Using Pilates to Get in Great Shape

Female pilates instructor assisting mature student on high-low chair during class in exercise studio
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To get in shape with Pilates is to take responsibility for your total health. Far from just physical fitness, the Pilates system was defined by its founder Joseph Pilates, "complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit."

Yes, you can expect tone, strength, flexibility and flatter abs. You can even lose weight with Pilates. But the primary intention of the method is much bigger. Before you jump into a class or one-on-one training session, understand some of the underlying concepts and principles of Pilates. ​

Fundamental Concepts

Joseph Pilates said that the goal of Pilates was "a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure." 

Symmetry and Alignment

Symmetry and alignment are the foundation of physical wellness. The majority of musculoskeletal conditions and injuries are due to poor alignment and asymmetries in the body.

Pilates is targeted symmetrical training. By focusing on equalizing body sides of the body and balancing motion and strength, you will achieve ease of movement than you may not have experienced before.

Accessible to All

Getting in shape with Pilates is a path anyone can embark on. All Pilates exercises can be modified to meet the needs of the individual. Whether you train with the Pilates equipment or the mat exercises, you can adjust the motion and intensity to your own personal level. 

Whatever Pilates style you prefer, working with an individual teacher is recommended to help you design the best program for your intended results. 

Core Principles

Complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit does not come solely by squats and push-ups. In order for the Pilates method to work its magic, the exercises should be done with certain principles in mind.

The Pilates principles are centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow. These principles are what separates Pilates from many other workoutwhich may address the physical aspects of wellness but do not work to integrate the mental and emotional elements of health.

How to Start Pilates

Pilates exercise starts with the core of your body—with full breaths refreshing your cells; with your heart and circulatory system pumping fresh blood into your tissues; and with training the deep muscles of your abdomen, back and pelvis (your Pilates powerhouse) to support your spine, and provide stability in your pelvis and shoulders as you move.

When we strengthen and stabilize the core, we can safely move out from the center to increase the flexibility of our spine, stretch our muscles, and improve the range of motion in our joints.

Pilates Workouts

Pilates is a progressive system. If you are consistent with your Pilates training, you will be adding new moves and increasing your stamina and intensity with each workout. As you progress, will find that the pace of a workout picks up as do the strength and stability challenges. 

Once you have experience with the Pilates mat work, you can add challenge, and variety, with Pilates equipment. There is small equipment that can be used at home or you can take classes at a studio to incorporate equipment like the reformer and Pilates chair.

To get in shape with Pilates, Joseph Pilates recommended a minimum of 3 sessions per week. While the mat work can be done every day, equipment work should be spaced out every other day. You may begin with short mat workouts as little as 10 minutes. Your goal is to work your way up to between 45 minutes and one hour.


Whenever possible, the best Pilates practice happens at the hands of an instructor who can not only guide you through proper form but also move you forward towards your ultimate goals.

Many people find Pilates to be an entirely satisfying fitness regimen. In traditional exercise terms, Pilates is a system of moderate strength and flexibility training. Once you begin, you will start to understand all of the additional benefits of Pilates. 

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2 Sources
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  1. World Health Organization. Musculoskeletal conditions. Updated November 26, 2019.

  2. Pilates. Balanced body.