I have had many, seemingly obvious, ah-ha moments over the past few year as I would practice a handstand in CrossFit one day and a handstand in Yoga the next. The cues, explanation and purpose were all different with their own perspective. The same thing would happen when I taught the Pilates variation of a push-up to a client one day and then take a client through a decline push-up the next day in the weight room. A push-up is a push-up and a handstand is a handstand, the philosophy is just different, and as long as it is taught or used safely I am ok with that.
As a former college athlete, a Pilates Instructor and NSCA certified personal trainer, I feel I have a well rounded approach to working out and training clients. I get a little bit of both worlds and with that comes some serious perspective of how it is easy to get caught up in one way of exercising or one way of thinking. Many trainers in the field nicely imply that Pilates is useless and I even get made playful fun of at workshops. Like when I attended the HKC (kettlebell) course, number 10 on the safety list was to use common sense, and if you did not have it, take a Pilates class. Ha! With all this “harassment” I will still say that I absolutely love the Pilates method and have seen a great benefit by adding this type of training in a fitness regime, for not only myself, but my clients as well.
Myth #1: Pilates will make your muscles long and lean like dancers.
My favorite take on this is a quote by top strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle.
“One of my favorite lines of bull is the old “ this exercise or training method will give you long, lean muscles like a dancer”. This is akin to telling people you can turn an apple into an orange right before their eyes. You can no more make a short stocky female client have long lean muscles like a dancer than you make someone taller. Exercise will remove subcutaneous bodyfat and reduce intramuscular fat stores but, changing the source of resistance in a resistance-based exercise will not produce a muscle that appears different and or larger.”
Anatomically speaking, your muscles have a fixed insertion point and a fixed origin, and there is no exercise you can do that will change those points to make your muscles longer or shorter. You can perhaps get a leaner look with Pilates by combining it with a suitable resistance training program and nutrition plan, but Pilates alone will not significantly affect a drop body fat as demonstrated in this study.
Myth #2: Pilates will make you taller.
I came across a Pilates ad on YouTube that claimed Pilates can make you 2-3 inches taller, and let me be the first to tell you this is simply not the case. Often times my clients claim they feel taller, but it is often just that. They “feel” taller simply because they are more aware of their body and its positioning. For example, when chest muscles become tight and back muscles become weak we tend to round our shoulders forward creating a hunched posture. When a client becomes more aware of their hunched position, they correct themselves to sit up taller, and that is the awareness that leads to feeling “taller.”
Myth #3: Pilates is just for women.
Pilates was created by a man, named Joseph Pilates, who was a boxer, circus performer and self defense trainer. (His story is fascinating so to read more about the history of Pilates click here.)
Because of Pilates association with dancers, focusing on strengthening pelvic floor muscles, and it’s graceful presentation, it is associated most often with women. However, many top, male athletes currently use Pilates as part of their routine to strengthen their core, and improve flexibility and mobility, in addition to their training and conditioning or sport of choice. To see how Dwayne Wade and Lebron James use Pilates click here and here.
Myth #4: Pilates is just about strong abdominals and will give you a six pack and/or a flat stomach.
While it does focus on the abdominal muslces specifically, it also focuses on strengthening the entire torso (and body) and specifically the gluteal muscles which can help stabilize the pelvis and the spine. Pilates addresses the entire core: the front, back and sides , and all movement of the spines: flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion. It does not necessarily flatten your abdominals either without the appropriate exercise and nutrition prescription.
Being certified through STOTT Pilates I use the following principals to perform each exercise the most efficiently and safely.
2. Pelvic Placement
3. Ribcage Placement
4. Scapular Stabilization and Mobility
5. Head and Cervical Placement
The Pilates method is uniquely its own and Joesph Pilates sums up it best by the following quote that I would assoicate with all methods of fitness.
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”