Who is Pilates for? It's for rock stars, tennis pros, swim stars, my NY Giants and other boys of the NFL. For gymnasts, dancers, and athletes in the NBA and the NHL. And, of course, it's for celebrities wishing to remain svelte in their $200K bikinis and loin cloths.
It also helps the aging, those burdened with physical challenges such as Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, and it can help our younger generation manage the symptoms of neurological disorders. An excellent means of cross-training with cardiovascular workouts, Pilates leads to long, lean muscles and better control of the body with proper muscular initiation.
Pilates was first developed by Joseph Pilates, who called it Contrology, and used it to train army troops, interned prisoners, and men and women from all walks of life. Today it's just as good for us normal humans with careers, families and the tensions of 2012.
Here are some of the primary health and conditioning benefits of Pilates.
1. It increases your flexibility.
Pilates uses specific exercises and techniques to increase range of motion in all joints and movements of the body. The structure of the male body is usually tighter than a woman's body, and Pilates can help. But it ain’t just a simple stretch, people! We're talking eccentric contraction of muscles so they are both the primary muscle(s) in the initiation and completion of a motion, while ALSO lengthening the muscle in the process.
Kill two birds with one stone! Perfect for our speedy lifestyles of today, right?
2. Pilates helps you develop body strength and awareness.
Pilates offers functional strength, meaning the body must maintain correct posture and muscle patterns while building strength. This engages the often neglected muscles, building equal strength with agonist/antagonist muscle groups. (For example, it build the triceps to match the biceps.) It helps you develop a balanced body less prone to injury.
Having a conscious awareness of proper motion versus incorrect movement could possibly be one route to preventing injury. This awareness transfers into all forms of sports-related movemenour daily routines: from the perfect wide receiver’s leap into the end zone (GO VICTOR CRUZ!) to bending over to pick up a delivery in the office.
3. It gives you a great core and great posture.
Pilates has a unique and targeted repertoire for working the lower and upper abdominals, internal and external obliques, and the opposing lower and middle back muscle groups.
The Pilates apparatus offers ways to work the core on a deep, skeletal level, and give the real twenty-four-pack strength (not just six-pack abs) inside and out. This leads to improved posture, less likelihood of spinal injury, and a healthy addiction--to proper alignment--for life!
4. It reduces stress and keeps you younger and happier.
It has been claimed, though not yet scientifically validated, that Pilates workouts release internal anti-aging and stress-relieving chemicals known as endorphins into the body, giving a natural high after each session. Endorphins are the body’s natural feel good chemicals, and when they are released through exercise, your mood is boosted naturally.
Pilates is not considered a cardio-vascular workout, except when certain exercises, such as the spring board on the reformer, are incorporated. However, many Pilates addicts claim it is great for stress relief, and mood boosting. The focus upon proper breathing, stretching, and correct, aligned motion in space can help release negative emotions in the body whilst relaxing you, and keep you “feeling two inches taller!” following a session.
However, if none of the above works in releasing tension, then put that Pilates ring between the thighs, picture the head of that person at work who is DRIVING YOU CRAZY and SQUEEZE AWAY.
That should do the trick.
5. It prevents and repairs injuries.
Sports medicine MDs, physiotherapists, and physical therapists alike highly recommend Pilates for continued rehabilitation. And, if you're lucky enough to have insurance it might even cover eight sessions. And once you're done with those, just as the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld might say, “No more for you!” So physical therapists often recommend Pilates, as was done in a physical therapy office in Chicago, where we joyously worked with professional dancers of Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Company, River North, and visiting dancers of the American Ballet Theater.
But do Pilates now, BEFORE the injury, and you're less likely to be injured in the first place!