Rather fashionable direction of physical activity today, Pilates has long been available only to professional athletes and dancers recovering from serious injuries. Designed for an individual rehabilitation, the system has proven its total effectiveness for improving the general physical shape of the body, normalizing the condition of the spine, strengthening the muscle corset, stabilizing pressure, and treating insomnia.
It is important to note: this is not an alternative to fitness or power loads, but a great way to bring the body and body into shape after a long absence of noticeable physical activity.
Plunge into the past
The history of the founder of this direction of physical education and even the whole philosophy, the German-American athlete, teacher Joseph Pilates is already a legend. He was a very painful child. He suffered from rickets, rheumatism, asthma, but thanks to independent studies he defeated the diseases and became a boxer. He was engaged in bodybuilding, conducted self-defense training for police officers. During World War I he improved his achievements during individual work on the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, and in the 1920s he formalized his experience in a separate Pilates method, or simply Pilates.
Subsequently, the technique was widely used in the United States and came to other countries. Today, Pilates is actively used as a form of training to increase the flexibility of muscles and joints, and as an element of therapeutic and prophylactic physical activity. By the way, Pilates formulated intuitively many of the basic approaches to working on the body (for example, “paradoxical” breathing, the principle “navel to the spine”), and later scientifically substantiated them.
Pilates is a set of exercises that are performed smoothly and slowly, to the calm music. All actions, as in a dance, are interconnected, without sharp jerks and transitions, gradually flow into each other. This is as well as the concentration on the breath – its similarity to yoga. Most exercises are performed while lying on your back: this reduces the load on the spine.
All classes are based on 6 basic principles:
- centering. The core of the exercises is a strong center. To create and strengthen it, you need to tighten the stomach, stretch the spine, pull the navel to it. Muscles are tense, not relaxed;
- concentration. You need to give yourself the installation to drop all thoughts and concentrate as much as possible on the sensations that arise when performing the exercise. So each movement will bring maximum effect;
- control. Each exercise, each movement is performed consciously, with complete muscle control. It is necessary to try to turn off the muscle memory, not to work “as the machine”, but to feel the target area in isolation;
- accuracy. When performing exercises, the body should be smooth and symmetrical. Nothing violates it;
- breathing. Used medium chest breathing, deep nose inhalation, exhalation through the mouth. Exercise adjusts to everyone’s breathing rhythm;
- traction. The shoulders are straightened and lowered, the shoulder blades are reduced. You can feel the spine as if stretched. It is thanks to this principle that posture is improved, and a feeling of lightness arises in the body and back.
It is important to follow these principles in training. Since the main load is on the deep muscles, strengthening the body, the wrong approach to the exercise can lead to a systematic flaw in the main points. So classes will be just a waste of time.
It is important to adapt to the so-called “paradoxical” breathing, a special technique developed by Pilates. The paradox is that during muscle contraction, an inhalation is taken rather than an exhalation, as is customary in fitness. So the pressure decreases, the vessels open up, which improves blood flow.
Choosing Pilates as a form of physical activity, you should not bet on a quick visual effect. You will not become stronger, you will not lose weight dramatically, you will not show stunning results. But at the same time, it is for you from the point of view of the general condition of the body and well-being that the result will be very noticeable. Where to expect improvements?
- The back. Since the main attention during classes is paid to the spine, its alignment and strengthening of muscle support, then over time unpleasant pains in the back and lower back should pass, tension in the neck should decrease or completely disappear, posture can significantly improve.
- Belly. In the classroom, abdominal muscles should always be in good shape. This helps to strengthen the abdominal press, burns fats in the deep layers of the muscles. So you will become fit, and the stomach will be flat and elastic.
- Joints and coordination. The movements will become smoother, more accurate. Due to the fact that the exercises are aimed at improving the possibilities of safe muscle stretching, the joints also become more flexible, and the developed sense of balance helps to maintain balance.
- General contours of the body. In the process of training the muscles, the spine are stretched, which means the body as a whole is stretched. “Irregularities” in the area of the hips, abdomen, buttocks are smoothed out. The number of active muscles increases, metabolism accelerates.
- The work of the cardiovascular system. Deep breathing helps to saturate the cells with oxygen, it relieves blood pressure, increases lung capacity, normalizes sleep, and reduces anxiety.
Pilates is more a marathon than a sprint. During and after classes, you will not feel very exhausted, you will not sweat much, but from the point of view of muscle work, you will get a full load. It is more likely for the future than getting a result here and now. For example, the strong muscles of the pelvic floor (they work actively during class) help women during childbirth, and also contribute to the normal functioning of the genitourinary system in old age.
Some useful tips
At first glance, Pilates looks like a fairly versatile and simple set of exercises to perform. For classes, there are practically no strict contraindications (it is important to dose the load correctly), they bring more pluses than minuses, look more like a warm-up than a full-fledged workout. But it is not so.
Since it is based on accuracy, correctness in dealing with one’s own body, general mood and atmosphere, it is important to know some nuances:
- despite the fact that, in general, Pilates belongs to the category of physiotherapy exercises, if there are serious diseases of the cumulus-skeletal system or cardiovascular system, it is better to consult a doctor before the first training session, and pregnant women should make the load minimal;
- depending on the general level of preparation of the body, you need to determine the group for classes. To do this, you can start attending training for beginners, gradually moving up a notch (or lower);
- most of the exercises can be performed independently at home on the gymnastic mat, but for a start it is better to engage with a coach. A qualified specialist will monitor compliance with safety precautions, help to perform movements and breathe correctly;
- when choosing online lessons for independent study, pay attention to the courses in the native language. Even excellent knowledge of a foreign language will interfere with concentration on movements and sensations. Remember the principle of total control;
- for training it is better to choose tight-fitting clothing made from natural fabrics. So the body will be able to breathe, and loose clothing will not hide inaccuracies in movements. Special shoes are optional. You can do it in sneakers with thin soles, and just in socks or even barefoot;
- when compiling a playlist for training, pay attention to long instrumental compositions without words at a pace of up to 128 beats per minute.
It is worth considering that every exercise in Pilates is thought out in such a way that it involves all muscle groups. But at the same time, it is aimed precisely at one main zone. Therefore, forming a training complex, it is important to alternate activities so that the stomach, back, hips and buttocks, arms and shoulders are included. Separately, pay attention to the stretch.
To put it in a nutshell
Pilates is a unique technique originally developed by Joseph Pilates for the rehabilitation of military men and athletes after injuries, and today it is used to improve the general condition of the body. Such training will not help to lose weight quickly, but in the long run will have a positive effect on the body as a whole. Metabolism will accelerate, sleep will get improved, blood pressure will be normalized, the spine will straighten, the abdominal muscles will strengthen, the contours of the body will be smoothed out.
You can choose it as the main training, or you can give him time 1-2 times a week as an additional way to keep fit, along with fitness, swimming or running. As in yoga, in Pilates, concentration of thought, attention to each movement, conscious exercise, cycling, and flow are important.