The total workout

Enter the world of pilates, a regimen which not only strengthens the full body but also energises the mind, writes Anjali Sareen
Last Updated 24 February 2020, 19:30 IST

Busy schedules and stressful pace of life could do with some quality time that recharges the body and mind — without adding further stress or pressure to the body.


A pilates workout could be the answer to that.

Pilates is a versatile system of movement and exercise that focuses on the entire body. It’s emphasis on breathing patterns, quality of movement rather than endless repetitions, and a conscious mind-body focus during each exercise makes pilates an ideal workout — to strengthen the full body as well as energise the mind.

A single-arm row with rotation in a half lunge position<br />on the Reformer's moving platform
A single-arm row with rotation in a half lunge position
on the Reformer's moving platform

The pilates body

Each exercise in pilates works simultaneously on muscle strengthening and toning the body, correcting posture, muscular imbalances, and helping prevent injuries. The result — a lengthened, lean, strong body.

A functional fitness training

Functional fitness exercises train the body’s muscles to work together in an integrated manner; making you stronger for movements that you do daily, at home, work, and in sports.

The focus is on integrating upper and lower body movements with greater stability and efficiency — by using core-strength from the mid-section and hips.

Pilates workouts are based on functional training — they help improve quality of life and reduce risk of injuries and stress to the body.

These workouts are adaptable to varied goals and needs in programmes for fitness, sports-performance, special populations, rehabilitation, pregnancy, and more.

Its effectiveness makes it the go-to workout for many, from performing artistes (Hollywood, Bollywood, singers, dancers), to senior leaders in the business and corporate world.

Pilates finds its place in the lives of fitness enthusiasts, runners, swimmers, athletes, golfers, tennis-players, footballers, gymnasts, professional sportspersons, among others.

Pilates machines – Total body fitness

Pilates offers workouts on specialised machines, known as pilates apparatus. These machines have a wide range of exercises that work muscles and joints across the body — right down to the ankle joints and numerous muscles in the feet.

Along with the larger machines, a number of small equipment and accessories are used to further challenge and stimulate progress in every individual.

Challenging the side-plank with added<br />resistance-work for the shoulder and core.
Challenging the side-plank with added
resistance-work for the shoulder and core.

The machines are designed to enable each exercise to be modified — for different strength and fitness levels, including adjustments and changes based on structure and build of a person.

This leads to very customised and specific results. An appealing option over the standardised one-size-fits-all workouts that often lead to a build-up of stress and injury on the body, with few results to show for your effort.

The Reformer, which is the most popular pilates machine worldwide, provides workouts that train the full body for a wide range of goals — strengthen, tone and re-shape the body, correct posture, core strengthening, functional fitness, endurance building, agility and mobility, stability and balance, correcting muscular imbalances,
injury-prevention, strengthening post-injury, surgery among others.

Reformer workouts

The Reformer is designed with springs of varied resistance and a platform that acts as a base for exercises in varied positions of lying down, sitting, kneeling, and standing.

What differentiates it from other strength training machines, is the challenge created by the moving base of the platform while executing the exercises, along with the unique core control required to work with the spring-based resistance.

Working on its moving base changes common exercises such as squats, lunges, splits, rotational moves, planks, push ups, and more, into challenging exercises emphasising core-engagement, stability, control, and balance — all with the added challenge of the spring-loaded resistance of the machine.

Workouts on this machine also incorporate cardio-based interval training that helps to increase metabolic rate leading to increased fat-burn, higher levels of
stamina and endurance, and lower stress levels.

Single leg lifts on the moving platform with<br />spring-loaded resistance for the lower body,
Single leg lifts on the moving platform with
spring-loaded resistance for the lower body,

Result-oriented workouts

Well-designed pilates workouts have exercises programmed in each session that focus on the full body with strength, flexibility, and mobility incorporated.

The exercises are progressive and change as strength and core gains are made by the individual.

For instance, changing the body position for an exercise —from seated to kneeling to a half-lunge to standing — can change the focus or increase the difficulty level.

Or, combining elements of two or more exercises on the core-challenging, spring-loaded unstable platform of the Reformer works the full body in an entirely different way from when done on the fixed surface of the floor or with traditional strength machines. Strong, lean, fit, injury-free, balanced and energised, all descriptive of a Pilates-body. And all reasons to incorporate Pilates into your fitness routine. Pilates is movement-based, it’s aim — to make you move better, be stronger and look good.

The best way to understand pilates is to experience a workout for yourself, to feel the energy and strength to be gained across the mind and body after a Pilates workout.

(The author is co-owner of The Zone Mind & Body Studio)

(Published 24 February 2020, 19:30 IST)

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