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Another Reason to Try Pilates: Sculpted Arms

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/4/2010 7:00 AM   :  49 comments   :  17,429 Views

I love Pilates. Having practiced the method for more than five years, I can't imagine my workout routine without it. My once-persistent back pain is virtually nonexistent these days, an improvement that I attribute to the core strength I've gained from my twice-weekly sessions.

While most people think of Pilates as a core workout—and it definitely is one—it offers so many more benefits, from increased flexibility to the mood-boosting effects of mind-body exercise. And thanks to a recent study, we can now we can add upper body strength to that list of perks.

Our friends at That's Fit recently blogged about a new study showing that traditional mat Pilates exercises improved upper body strength in middle-aged men and women.

What's particularly interesting about these findings is that traditional mat Pilates doesn't really focus much on upper body strength. Sure, you may do some Pilates pushups and a few plank exercises for shoulder stability in a mat class. But without the use of a reformer machine or other props, there are not many upper-body specific exercises in mat Pilates. Researchers believe that a stronger core aids your upper body in exercises like pushups, and I agree.

Your body moves as a chain (often referred to as the kinetic chain), but that chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If your core is weak, full-body movements and other exercises, including pushups, will suffer. When your core is strong, however, your kinetic chain is stronger, and that helps you perform more repetitions and/or lift more weight in good form, which helps improve strength and endurance throughout the body. This is yet another reason core strengthening is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle and a sound fitness plan.

So if you've been struggling to move that pin to the next level on the weight stack or to finally complete the 100 Pushups Challenge, concentrate on your core and the rest of your body will follow!

Do you believe that a strong core improves upper body strength? How do you strengthen your core?

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Comments

  • 49
    Never tried Pilates. Think I'll check out a class to see about the jiggly, jelly arms removal moves. - 6/13/2012   8:30:10 AM
  • 48
    I have done pilates in the past...I need to start back. - 2/22/2011   10:04:38 AM
  • 47
    I just started using a medicine ball and it was AWESOME for a core workout! - 7/2/2010   2:56:57 PM
  • 46
    I read somewhere that core is like a gum between upper and lower body. So, for my 2-day strength workouts, I usually combine core with upper or core with lower body workout. Very seldom did all three as I always running out of time and less energy to do all in same day - more like my psychology effect, haha. - 6/20/2010   1:01:38 AM
  • 45
    As a dance instructor, it is imperative that my students learn Pilates. I had been unable to demonstrate because of health challenges over the last two years, but this summer I'm determined to get back my dancer's strength and Pilates is the way to do it!!! - 6/10/2010   12:14:26 PM
  • 44
    Good to know. My arms have been large jelly molds for a couple of decades and already with a couple of rounds of pushups a week they're feeling firmer. I'll have to add Pilates to the mix. - 6/9/2010   8:05:22 AM
  • 43
    I don't know about pilates but I do yoga on a regular basis and it really works for my core and my upper body. I usually do ashtanga yoga and when done well my 30 minute routine gets me to work up a sweat and gets my heart rate up. It is even difficult to finish. I enjoy it very much. - 6/8/2010   3:43:03 PM
  • DEEBEE2395
    42
    one of my goals is to get back to doing Pilates. I know how much better I felt when I was doing a Pilates workout regularly so why is it so hard to start again?? Now that I am getting back on track with a healthier lifestyle, Pilates will be included too. - 6/7/2010   9:24:36 PM
  • MAKELE
    41
    Tried a few Pilates moves a while ago and I found them really hard. I haven't ried them since then. I guess I should give it another go... - 6/7/2010   11:01:42 AM
  • 40
    I enjoyed Pilates very much when I was doing it, but there were positions where it was very uncomfortable for my neck and shoulders. Most likely it was a stress that I created, but I also wonder about the instructors, if they were diligent enough to make sure , not only myself but others in the class were following correct form on the reformer. I've stopped doing pilates because of that and time and cost and now my neck and shoulders are much better. Now I've started doing yoga and the instructors do pay attention. I will incorporate pilates slowly again for my core and posture. - 6/7/2010   8:55:26 AM
  • 39
    I discovered it several years ago and have been hooked ever since. - 6/7/2010   8:19:43 AM
  • 38
    Pilates.. I have done regularly, got off them, then now back on them.. My vote is definately put a class minimum once per week in schedule... it really makes a difference in posture, and back strength.. - 6/6/2010   10:41:04 PM
  • BIJOUX7
    37
    My arms are looking good with core training. I do planks everyday which strengthens my arms too! - 6/6/2010   11:21:09 AM
  • 36
    thank you...and as always, I always learn something new from your blogs! Who knew arm/shoulder strength was linked to the core???? Guess now I know :) - 6/6/2010   6:47:00 AM
  • 35
    I can't think of anything negative about Pilates. If you are fortunate to join a class and have an excellent instructor, anybody can do it. The idea is that you start where you are and work to improve yourself (only as compared to yourself!). It strengthens the muscles that support the spine. The breathing alone is worth the benefit gained! No matter how I felt when I began class, I ALWAYS felt better when I was done. It was a GREAT stress reliever.
    My only sadness is that I have been unable to find another class with a great instructor that I can afford of late. - 6/6/2010   1:14:19 AM
  • 34
    Thanks for the link to the 100 pushups program. I'm going to do that one. :-) - 6/5/2010   1:37:37 PM
  • CAMOTLEY
    33
    Hey folks. I'm new & have underlying cervical, lumbar spine probs. So I need some low impact beginner exercises suggestions. I kno nothing about pilates but want 2get 2kno about more strengthening of arms, legs & back strength without causing damage to my spine. Doc just says low impact exercises no other restrictions. Cept I've been practically bedridden for nearly 4 yrs now so I have little strength to begin with. Thanks for your ideas! - 6/5/2010   1:00:21 PM
  • 32
    i replaced yoga (which i could not fully get into) with pilates and ballet-infused workouts (i.e. ellen barret) and i have found i really love how much taller i seem to carry myself. my body feels like it's tightening up and my flexibility HAS increased. - 6/5/2010   12:32:03 PM
  • 31
    I love Pilates, but I don't do it as often as I should. I definitely think that it can help in various aspects! - 6/5/2010   11:07:52 AM
  • FAYESFOTO
    30
    Does anyone know what I can do to strengthen my neck muscles?? I have a long slinder neck and having trouble because of it! - 6/5/2010   11:03:03 AM
  • 29
    I love pilates. Thanks for sharing the info about 100 pushups. I'm going to add that challenge to my to do things, starting next week. - 6/5/2010   8:17:11 AM
  • 28
    Interesting. I have a 10 Minute Solutions Pilates, but I haven't done it in a while (it is a VHS). I might have to give it a try again. - 6/5/2010   6:41:13 AM
  • WHOLY_FIT_48
    27
    I've heard so many good things about Pilates but have never taken the plunge to take a class...this was a good reminder that I really need to get "around to it" and sign up at my local Y. - 6/5/2010   5:27:10 AM
  • 26
    welll finally i think it is time for me to get into this... i would get back soon today i would start my first session with nicolle for Pilates - 6/5/2010   3:08:22 AM
  • RABBITAQUI
    25
    I like Pilates. - 6/4/2010   7:19:47 PM
  • 24
    I am definitely going to try the 100 Pushups Challenge! I've always wanted to be able to do even 10 normal pushups, and being able to do 100 would just be fantastic. :) - 6/4/2010   6:12:52 PM
  • SUGARSMOM2
    23
    how nice five years . have heard some great things about this form of excerise . - 6/4/2010   4:18:40 PM
  • ALICOTTER
    22
    My gym just started offering an morning Pilates Mat class after spinning. I love it. Not only is it a great workout on its own it is great for after spinning class. - 6/4/2010   4:14:55 PM
  • 21
    I think I might try this 100 pushup challenge. My Arms need help! - 6/4/2010   2:49:15 PM
  • KHALIA2
    20
    I get core exercises through an aerobics class that I take on Tuesdays and Thursdays. - 6/4/2010   2:21:30 PM
  • LNKSMOM
    19
    Is there a system that you can recommend for a beginner, in their early 50's? I am intrigued by this and would like to incorporate this if possible..... - 6/4/2010   1:15:54 PM
  • 18
    YOGA can certainly build core muscles and arms as well. - 6/4/2010   12:33:39 PM
  • 17
    Interesting, Nicole! Several years ago a physcial therapist taught me a simple Pilates routine to strengthen my lower back and from there my hips. Ever since, I've done it daily. I did discover that I was getting biceps again, before I'd added in curls with a 10lb weight and the 100-pushup challenge. - 6/4/2010   11:34:47 AM
  • 16
    Absolutely. Without having a strong core you are going to use your butt, legs, and back muscles to help you with your push-ups and not get the full benefit. Also look at how many moves use your arm strength without you realizing it (unless it's your first day, then you feel it!) such as plank, downward dog, even cobra uses arm strength. - 6/4/2010   11:27:01 AM
  • TCILIBERTO
    15
    Yes I do think upper body strength comes from the core but everything comes from our core. - 6/4/2010   11:21:05 AM
  • SUNSET09
    14
    Yes, I do as well as pull ups which I have limited skills in. It also offers a lot of body control and balance. Definitely a nice alterntive to aerobics for those who are limited or unable to bounce, run and jump around. - 6/4/2010   10:55:39 AM
  • 13
    You have this one correct! - 6/4/2010   10:18:02 AM
  • 12
    Interesting that you focus on pilates mat rather than reformer, et al, as crucial in accessing improvements to the core, which would aid in improvements to your arms. That means, to me, that - just as with free weights vs. weight machines for a traditional gym workout - any benefit derived from machine pilates might be a little bit more progressive resistance or the fine tuning of alignment; but that, in the main, machines for pilates are not necessary ....

    Now, I am doubly happy that I'd had those arguments with my yoga teachers: Yoga had been killing my arms - (one class had me feeling like they would fall off the next day); and you can't lose weight standing on your head; and some things you are teaching me don't make sense [not that my bad feet could take the standing balances much better, but that's something else again] ... ! And you GOTTA LET ME TWEAK ALL YOUR CLASSES FROM NOW ON ...

    So, being the yoga student from hell that I know I had been—especially as a grossly underestimated student hanging out in the beginners' classes—I had been in the back, putting standing-up style pilates in my downdog splits, etc.

    A very astute yoga teacher had slipped in a couple rounds of utthita prasarita padasana in the next few classes I attended (this pose is actually very like an exercise taken from pilates; but in that school of yoga, it is done more reps) ...


    - 6/4/2010   10:12:05 AM
  • 11
    I totally believe that having a strong core helps improve a person's upper body strength. Now, how do I strengthen my core ? I do pilates and yoga on a regular basis. I also do strength training exercises on a stability ball. I do balance exercises on a BOSU and I occasionally use a Dyna disk. I do find the BOSU very good for improving my balance. The key to good balance is having a strong core.

    - 6/4/2010   9:49:43 AM
  • 10
    I not only believe I know for a fact that a strong core improves your entire body. - 6/4/2010   9:44:37 AM
  • 9
    so good i hope i ll be back to do them soon - 6/4/2010   9:40:28 AM
  • 8
    Yay, one more reason to **Love** Pilates, now If I could just re-find my favorite Pilates tape on dvd (I sent it to the library years ago when our vhs died) I'll be even happier until then it's Coach Nicole & Netflix to the rescue. - 6/4/2010   9:25:20 AM
  • 7
    I'm really learning to love pilates. Grant it when I first started I was very skeptical and too large to do the exercises in the correct form, but did my best and pushed through anyway. This difference in my stomach, waist and legs (especially the shape of my legs) was almost immediate, within four sessions. Just the other day while driving in the car I had my arm on the window and I suddenly noticed some muscle definition, I was shocked. So nice to hear about the kinetic process, very encouraging...Pilates is here to stay for me. - 6/4/2010   9:03:06 AM
  • 6
    I *thought* I was pretty strong (carry around 50lb feed sacks on the family farm). Got up to 63 on the pushups challenge before tearing my bicep tendon. Now, I'm in month 2 of healing the rotator cuff. Word to the wise: just because you can press, fly and do lots of pushups doesn't mean the WHOLE rotator cuff is strong. There are smaller muscles in the group which need to be built up to carry heavier repetitions. Good luck! - 6/4/2010   9:02:18 AM
  • 5
    Of course core strength helps in push-ups. How in the world can you do a push-up if you can't hold your body straight? I've made tremendous progress in being able to do push-ups after working on a simple modified plank for a few months. - 6/4/2010   8:32:18 AM
  • 4
    I'm in love with yogalates (combo of faster paced mat pilates moves and transitions with traditional yoga poses) and now find myself searching into the wee hours for more dvds. I do love the way pilates focuses on my core...heaven forbid I have a hard cough or sneeze the day after, tho...ouch. - 6/4/2010   8:16:42 AM
  • 3
    I have long struggled to do strength training. I have a mat pilates DVD and would do it a couple times a month, but struggled to do it regularly. I broke my foot last week and was given permission by my orthopedist to remove the boot to do mat pilates. So, while my foot is broken, I am working on getting into pilates. I still don't love it like I used to. I can't get over the "If I am not sweating, I'm not working" mentality that I have developed with running. But, I am working on it and I can feel it. And that is a big deal right now. Being able to do any kind of workout and feel it, is a big deal to me!

    As a side note, I know you aren't supposed to strength train the same muscle group 2 days in a row... does that go for pilates and yoga as well? - 6/4/2010   8:01:07 AM
  • 2
    Most Pilate moves are not for the exercise beginner. I tried to do some simple Pilate moves last year and could not, I am just now strong enough to do these same simple moves one year later. Years ago I use to love doing Pilates and hope to eventually find a place for them in my exercise routine. A few of my kickboxing DVD's have a couple of the simple Pilate exercises and I find myself finally able to accomplish them. - 6/4/2010   7:28:32 AM

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