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Pilates: Who and Why?

Pilates. Ask anyone what they think about it, if they can pronounce it (it's "Puh-lah-teez" for the record), and you're likely to hear a multitude of responses: it's for ballerinas, it's for women, it's just like yoga, it's for people who don't want to build muscle...thelist goes on. It's true - Pilates is very popular amongst women and dancers - both of whom traditionally don't want to build copious amounts of muscle, but this neglects to point out that Pilates is relevant and useful for many different populations. So, let's talk about what Pilates is and who it's good for.

First of all, Pilates is a complete exercise system developed in the mid-twentieth century by a German named Joseph Pilates. A boxer, gymnast, and bodybuilder himself, Pilates created a system of exercises that could be used to train injured soldiers during WWI. After the war, he moved to the US and his system began to gain popularity here, particularly when his own students went on to open their own studios.

His system is still wildly popular amongst dancers but it has also gained mainstream popularity. It is viewed as a way to strengthen and stretch the body without building excessively bulky muscles (although there is certainly nothing wrong with increasing muscle size). But the genius of Pilates is not simply in it's aesthetic benefits (although these undoubtedly contribute to its popularity). Rather, Pilates is an ingenius system designed to strategically stretch and strengthen the entire body and to bring balance amongst all the muscle groups of the body, particularly focusing on smaller stabilizing muscles that traditional fitness programs tend to overlook. Balanced muscles, if nothing else, are happy muscles, less prone to pain, such as back pain, shoulder dysfunction, and knee troubles. Balanced muscles also mean improved posture and improved athletic performance. So while there are some Pilates exercises that do have a look of grace about them...

there are many others that involve sheer athleticism.

With its complete system of exercises and countless modifications, variations, regressions, and progressions, this means that Pilates can truly be used by anyone who wants to look, feel, and perform better. If you are interested in trying Pilates, please don't hesitate to contact me.

For a delightful animated history of Pilates, check out the video here, courtsey of and InfobytesTV:

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