You Asked: Does Pilates Count as Strength Training?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/28/2014 5:00 AM   :  13 comments   :  31,391 Views

This is not an easy question for me to answer. As a certified Pilates instructor and long-time Pilates practitioner, I've seen the many benefits of Pilates first-hand, and with many of my students. Pilates can sculpt your core, help you stand taller, improve your balance, tone your muscles and even prevent and relieve certain issues like lower back pain. I'm a huge advocate of Pilates and think it can benefit any body—male or female, young or old, beginner or athlete.
 
But I also have training and certifications in more traditional forms of fitness, such as personal training. So I also know how important it is to strengthen your muscles against progressively challenging resistance levels. The benefits you get from strength training, such as improved bone density, increased muscle tone and strength, a healthier heart, and improved metabolic rate come as a result of resistance training. A by-the-book definition of strength training means working your muscles to fatigue (meaning you can't do another rep in good form) with progressively heavier resistance over time. These variables aren't present traditional Pilates, which does not work the muscles to fatigue or continuoulsly increase resistance as you get stronger. This means that realistically, you will not get the same benefits attributed to strength training by doing Pilates alone.  
 
Yes, anyone who is new to Pilates will experience some benefits like increased strength (in certain muscle groups) and will probably see some improvements in muscle tone and strength. But for most people, those benefits will plateau and reach a maintenance level rather than continuously getting better. There's nothing wrong with that, if that is your only goal. Doing Pilates is certainly better than doing nothing at all, and doing Pilates is definitely a good way to begin strengthening your body if weight training intimidates you. If you are completely opposed to doing strength training, or can't for some health or medical reason, you will still see some strength benefits from a Pilates-based fitness program. But if you want to build increased muscle strength and achieve optimal fitness, adding traditional strength-building exercises is essential.   
 
Considering these facts, my recommendation would be to do both Pilates and strength training if possible. Aim for traditional strength training at least twice a week. That should be your main priority. Then, fit in Pilates (or other mind-body forms of exercise, such as yoga) once or twice a week if you can. These non-traditional exercises don't always meet strict definitions for "cardio" or "strength training" but we know that they still have many health and fitness benefits. I like to think of them as supplemental to a well-rounded fitness program.

No one form of exercise is the only thing you need to achieve ideal body composition and fitness. Variety is essential! Cover your bases first (strength training, stretching, cardio training), then fit in the extras where you can.
 
Do you agree or disagree? Do you think Pilates can take the place of strength training?


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Comments

  • ZELMAMEYER
    13
    It was an interesting and informative post but I would say that even though I do weight lifting as well, yoga and Pilates are essential for my aging body and I have joined the Pilates Physique for pilates classes and it's really good to me.
    - 10/15/2014   6:07:09 AM
  • 12
    Can we count Pilates as a strength building exercise? Even though I do weight lifting as well, yoga and Pilates are essential for my aging body. They use so few calories, though, I'm hesitant to add them as fitness minutes. - 4/28/2014   10:01:09 AM
  • 11
    Variety seems to be a very useful part of an overall exercise program. I think weight training should always be a part of it, but other things should be done too, and I suppose pilates could be among them. I've never done them though. - 4/28/2014   9:30:03 AM
  • 10
    Thoughtful article. Pilates was great for rebuilding my body after tendon surgery with prolonged non-movement, but I feel the need to add ST now. - 4/27/2014   10:27:00 PM
  • 9
    I'm guessing the level of Pilates would help decide whether it might rank as real strength training. But, generally, I would ADD Pilates to more strenuous strength workouts.

    I say - MIX IT UP!! : ) And, personally, and in no particular order, I love bodyweight routines, resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, pilates, and some forms of yoga! - 4/27/2014   5:17:25 PM
  • 8
    I like this article a lot, because it is really unbiased and true. I use pilates to enhance my strength training - I feel like it really fires up my core and helps to stretch out the imbalances sometimes created by a tradition strength routine. Plus, even 10 minutes of pilates practice can feel like a real workout. I love it as a "finisher" to my existing workout plan! - 4/27/2014   3:17:51 PM
  • FRAN117
    7
    I have a bowflex that I use for weights. I have had a difficult time finding how many calories are expended when using it however. Can you assist with this - 4/27/2014   1:30:03 PM
  • 6
    I have tried Pilates over and over again and just can't seem to like it. I want to like it for the core strengthening aspect but I just don't enjoy it. Traditional strength training is more up my alley. - 4/27/2014   10:07:33 AM
  • SUKIWOOKIE
    5
    Pilates is one of the few exercises that I really enjoy. I was thinking of adding reps or those weights that you strap to your ankles. - 4/27/2014   9:05:07 AM
  • JMB369
    4
    "Yes, anyone who is new to Pilates will experience some benefits like increased strength (in certain muscle groups) and will probably see some improvements in muscle tone and strength. But for most people, those benefits will plateau....

    I think this is a key point in Nicole's article. For many of us, Pilates IS a strength building exercise. Once we experience a plateau, THEN it might be time to add some traditional strength building exercises. For me, the same is true of yoga. Example: I am limited in how long I can hold downward dog pose by my arm strength, specifically the strength (or weakness) of my triceps. It seems to me I can increase the strength of those muscles by gradually increasing the time I hold down dog, OR by doing strength exercises that target those muscles. OR both.

    In my opinion, practicing pilates and yoga give my body a workout that is closer to the type of strength building that uses my own body weight -- plank, push-ups, squats, step-ups, etc. I do strength exercises with free weights a couple of times a week IF I have time, but my feeling is that they target specific muscle groups rather than work my entire body, and so if my time is limited, those are the exercises that I don't do! - 4/27/2014   8:37:36 AM
  • 3
    Great article-I do Pilates with stretch bands and have 3 different workouts-upper body--lower body--abds. I have 3 different bands for heavier resistances. - 4/4/2014   8:53:42 PM
  • 2
    If it makes me strong, improves my posture and balance, tightens my flab, and I am better off doing it than not doing it, I am not going to worry about what anyone else calls it. - 4/3/2014   11:09:42 AM
  • KGLENTZ
    1
    Great article, I do Pilates 3x a week and have def gained core strength, but I do find myself plateauing. Thanks so much for some inside info..going to boot camp tomorrow! - 3/26/2014   1:38:51 AM

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