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Beginner’s Guide To Getting Started With Pilates

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Beginner’s Guide To Getting Started With Pilates
Pilates For Beginnners

Whether you’re a workout beginner or you workout regularly, Pilates is a form of exercise that is accessible for everyone. Pilates focuses on building strength and stability in a sustainable and effective way — and it’s easy to get started with Pilates at home.

You’ve likely heard of Pilates before, but sometimes there is ambiguity in what it actually is and how it is different from other forms of exercise, such as yoga. Pilates is an exercise style that can be done as a standalone workout routine, or alongside your regular workouts.

Before you get started, you’ll want to know why you should do pilates,  the types of Pilates you can do, and what you need to know before your first Pilates session.

Find out: 

What is Pilates?

Pilates was invented by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s as a form of physical rehabilitation. It is a low-impact style of exercise that targets muscles in a precise way, while increasing overall strength.

Pilates primarily builds strength in your core muscles, while also improving overall flexibility and posture. It maintains a focus on breathing techniques and precise movement. 

There are two main types of Pilates: reformer Pilates, which is done on a reformer bed, and mat Pilates, which is done on a yoga mat.

Benefits Of Pilates

Benefits of Pilates

Pilates has many health benefits, from increased flexibility to overall strength. 

Core strength

Pilates places emphasis on increasing strength and stability in your core. This has several physical benefits, from increasing overall stability in everyday movement to more toned-looking abdominal muscles. 

Posture

Pilates movements increase strength in all your core muscles, while bringing the body into greater alignment. Greater strength and alignment means a more stable and comfortable posture. 

Better balance

Greater core strength and stability can help with improved balance in everyday life. This means you’re more likely to maintain control of your body and perform exercises more effectively.

Flexibility

Pilates exercises, while improving strength, also focus on opening up the body and stretching out your muscles. This helps improve overall flexibility and mobility in your joints and muscles.

Muscle strength

Pilates doesn’t just improve your ab strength — it increases strength in your glutes, quads, shoulders, and arms.

Wellbeing

During Pilates, you  focus on moving with your breath. This can help relax you and leave you feeling refreshed and focused after you finish.

Recover from injuries

Pilates was primarily invented to rehabilitate soldiers after World War One. This means it helps support the body to recover from injury by sustainably building muscle and bringing the body back into alignment.

Mat Vs Reformer Pilates

Mat vs reformer Pilates 

Two of the most common forms of Pilates are mat and reformer Pilates. While both have their benefits, there are some key similarities and differences between the two. 

The main difference is that mat Pilates is performed on an exercise or yoga mat, while reformer Pilates is performed on a reformer bed. Mat Pilates uses your bodyweight, and sometimes resistance bands or light dumbbells, to provide resistance in the movements. A Pilates reformer adds additional resistance through the use of leveraging your bodyweight against the weights in the springs.

Reformers allow you to perform a greater variety of exercises than mat Pilates, as you can adjust your resistance and use the different features of the reformer to perform different movements. Mat Pilates has a more limited repertoire of movements available in comparison.

This being said, you can still get the same strength and stability results from mat Pilates as reformer Pilates. And, you can much more easily do mat pilates workout routines when working out at home, as it doesn’t require a reformer.

You can also mimic the resistance of a reformer when doing mat Pilates by adding in a short loop resistance band to your movements.

How to get started with Pilates 

To get started with Pilates, there are some things you may like to take into consideration. The first is that watching online guided classes can help you to learn the correct movements while getting a feel for what a Pilates workout looks like.

It’s important that you don’t just watch any video — try to find gentle Pilates for beginners by qualified personal trainers or instructors. In addition to watching some classes, there are some helpful tips that will make starting your Pilates workouts easier.

Learn some pilates exercises for beginners

You might find it helpful to research some basic Pilates movements before you do a class, so that you are familiar with how they work. Take a look at these Pilates exercises for beginners below to get started.

Set up your space

If you’re doing Pilates at home, you will need to have a dedicated space for doing your workouts. You don’t need a lot of room — just enough for a yoga mat on the floor. You can do it in your bedroom, living room, backyard or balcony, so long as the ground is flat and even, and you have enough space to move.

Get some equipment

Aside from an exercise mat, Pilates doesn't require any equipment (unless of course you’re doing reformer pilates). But there are some pieces of equipment that can make movements more challenging or easier for you as a beginner.

While you can invest in equipment like a reformer or Pilates chair, these can be expensive. Some helpful and inexpensive pieces of equipment to have for your mat Pilates routine include:

  • Short loop resistance band (or booty band)
  • Long loop resistance band
  • Recovery bands
  • Exercise ball
At Home Pilates

How are Pilates and yoga different?

There is sometimes confusion as to the difference between yoga and Pilates. The main similarity is that they are both low-intensity, low-impact and accessible to anyone — all you need is your bodyweight and a mat. 

While there are many similarities in terms of exercises, one significant difference is that yoga is usually a meditative and spiritual practice — unifying the body and mind and increasing relaxation. Yoga also tends to have a greater focus on stretching and flexibility.

Pilates traditionally has a greater emphasis on rehabilitation. It can be a safer option to get started with than yoga for those who are recently injured. It also has more of a focus on core strength.

There are modern incarnations of both Pilates and yoga that are faster-paced. For beginners of both these practices, it’s best to start with slower, focused movements to build up strength and stability.

Pilates exercises for beginners

Before you get started with Pilates, there are some basic exercises that you can learn to get a feel for the workout style. 

Glute bridges

Glute bridges are a simple exercise that increase strength in your glutes and hamstrings. This movement can be especially helpful for those who experience back soreness or tension.

Start by lying flat on your back, with your knees bent. The soles of your feet should be planted firmly on the ground about hip-width apart.

Inhale, then exhale. Press your heels into the mat, tense your glutes and lift your pelvis up off the floor until your body forms one straight line from your chin to your knees, resting on your shoulders.

Inhale. Lower your pelvis to return to the mat.

Rolling like a ball

Rolling like a ball gives your entire back a good stretch by rolling out the muscles along your spine.

Start by sitting on your mat, and bring your knees into your chest. Holding onto your shins, tilt your head down so you’re facing your knees. Lift your feet so they hover just above the floor.

Inhale, then exhale as you roll backwards, holding onto your shins, until your shoulders touch the floor. 

Then, roll back up until you’re sitting on your glutes again. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Pelvic crunch 

Crunches work your upper abdominal muscles. 

Start by lying flat on your back, with your knees bent. The soles of your feet should be planted firmly on the ground about hip-width apart.

Bring your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers. Keep your head and neck relaxed, and draw your shoulder blades back and down. Inhale, then exhale as you tuck your chin into your chest and bring your ribs to your hips to raise your head, shoulder blades and upper back off the floor.

Inhale as you bring your head and shoulders back down to the floor. 

High Plank

A Pilates plank works your shoulders and your core muscles at the same time.

Begin on all fours in the centre of the mat, with your shoulders stacked over your hands and your hips stacked over your knees. 

Then, step your feet to the back of the mat and lift your hips so that your body forms a straight line from your head down to your heels. Ensure your core stays engaged and that you press firmly away from the ground to support your upper body. 

Hold this position for the specified amount of time.

The hundred

‘The hundred’ exercise primarily increases core stability and strength.

Start by lying flat on your back, with your palms facing down on the mat beside your body. Bending your legs, raise them up above your body so that they are at a 90-degree angle and your knees are stacked over your hips.

Extend your arms above your head so they are resting on the floor with your palms facing towards the ceiling. Inhale. Exhale and lift your shoulders and head off the mat. Extend your arms and legs forward in front of you.

Your legs should be straight, hovering above the ground, and your arms should be extended in front of you with your palms facing down.

Inhale. Exhale and begin to pulse your arms up and down. 

Breathe in for five seconds, and out for five seconds, until you reach one hundred, while keeping your arms pulsing.

Deciding which workout style is right for you

When you’re new to working out with Pilates, you might find you need guidance for getting started. Trying out some of the beginner Pilates exercises is one of the best ways to see if this training style is right for you.

And if you’re still not sure if Pilates is for you, you can learn more about yoga for beginners, or even try out some bodyweight exercises you can do at home.

* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.

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