I’ve drunken the Kool-Aid and sipped from the Goblet of the Holy Grail. I’ve experienced the ups and downs of crunching, raising, planking and Swanning. I’ve done the hundred, the Rainbow, rolled around like a ball and the Cat, which was where I gave up, lied down and fell asleep.
I’ve felt my abs contract and my muscles ‘lengthen’ whilst moving into positions that should be reserved for limber girls on the Internet only. But, despite all of this, I still can’t bring myself to recommend Pilates to anybody who seriously wants to get fit and strong.
Who else has heard the expression ‘long, lean and toned muscles’? Thanks to Danoz Direct and the Ab King Pro most people have. However, this phrase is also batted around with careless abandonment in reference to Pilates.
What woman doesn’t want ‘long, lean and toned muscles’? After all, everyone knows that heavy weight training turns women into men and instantly makes them develop an Adam’s apple.
The only problem with this though is that, when you stop and think about it, having ‘long and lean muscles’ is the dumbest expression ever. If it was possible to lengthen your muscles we would all be walking around like Gumby- and women would no longer need men to reach things on the top shelf.
Next, toned muscles are simply the product of having a low percentage of body fat. Subsequently, this allows the muscle definition to show.
Most women that regularly do Pilates fail to properly challenge or push themselves, instead believing that the just rocking up to the class twice a week, squeezing their arses and constantly contracting their abs should guarantee them results.
They are content to abide by the instructors programming, regardless of whether or not they get their heart rate up, and then they go out for low fat super Acai smoothies and bitch about how Suzy just got Botox and how awful it looks.
Then, six months from the day they started twisting their bodies they ask someone like me why they still aren’t losing weight.
You politely explain to them that they’ve probably hit their peak in Pilates classes and, if they want to continue to progress, they need to start lifting heavy weights. Despite your insistence though, they tell you they aren’t too comfortable and instead settle for signing up for a pump class.
About this time last year my wife insisted I go to a Pilates class with her.
I reluctantly dragged myself from the weights room and into the small studio with a bunch of middle aged woman and an a few younger women looking for that sexy ‘long and lean’ look. Midway through the session, the instructor demonstrated a move that she could barely do.
She crossed her legs, extended her arms out underneath her and pushed herself upwards, tensing her core. She challenged everyone to do it but, as expected, nobody in the room even came close… well that is until my wife looked at me easily performing the advanced manoeuvre in my first Pilates session in well over a year and a half.
Why was I able to do something the instructor could barely do? Ever wonder how much core strength max effort deadlifts and squats require, or how much upper body strength pull-ups and overhead presses develop? More than enough to execute a Pilates move with little more than a whimper of effort.
The last thing I want to do is poo-poo anything that gets people off the couch and moving and Pilates can help people for a myriad of different reasons.
Pilates’ exercises are crucial for even the most ardent weight lifter. Despite a lifetime under the bar most men and women don’t know how to activate their glutes, or how to breath properly during a heavy set of chin-ups- skills regularly taught in Pilates’ classes.
Others enjoy the social aspect and some do still find it challenging and find that attending a class is the only way they can motivate themselves to hit the gym.
When I attended classes I found that it helped me learn how to breathe effectively, which transferred over to better performance in the weights room. I found that my core strength and muscle awareness increased and I enjoyed the relaxing aspect to it all- Pilates was great as an active recovery session.
However, if you are serious about losing weight, shaping up and growing a bodacious booty and tight core, then Pilates just won’t cut it.
Instead, start lifting heavy 3-4 times a week, run a few hill sprints, step outside of your comfort zone and, if you absolutely must still attend a Pilates class, use it as a recovery session instead, not a workout…
… Regardless of what the ‘guru’ or instructor taking the class tells you.