Pilates: How to play to your strengths

Gary Jefferies

THERE are so many questions people have when they think about taking up pilates: Do I wear a leotard? Will it fix my back pain? Is it like yoga? Will I need to polish my toes before I come along? And that’s just the men…

The fashionable system of exercises was developed by Joseph Pilates, who firmly believed that poor breathing technique combined with a bad posture were the key problems with a contemporary lifestyle.

This was back at the beginning of the 20th century, yet remarkably these issues are still being -replicated in our daily lives now – -especially as so many of us sit at desks for long periods of time and have our heads hunched over mobile phones.

Pilates is increasingly popular with celebrities with the likes of Cameron Diaz, Megan Fox and even Sylvester Stallone becoming huge fans. Phillip Schofield recently praised the benefits that pilates brings him.

You may be thinking that a pilates class will be full of super flexible ballerinas lifting their legs over their heads, and you may feel nervous about coming along to try it out.

But in my opinion classes do not need to be snooty, they can be friendly and relaxing and you still achieve a great workout.

So what does pilates do for you?

Improves core strength: It’s all very well exercising different muscles down at the local gym, but pilates works on your whole core and your limbs in one go.

It can increase your strength, expand your range of motion and significantly improve
your flexibility.

Change the shape of your body: Some people have the perception that because you are laying on a mat, pilates is a ‘lazy person’s workout’.

Despite the fact that it is often considered a ‘gentle’ exercise, you can still work really hard and achieve great results.

Pilates prevents back injuries: Come on guys, are you fed up with that awkward back pain that keeps niggling you everyday?

Pilates isn’t just for women. It will lengthen the spine and loosen up tight hip muscles so you can stand taller and move with more flexibility.

I can’t promise you a six-pack, but it will certainly strengthen your core.

Improves pelvic floor: Yes I know, no one wants to talk about it and sometimes when I ask people how their pelvic floor is doing, they will avoid eye contact and look away in embarrassment.

However, pelvic floor function is such an important issue, especially for us ladies. Pilates will help improve and fix those embarrassing leaking moments.

Perhaps you have recently given birth and your body feels like it has been hit with a huge pair of boxing gloves. Pilates will help with back pain from bending over to lift your baby.

It can also focus on improving your core and reinstating those all-important muscles in the groin area.

Reconnects your mind with your body: I try to make my classes as relaxing as possible – no one wants to feel nervous or scared about coming along to participate in exercise.

Pilates is an ideal exercise whatever your shape or size, or even the state of your mental health.

You can just be yourself and work at your own pace. There are hundreds of modifications that can be applied to each exercise and you can still feel a sense of achievement at the end of a class, whatever your current level of fitness.


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