a lying position on the floor on your back, arms and legs extended. The abdomen is pulled in and tense, you need to slowly raise the upper part of the body, without lifting your legs, and reach with your hands to your socks. The return traffic is also under control.

Exercises for back muscles


Starting position – on the stomach, face down. On exhalation, straight outstretched arms and legs are torn off the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds and go down.

Exercise for the back and buttocks

From the starting position, lying on your stomach, alternately lift up opposite arms and legs, similar to the “boat”.


This is a hybrid of the “boat” and the previous movement. It is necessary to go to the upper position of the boat, contract the muscles of the back and alternately perform lifts of opposite legs and arms. In this movement, you should pull your toes and stretch them and your fingers in the opposite direction.

Muscles of the thighs and buttocks

Swing forward from lying on the side

Take a stable position on your side, fix the center of the body. Swing forward and return the leg to neutral. In this case, the body does not fall back and forth, stabilization occurs due to the tension of the press.

Glute Bridge

Movement is technically significantly different from the fitness option. The goal here is not only to tighten the gluteal muscles as much as possible, but also to raise the pelvis and lower it, moving the vertebra behind the vertebra, that is, gradually raising and laying the pelvis. Feet can be placed slightly further from the buttocks or closer to achieve more or less inclusion of the hamstrings.


Legs are bent at the knees, from a lying position on your side you need to raise the knee of the upper leg up in an arcuate trajectory. The movement resembles the opening of the shells, which is why it got its name.

Leading the hip back in support on the hands and knees

The movement can be performed with or without the ball. In the second version, the knee of the working leg is bent at a right angle. Due to the contraction of the gluteal muscle, the heel is lifted up and further controlled lowering.

Important: exercises are performed for 5-12 repetitions in a slow, controlled style, in sync with breathing.

Contraindications and harms of Pilates

There are the following contraindications:

  • Gymnastics is not recommended during the recovery period after injuries and surgeries, as well as if blood pressure is high.
  • Refrain from training during any viral illness.
  • It is also forbidden to engage in those who are faced with gynecological inflammatory diseases.

Contraindications are temporary. Most of them do not require a complete rejection of training. The issues of people with spinal injuries and heart diseases are resolved individually with a doctor. The author of the Pilates system assumed that it would benefit the patients, but only the attending physician can objectively assess their condition.

Some people believe that such gymnastics is useless and even harmful, especially if you need to radically change your figure. It is worth noting here that the transformation of fitness enthusiasts is more due to the way they comply with their diet and regimen, and not just their workouts. Of course, gymnastics without weights loses to the gym in terms of the ability to progress in the load. But for most people, a flat stomach, tight buttocks and no back pain are enough.

Can pregnant women work?

If the pregnancy proceeds without complications and there is no ban on gymnastics, a special program is chosen depending on the trimester. Such exercises strengthen muscles, prepare for childbirth and allow you to quickly restore your figure after them.

Important: general format club lessons are not intended for pregnant women. They include movements that involve pressure from the anterior abdominal wall on the fetus. The load of this format should be excluded.

After childbirth without complications, you can start training according to postnatal programs in 8-12 weeks. There may be deviations in one direction or another in time, this issue should be decided by the doctor.

Can I study at home?

Workouts at home are permissible according to the “metwork” programs, that is, in the “workout on the floor” format. They study the technique from video and try to repeat it completely. The condition is monitored independently, trying to exclude pain and discomfort. Home activities are no less effective than club activities if a person can monitor and regulate their condition.

The main differences between Pilates and yoga

Yoga is not just body gymnastics. Yes, practitioners benefit from flexibility and mobility, but they set different goals. Pilates classes are solely for the sake of health and beauty, no one will overload with unnecessary philosophy a person who simply decided to reduce the size of the waist and hips for the summer. In terms of “filling”, Pilates is technically simpler, it does not contain difficult poses for balance and is accessible to everyone.