Can Pilates Help You Get Stronger?

If you’re thinking about switching up your weekly exercise routine, Pilates could be the all-inclusive workout your body’s been missing out on. But can it help you with your weight loss goals, and most importantly can Pilates help you get stronger?

While the movements associated with Pilates are generally low impact, the benefits are seriously significant, from stress relief and flexibility to improved stamina and control. These are the most popular health benefits Pilates is celebrated for, but more subtly, Pilates may also help you become stronger.

That’s right! You don’t always need to lift heavy dumbbells in the gym to get strong or add some shape and tone to your body.

In this article, we discover what the practice is all about, why it’s so popular and if you should integrate it into your weekly training program.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a type of low-impact exercise that concentrates on improving posture, balance and flexibility. The fitness practice was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, who believed mental and physical health were closely connected. He presented his method as ‘the art of controlled movements, which should look and feel like a workout (not a therapy) when properly manifested[1]’. Each move should be slow and precise, and you need to focus on breath control too.

A typical Pilates workout is around 45 minutes to an hour and you can do it with or without equipment. Each exercise is generally done in a specific order, one right after another. Popular Pilates movements includes the Pelvic Curl, The 100, Scissor Kick and Plank Rock.

Unlike most forms of exercise, Pilates doesn’t over-work parts of the body and neglect others. While most people associate it with core training, it actually trains the body as a whole, promoting strength, balance, equal muscle development, as well as improved flexibility and an increased range of motion.

Because it emphasizes good posture, proper breathing and body awareness, many experts suggest Pilates is the best exercise to better condition the body and prevent it from being prone to injury[2].

Can Pilates help you get stronger
What does Pilates target?

Pilates tends to focus more on the core, however it’s widely considered a total-body workout. By paying attention to your core, the foundation of functional fitness, you can expect to move better and find every day movements much easier.

Pilates also targets the hips and pelvis, the back and your glute muscles, focusing on lengthening and expanding the muscles. It works to challenge your body, helping you improve your balance, flexibility and stability. It can also strengthen your joints and improve their mobility, and in time, streamline your body to reduce stiffness associated with ageing[3].

Breathing the right way is also important during Pilates. Deep breathing, specifically, helps to clarify and calm the mind, decrease stress, and pave the way for a greater, holistic Pilates experience.

According to Joseph Pilates, the breath leads the movement and gives you power. For example, in the pelvic tilt movement, during the part of the exercise that requires the most effort you would breathe out so that you can take advantage of the natural contraction of your abdominals.

Pilates: The pros and cons

Practicing Pilates on a regular basis offers a plethora of well-rounded benefits. The ‘beauty’ of this type of training is that anyone, at any age can get started, since it’s relatively low-impact.

While its main benefits include strengthening your midsection, there are many other positives to starting a Pilates regime.

Here are the pros of Pilates:

Low-impact exercise

Pilates is a slow, controlled form of exercise. This makes it accessible for a wide variety of ages and abilities and is why it’s used as a type of physical rehab. If you’re looking to use Pilates to aid a specific injury, you may need to have custom exercises designed for you.

Improved flexibility, posture and balance

Strengthening and stretching your muscles can promote flexibility and help you improve your posture and static balance – the ability to balance in a stationary position. Research has shown that just eight weeks of practicing Pilates boosted flexibility, balance and endurance in healthy adults[4].

The more flexible you are, the less muscle tension you’ll experience. Having good overall flexibility will also prevent injury, improve your posture and overall health.

No equipment needed

Pilates requires minimal to no equipment, so it’s the ideal workout to try out at home or while travelling. Many people like to practice Pilates on a yoga mat, however it’s all down to personal preference. We would recommend investing in a mat to make your Pilates experience a little more comfortable.

Improved overall strength

Pilates places great focus on strengthening the body in an equal way. With emphasis on core strength, it allows you to find better range of motion and move easier. What’s more, by focusing the mind, controlling your breathing and making use of internal resistance it’s a particularly powerful way to tone the body.

Boosted mood

Pilates is thought to fight low mood and help you cope with stress[5]. Physical movements can decrease ‘stress hormones’ like cortisol, and increase endorphins, your body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals, causing a positive feeling and giving your mood a natural boost[6]. Some experts suggest that being active can improve wellbeing as it raises a sense of better self-confidence, self-discipline and the ability to rise to a challenge.

Pilates isn’t for everyone and it’s important to be aware of the cons involved.

Here are the drawbacks to practicing Pilates:

It won’t burn as many calories

If you’re looking to lose some pounds, Pilates might not be the most efficient form of exercise to do, especially when compared to cardio workouts like running or swimming. Pilates does burn calories, however you’ll burn a whole lot more if you concentrate on higher impact exercises.

In the long run, it all comes down to what you can stay consistent with. If you enjoy doing Pilates workouts, you’re more likely to stick to your fitness regime by practicing it regularly.

When done incorrectly, injuries can happen

With any sort of physical activity, the risk of injury is always present. While Pilates-related injuries are uncommon, they’re not unheard of. If you fail to hold the correct posture or don’t go slow and steady with the movements, you may put yourself at risk of injury. It’s important to execute the movements slowly rather than rush through the routines.

Classes can be expensive

Most Pilates classes are available at gyms or fitness studios however they do come with a cost – and it can be an extra cost to the membership. If you don’t want to pay for your classes, you should be able to find free and simple YouTube tutorials to follow.    

3 Pilates movements to try

Ready to give Pilates a go? These movements are great to help you get started.


The Toe Tap

  1. Lie on your back and raise your legs.
  2. Bending at the knee, position your shins and ankles so they’re parallel to the floor.
  3. Hinge at the hip and lower your left foot towards the floor, tap the floor with your toes without letting your lower back lose contact with the mat.
  4. Lift your leg back to the starting position, engaging your lower abdominals. Repeat with the other leg for a total of 10 reps on each side.


One Leg Circle

  1. Begin by lying on your back and raise one leg up to the ceiling while engaging your core.
  2. Extend the other leg out on the mat.
  3. Inhale and cross the raised leg over your body and outstretched leg. Exhale and begin circling your raised leg while keeping your hips still.
  4. Keep a controlled circling motion. Do eight circles in each direction with each leg.
  5. Be sure to keep your shoulders and pelvis level during your single leg circles.


Bird Dog

  1. Place your hands and knees on the mat with your wrists under your shoulders.
  2. Maintain a neutral spine and engage your abdominal muscles.
  3. Extend your left arm forward at shoulder height while extending your right leg back to about hip height. Pause and lower back to the start. Try not to lift your leg too high or allow your spine to curve past its natural position.
  4. Complete 10 reps on each side.



If you’ve been thinking about giving Pilates a try, the time is now. It offers heaps of benefits to your body, no matter your fitness background.

Many individuals who regularly practice Pilates tout countless benefits including: better stamina, improved range of motion, increased flexibility, improved posture, and developed muscle tone.

Even better, Pilates works to boost strength and muscle density, adding shape where other workouts don’t. Alongside strength training, Pilates works as a good accompaniment as it strengthens the ‘in-between’ muscles that are commonly neglected during weight training regimes.

While Pilates might not help you pack on the muscle, it will ensure that you are getting a total-body workout and help to keep you in peak physical condition.

If you’re new to Pilates, be sure to take it slow and steady. Talk to a certified trainer or start out with a class if you’re unsure. If you develop any pain or discomfort during or after any Pilates exercise, discontinue the practice and talk to a healthcare professional.










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