In today’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle the need for regular exercise has never been greater. The following article explains what the Pilates method is.
The Pilates method is a form of exercise structured around core stability and functional movement. Core stability is the ability to stabilise the trunk of the body using the correct muscles. This allows for functional movement, which is the ability to use the correct muscles in the correct order of recruitment to perform tasks, such as walking or lifting.
Being able to maintain good core stability reduces the amount of physical stress placed on the body during both physical and sedentary activities, e.g. mowing the lawn or entering data on a computer. By using the correct muscles in the correct order you are able to reduce wear and tear on joint structures during physical activity and reduce nervous system activation during sedentary activity. This means that less muscles are used to maintain static postural positions (the relaxation of the superfluous muscles also reduces the amount of tension on the skeletal system).
Although Pilates is primarily strength and conditioning exercise, achieving and maintaining good core stability and functional movement also incorporates breathing, posture, range of movement (flexibility), balance, body awareness and relaxation (being able to relax the muscles you don’t need to use when performing a task).
The Pilates method can be applied to a variety of physical health issues. It can be used:
# In the treatment of specific injuries, e.g. lower back pain, frozen shoulders and whiplash.
# As part of a rehabilitative program, e.g. pre/post knee surgery.
# As a sports specific program, e.g. assessing and correcting a swimmer’s stroke technique.
# As a general exercise program, i.e. to improve or maintain muscle strength and tone, balance and flexibility.
Pilates can be done either as floor exercise or using machines. The primary difference between floor exercises and machines is that the floor exercises require you to stabilise your own body weight and movements, whereas the machines assist in stabilising your body weight and controlling your movements.
The requirement of stabilising your own body weight and movements makes floor Pilates a relatively high intensity form of strength training. Due to this it may not be suitable for some people. Consult your physical therapist or doctor before commencing floor Pilates (also known as mat or traditional Pilates).
Pilates balances eccentric (lengthening) and concentric (shortening) muscle contractions. This develops a longer leaner muscle. This allows functional control of your muscles through a full range of movement.
The intensity of machine Pilates can be progressed or regressed to make it suitable to all age and health groups (from the professional athlete to the professional couch potato).
By Simon Ayling (Clinical Pilates Instructor)
Chevron Island Physio