The Beginners’ Guide to Pilates
We contributed to the Women’s Health Beginners Guide to Pilates. Here are our top tips for Pilates newbies.
Why should people do Pilates?
Pilates is a low impact exercise discipline which is fantastic for strengthening muscles, promoting movement control and building endurance. The main focus is on improving spinal strength and mobility, thereby reducing the risk of injury and enhancing athletic performance.
How can Pilates complement my existing training?
It has huge benefits for everyone, whether you are rehabilitating from an injury or training for an Iron Man. It is also wonderful targeting hard-to-find but important muscle groups (eg glute meds, transversus abdominus) and when practiced properly can iron out all sorts of postural issues.
What should I wear for Pilates?
Wear fairly snug fitting comfortable clothing. Sports bras can be more comfortable than normal bras, but aren’t necessary because of the low impact nature of the workouts.
Make sure that your leggings don’t have a zip pocket on the back as many Pilates exercises are performed lying down and the zip can dig into your lower back especially during imprint work.
If you’re going to a class then ensure you have some socks with you that have grip on the bottom – many gyms will insist that you have these and the prices can be eye watering (up to £10!) if you have to buy on the spot or forefeit your class.
If you are trying out reformer Pilates (Pilates performed on a purpose built resistance machine) then make sure that you don’t have too much flesh exposed. The main part of the machine is upholstered in leather and this can be an unpleasant sweaty experience if you have too much uncovered skin.
What type of Pilates should I try?
If you are trying Pilates out to rehab an injury get sign off from your doctor first. Ideally you should try to see a physiotherapist or osteopath first who can show you the correct ways that you should perform Pilates exercises to protect and rehab your injury.
Restore and Reform run introductory “Pilates for…” workshops in London to teach people who are rehabilitating from an injury how to practice Pilates safely.
Where not practical try to get a few 1:1 sessions before joining a class. Classes can be very large, at times intimidating if you’re a first timer, and dangerous to your health as the instructor will be unable to give you the attention that you need. If at anytime during a group class you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, please flag this to the instructor or leave. There is nothing worse than exacerbating an injury out of fear of saying something.
What is a ‘good’ Pilates class?
A well-programmed class should work on improving spinal posture and mobility, core and gluteal strength, scapular stabilisation and breathing techniques. We like to steer clients away from “skinny bitch” Pilates which is often high impact, high intensity and often taught by people who have a PT qualification but nothing specific to Pilates.
What makes a good Pilates instructor?
Check the qualifications of your instructor – we think the gold standard for basic training is STOTT, and also very highly rate Polestar, Alan Herdman and Body Control. We believe that the really good instructors build on their initial training and will take their favourite exercises from each different school, continuously building on their repertoire. At R&R the foundation of our reformer classes are STOTT, but we also build in physiotherapist-prescribed movements, other moves we’ve picked up over the years from other instructors, and create exercises entirely unique to some clients depending on their goals.
Can I learn Pilates safely online?
If you would rather practice Pilates at home, we rate the Pilates Anytime app very highly. The app is affordable (about £10 per month), has world-class instructors and is very well produced.
What is the difference between Classical and Contemporary Pilates?
There is a divide between Classical Pilates (practiced by purists who have not diverged from the original Pilates exercises executed in a particular sequence) and Contemporary Pilates (which builds on Classical Pilates). Our thinking is that exercise prescription should progress as sports science does and that since Joseph Pilates died in 1967, our understanding of the body has come a long way.