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What Is Pilates?

Learn about Pilates from Core Pilates NYC instructor Sarah Ruback in this Howcast workout video.


A: So the question comes up a lot, what is Pilates. Pilates is a systemized form of exercise that was originated by Joe Pilates. Joseph Pilates came from Germany and landed in New York City in the early 1920's. The exercises focus on core strengthening which is your abdominals and your back. A lot of people think that it's just for dancers. In New York City it started out with a lot of dancers taking it because it helped them in their performance. It helped them be better at whatever they were doing. But now, as time has gone along, more people in just regular life have started to take Pilates because they can feel how it changes their body.

B: Absolutely, and with that, with the core strength, I mean, in our work these days or even in the athletics or other activities we may do you have to have a strong abdominal core. Our posture no longer, you know, sitting at a desk. Like we are naturally, now, today, pretty weak in our core and Pilates has sort of been the magic cure. Although it's not really magic. It's like a lot of hard work. I know Pilates can be very intimidating to someone who hasn't done it before, but, really, a lot of it you have done before. I mean if you have taken an exercise class, if you have taken a dance class, if you've even watched TV you've seen Pilates. So it is accomplishable by everybody. It's a sequential, safe way of moving through exercises. It's very supportive of your joints. It promotes long, lean musculature that is true to your body and your form which provides a great foundation. Even if you want to bulk up and be a bodybuilder you start with that core musculature to be the very best of who you are from the core.

C: And Pilates works in systems, so a lot of people ask, "What's the one exercise I should do in the Pilates system that would make me long and lean and tone?" The real answer to that is that you have to do all of the exercises. It doesn't work like regular bicep curls at the gym. You have to do from the hundred all the way through front support, and that's how you'll see the results.

A: And it's a lot of flexion and extension, and rotation. And the whole system has a formula to take you through one exercise to prepare you for the next exercise. It's a full body workout, head to toe, fingers to the top of your head. Pilates can be done on equipment which is special apparatus that Joe Pilates invented himself. And it can also be done just with the mat just like you would go into, say, a group yoga class and you put the mat down on the floor and you work with your own body weight. So you could either do Pilates on the apparatus which works with springs and tension and resistance, or you can work on the mat with just your own body weight. And people sometimes ask, what's the difference, and which one you like better. It's kind of a person by person basis. Some people like mat work better. Some people like working on the apparatus better. And the difference is just the spring tension.

C: And mat Pilates is actually, for many people, the most challenging, because you have to have correct form and you're using your own body weight. On the equipment you're placed in proper alignment. And on the mat you're responsible for your own posture and positions you're placing your body in, so it's very challenging.

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