(by Marsha Dorman)
Perhaps you’ve heard of Pilates or seen Pilates machines on TV, but what is Pilates, really…?
The Pilates Method is a system of exercises developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, who brought the method from Germany to New York City in 1926. Performed on a mat, small equipment, and spring-based apparatus the Pilates method was called “contrology” by its founder and meant “discipline: control of the body, mind, breath and spirit.” Designed as “corrective exercise” Joseph Pilates also used the term “uniform development” to describe its potential benefits.
Discovered by dancers in the 1930s and 40s, Pilates became a preferred training approach for preventing and healing injury. By 1971 Pilates had reached the west coast when dancer and Pilates devotee Ron Fletcher opened his first studio in Los Angeles. In 1983, Dr. James Garrick, director of the St. Francis Hospital’s Sports Medicine Program in San Francisco, incorporated Pilates as a conditioning method to rehabilitate dance-related injuries, with the guidance of Ron Fletcher. Pilates is now used by rehabilitation specialists around the world to retrain posture, improve joint health, train balance skills, and re-pattern the neuromuscular system for optimal muscular balance and endurance.
Every year the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) surveys its members and professionals to gauge trends for the upcoming year, and this year Pilates defines 7 of the top 10:
- Educated, Certified and Experienced Fitness Professionals: Most private Pilates studios employ teachers who have been certified by teacher-training programs that meet the minimum standards of the Pilates Method Alliance (450 hours of comprehensive, hands-on small group training; private lessons; performance; practice teaching; observation; and written and practical exams).
- Strength Training: All Pilates exercises are initiated from a strong, stable core and transferred through the powerful muscles of the hips and shoulders to the extremities, a biomechanical principle used in athletics and sports training to develop optimal efficiency and for performance enhancement.
- Body Weight Training: Pilates Mat classes use body weight resistance in a series of 34 floor exercises that take the standard push-up, sit-up and plank into a new realm of possibility.
- Fitness Programs for Older Adults: Classic Pilates targets the highly active older adult with more rigorous exercises, and Modern Pilates can be modified for the less active adult with an emphasis on functional fitness.
- Personal Training: Comprehensive Pilates trainers can provide personal training opportunities for a variety of individuals – from healthy adults and teens, to elite athletes, deconditioned adults, individuals with chronic conditions (osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons), and post-rehab patients recovering from trauma, surgery and repetitive strain injuries.
- Functional Fitness: Pilates addresses the 3 components of functional fitness: balance, coordination, and endurance. Using spring resistance and body weight to perform functional activities (pushing, pulling, squatting, climbing) Pilates exercises are performed in a variety of functional positions (standing, sitting, kneeling, single leg balance).
- Core Training: Core training stresses strength and conditioning of the stabilizing muscles of the abdomen, thorax, and back. Performed on a mat, small equipment, and spring-based apparatus, the Pilates method works dynamically from “the inside out”. Pilates exercises initiate all movement from the “powerhouse” (core, abdominals, glutes) while performing fluid and strong whole-body movements.
- Group Personal Training: This trend allows the personal trainer to provide individualized service catered to small groups of two to four people. Pilates is well suited to small group mat and equipment classes.
Marsha Dorman, MSPT, owner of Exhale! Pilates in downtown Bothell, has been a movement educator, certified Pilates teacher and licensed physical therapist in studio and clinic settings for the past twelve years. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.