The Pilates "method," as it is now known, is an

exercise system focused on improving flexibility, strength, and body awareness,

without necessarily building bulk. The method is a series of controlled

movements performed on specially designed spring-resistant exercise apparatus

or on the floor (mat work), and specially trained instructors supervise the

sessions. Pilates is resistance exercise, not aerobic, although the heart rate

will certainly rise for a de-conditioned individual. It is closer to weight

than it is to running or cycling so you should consider it

resistance exercise.

Two of the key elements of Pilates are core muscle strength

and spinal alignment. The core musculature is loosely defined as the spine,

abdomen, pelvis, hips, and the muscles that support these structures. Some of

the main core muscles are the erector spinae, the internal and external

obliques, the transverse abdominis, the rectus abdominis and hip flexors.

You will be taught to consciously concentrate on your core

muscles, as well as on your breath, the contraction of your muscles, and the

quality, not quantity, of your movements. The objective is a coordination of

mind, body, and spirit or "contrology" as put forth by Joseph Pilates


Pilates practitioners swear by the method, and in some

circles, it almost reaches cult like status. It is true that there are many

benefits to Pilates, but some of the benefits, even if they do occur, are

unfortunately unproven in research. Even so, Pilates is an intense workout since the movements

are slow, controlled, and deliberate.

An alternative or complement to weight lifting.

Need supervised resistance-exercise sessions.

Want a change of pace and would like to try something new.

Longer, leaner muscles (less bulk, more freedom of


Improves postural problems.

Increases core strength, stability and peripheral mobility.

Helps prevent injury.

Enhances functional fitness, ease of movement.

Balances strength and flexibility.

Heightens body awareness.

No-impact, easy on the joints.

Can be customized to suit everyone from rehab patients to

elite athletes.

Complements other methods of exercise.

Improves performance in other sports.

Improves balance, coordination, and circulation.

There are no studies to prove that Pilates contributes to weight loss.

The bottom line to weight loss is that you must consume fewer calories than you

burn no matter how much exercise you do. Even if you run a marathon every day

you, will not lose weight if you consume more calories than you burn.

Pilates mat work is a series of exercises that are done on

the floor without Pilates machines. The attention to the flow of movement and

to the core muscles is the same as when you do Pilates on the machines, and mat

work is a challenging workout in its own right.

Lie on your back, with the soles

of your feet flat on floor, knees squeezing together, arms overhead stretching behind

you. Inhale and exhale and allow

your spine to sink into the floor. Bring your arms forward, and let your head and torso follow. Roll up to a midway point between lying

down and sitting up and hold that position (your abdominals should be working

the entire time) for three seconds. Let your arms go back, and then lower your torso and head to the

floor. Repeat six to eight times.

Lie on your back, and pull your

knees to your chest. Exhale as your chest and abdomen sink into the floor. Straighten your arms along your sides,

and lift your legs straight up to the ceiling. Lift your head and shoulders so that you are looking toward

your feet. Squeeze your buttocks

and inner thighs together so that you cannot see between your legs. Start moving your arms up and down

along your sides about 12 inches in a rapid motion. Breathe in and hold for

five seconds, and then exhale for five seconds as you try to reach forward even

more. Lower your legs halfway down

toward the floor (legs should be at a 45-degree angle from your hips). Continue to move your arms up and down

and hold for a count of 50 to 100.

Lie on your back with your arms at

your side. Inhale and exhale and

allow your spine to sink into the floor. Straighten your leg toward the ceiling and point your toe. Keep your opposite leg straight (the

one on the floor). Move your leg

across your body, draw a small circle with it, and bring it back to the starting

position. Make sure to keep your hips flat on the floor. Move your leg in the opposite direction

(away from the center line of your body), draw a small circle with it, and then

return to the starting position. Repeat six to eight times on each side.

Lie on your back with your arms at

your side. Straighten your legs

toward the ceiling, keeping your thighs and knees close together. Inhale and exhale and allow your spine

to sink into the floor. Inhale and

move both legs to one side and draw a small circle with them while keeping them

close together. Make sure to keep

your hips on the floor when you circle. Return to starting position, and then repeat on the other side. Repeat five to six times on each side.

Lie on your back with your hands

behind your head. Lift your head,

and bring your knees toward your chest. Straighten your right leg and then lift, and twist your torso until your

right elbow touches your left knee. Hold the position for one to two seconds. Repeat with the other side. Exhale fully as you hold each position. Keep your shoulders as high off the

floor as possible. Repeat eight to

10 times on each side. Finish by pulling both knees to your chest, and then

roll up to sitting position.

While on the floor, sit up very

straight (try to make a 90-degree angle at your hips). Straighten your legs out in front of

you and squeeze them together.

Straighten your arms out to your

sides at shoulder height and parallel with the floor. Breathe in and try to pull your belly button toward your

spine. Exhale and rotate your

torso toward one side while keeping your upright posture. Keep your buttocks on the floor and

look behind you. Hold for one to

two seconds and then inhale and return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Any activity that expands your fitness choices is worth the

effort, and if you think you need variety to stay motivated, then give it a


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