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A Definitive Guide to Pilates

Joining a fitness class can feel daunting if it’s your first time. And it’s only natural: you’re not familiar with the different types of exercises or equipment. What’s more, you’re not sure if you have the strength and flexibility to execute the various forms.

But it doesn’t have to be that way when it comes to Pilates. As a type of low-impact exercise, you’ll only need to use simple equipment. It focuses on building your core strength and improving flexibility. 

But is Pilates really worth learning? Let’s find out.

What is Pilates?

Pilates takes its name from its German founder, Joseph Pilates. It was originally designed to help injured athletes and dancers return to their normal exercise routine and maintain their fitness level. After that, Pilates slowly made its way to non-athletes where it’s been practiced by millions of people ever since.

While the physical fitness system puts heavy emphasis on your core, it targets the rest of your body, as well. In fact, it’s best described as a full-body exercise. It’s not restricted to specific body parts, and it targets different areas of the body like the abdominals, hips, inner and outer thighs, and back. 

Beginner Equipment Used for Pilates

If you’re a beginner, you might want to start with simple equipment for Pilates. These include:

  • Pilates mat 
  • Roll Ups
  • Resistance band
  • Exercise ball
  • Pilates ring 

Benefits of Pilates

As a full-body workout routine, Pilates is very similar to other types of exercises like yoga and tai chi. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of Pilates. 

1. Tones & Strengthens Muscles

Pilates movements are designed to help you resist gravity through various poses and forms. Some examples include push-ups and leg raises because you use your body weight to resist gravity and target certain muscle groups. Performing these exercises can help you build muscle strength and tone your body. 

2. Increase Flexibility

While Pilates doesn’t require as much flexibility as yoga, it can still increase your suppleness thanks to the movements involved. Wall rolls and down spine stretches are just some examples of flexions and extensions that you can try out.

3. Strengthens The Core

As mentioned earlier, Pilates involves a lot of exercises that work the core. This is why it’s great for enhancing core strength and the areas surrounding it. In turn, this will help with your posture and support your back muscles.

As you can imagine, this is beneficial for a lot of people — to athletes, the elderly, or those who work desk-based jobs. 

4. Helps with Weight Loss

Pilates isn’t as effective at helping you lose weight compared to other exercises like running, swimming, or HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) routines. However, studies have shown that it can still help with weight loss. 

But it’s important to remember that you’ll have to follow the proper diet and combine it with other exercises like cardio and weight training. 

5. Reduces Chronic Lower Back Pain

Pilates might also help in alleviating chronic lower back pain. After all, Pilates can help strengthen the muscles near your spine to take the pressure off your lower back. Moreover, it can help with posture, core strength, and overall flexibility. 

How to Do Pilates

Now that we know the benefits of Pilates, let’s dive into how to perform this type of workout. Below we’ve listed down some core exercises  for you to try. 

The 100

The 100 is one of the most well-known Pilates exercises. Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on the floor
  • Raise your knees to your abdomen
  • Curl your neck up until you feel your core contracting
  • Straighten your knees forward in a 45-degree position
  • From the sides, raise both arms until they’re the same level as your abdomen
  • Move both arms up and down about six to eight inches above the ground
  • Inhale five times and exhale five times. Hold the position for a few seconds
  • Bend your knees to your abdomen
  • Lower your arms and neck and extend your legs until you’re back to you’re starting position

Perform 10 reps. If it’s too difficult for you, try performing at least five reps.

Single-Leg Teaser

The single-leg teaser is an exercise designed to prepare you for more advanced Pilates movements. For this type of workout, you’ll be heavily relying on the strength of your abdominal muscles to pull yourself up.

  • Lie on your back and raise one leg at an angle of about 35 degrees. Make sure your other leg is touching the floor
  • Raise your neck until you feel your core start to tighten and contract
  • With both hands extended in front of you, try to reach your toes
  • Slowly return to the mat by applying abdominal control 
  • Repeat four to six times for both legs


The Criss-cross is similar to bicycle Pilates. It involves performing movements in your knees, shoulders, and elbows.

  • Lie on your back and place your hands beside your head
  • Your shoulders should be kept to the sides
  • Lift your legs up about 45 to 35 degrees. The lower your leg is to the ground, the harder this type of exercise will be
  • Twist your body from side to side to work out your oblique muscles. Match your right elbow to your left knee and your left elbow to your right knee
  • As you perform the exercise, make sure to fully extend the leg you aren’t bending
  • Perform five reps on each side 

Starting Out with Pilates

Pilates is simple even for beginners! Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the basics, you can move on to harder exercises as a true test of strength and endurance. You’ll get sore muscles at first, but you can easily address these with home remedies and chiropractic and physical therapy. 

But remember to take it easy to let your body adjust to these new routines. Start by performing around three to four exercises a week for about half an hour. From there, you can increase the intensity as your body becomes stronger and more flexible. And don’t forget to have fun!

For more tips on health and fitness, explore the LifeClinic blog.

Dr. Reza Alizadeh

Dr. Reza is the visionary behind LifeClinic. His leadership is the foundation for the patient and team member experience, and overall direction of the LifeClinic. As the creator of IMJT, Dr. Reza continues to be the primary teacher on this technique.

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