Pilates: Benefits & A Little History

I want to start sharing some of my Pilates knowledge with you guys, it’s a great form of exercise that I don’t think always gets enough attention, so I’m spreading the Pilates love (:


Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s. As a kid, Joseph Pilates dealt with several health problems and was often very weak. He worked to develop a series of exercises that he could do to strength his body based on the limitations he had.

Well, hello Mr. Pilates
(click for source)

Pilates joined the military in World War I and used his techniques to help train fellow soldiers. He also attached springs to the beds of injured and bed-ridden soldiers so they could also work with resistance to improve their strength (this was actually the basis for the Pilates machines he would develop later on). His methods were so effective that none of his soldiers died during the 1918 Influenza Epidemic that killed thousands of people across England.


Pilates is such a great form of exercise for a number of reasons, unfortunately it tends to be ignored by many fitness enthusiasts because it isn’t considered vigorous enough for those weight lifters and cardio junkies and doesn’t have quite the meditative effective of yoga. But don’t ignore it!

Pilates has a lot of great benefits for everyone. It helps strengthen all the muscles of the core, the inner and outer obliques, the transversus abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscle which runs laterally across your abdomen and stretches from the top of your hip bone to the bottom of your ribcage, it attaches to your diaphragm, aiding in breathing and acts as a girdle for internal organs) and of course the rectus abdominis (or the infamous six pack muscles), as well as muscles of the low back, glutes, hip flexors and inner and outer thighs.

(click for source)

A strong core is important for a number of reasons, including:

  • Balance
  • Better posture
  • Protecting the low back from pain or injury
  • Pretty much every full body motion requires use of the core muscles

Pilates is also great for increasing flexibility, especially through the legs and low back, where people are commonly very tight. Pilates also strengthens smaller groups of muscles, such as the muscles that help externally rotate the hips, which aren’t typically addressed in conventional weightlifting.

Check out that hip flexibility.
(click for source)

Pilates encourages deep breathing, inhaling through the nose and exhaling audibly through the mouth. This style of breathing not only helps you execute the exercises more efficiently, but it is detoxifying and aids in stress reduction. Joseph Pilates actually had asthma when he was younger and this style of breathing helped him cope with his symptoms and eventually overcome it.

One of the best benefits of Pilates is that it’s a really refreshing form of exercise. Pilates works the body but doesn’t over-exert it (if done correctly!). Pilates exercises should be challenging, but they should never be painful or uncomfortable. The breathing and focus on proper alignment always has me leaving class feeling refreshed, not exhausted or sore (not that I don’t sometimes enjoy the feeling after a super intense workout, but sometimes it feels good to give my body a break!). It’s also very scalable to all levels of fitness, beginners and experts alike.

I won’t even pretend I can do that
(click for source)

I’m hoping to make this a weekly thing on Fridays (well, most Fridays, I am a college student after all!). I’m also planning to put together some Pilates sequences and workouts to share, I just want to get through the basics first because they’re important! So hang in there with me through the wordy stuff. Look for an overview of Pilates form and descriptions of the beginning moves next week!

Disclaimer: I’m not a certified Pilates or group fitness instructor (though I hope to be soon!), though I have done training through my university it was not certified training. Please check with your doctor before beginning or changing your fitness routine.

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  1. Pilates: Principles, & Form « greensandcoffeebeans
  2. Pilates: The First Four « greensandcoffeebeans

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