So you think Pilates is just about stretching? Marg Smith debunks common Pilates myths and shares her story.

27th December 2019

by Marg Smith, Studio HQ Member

As a lover of Pilates, I am perplexed by some of the myths that still surround the practice. Misnomers such as,” Pilates is just stretching,” “Pilates only focuses on core strength and not overall fitness and health,” and “Pilates is aimed at women and not men” are thrown around all too commonly, but just aren’t the case.

When I tell people I am going to Pilates, mostly the reaction I get is “have a nice stretch”. This actually makes me want to both laugh and cry at the same time because Pilates is a full-body workout whether using the mat, reformer or apparatus. Each form uses a combination of resistance, strength, balance, concentration, and control, and further resistance can be introduced in the form of the magic circle (ouch). Therabands, hand weights, and various other props. It’s great for the mind as well, because Pilates requires a level of concentration to control each movement. In fact, when it was first invented by Joseph Pilates, Pilates was called Contrology which speaks to the level of mental and physical control required.

I agree that Pilates incorporates stretching, but I see Pilates as more about being aware of one’s body, being mindful of the exercise I am performing, what muscle groups I am targeting if I am executing the move correctly, how my body is responding to various exercises and importantly understanding why I am executing certain movements and what I want the end result to be.

My goal is for a longer, leaner body, with more muscle tone, increased flexibility and strength, beautiful posture and ease of movement with no strained or pained muscles. The beauty of Pilates is that I can practice it well into old age because of its low impact.

Marg on the Pilates Barrel at The Studio Hobart
On the Pilates Barrel at the Studio Hobart

Pilates gives me a whole-body workout. From my feet, ankles, legs, glutes, hamstrings, calves, thoracic, arms, chest and let’s not forget all those stabilising muscles that do not always get used in some other forms of exercise. With Pilates, all these areas get used. So, is Pilates just a core workout then? No, but the core plays a major part in the practice which makes total sense when you think of the core as a whole and not slot it into “oh it’s the abdominals.”

Pilates has taught me the importance of strengthening the core such as the pelvic floor, lower back, and glutes and of course the abdominal muscles (obliques, transverse and rectus) because these muscles are the support structure for the spine which is what allows us to move easily and autonomously. Through Pilates I have also increased strength, mobility and movement in my shoulders, lower, middle and upper back, arms and hip joints and many of my muscles have lengthened and become more supple.

Over the past 4 years, my body has gradually toned, lengthened and reshaped itself. I feel softer and feminine, less stressed and a bit more confident.

Many women participate in Pilates for fitness but it is by no means for women only. Joseph Pilates founded and created Pilates ‘by a man, for men.’ Lots of sports teams, male and female, now incorporate Pilates as part of their training schedule because they can see the benefits of additional lengthening, core stability, and strength that Pilates provides. I can’t recommend the practice highly enough.

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