Many believe that Pilates classes are mainly about exercises performed on a mat. The Pilates Method is much more than this, however. Pilates is primarily an individually tailored training method which is first conducted on a mat and then followed up on machines. Rehabilitation and ability developing equipment make the training multi-faceted, toning musculature via resistance training provided by chair-like machines such as the Stability Chair and bed-like machines such as the Reformer, Cadillac. The Pilates peronsal trainer conducts and improves the exercises, ensuring the client continuous development, diversity and precise execution.

Joseph H. Pilates biography

Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in 1880 near Düsseldorf, Germany. His father, a native of Greece, had been a prize-winning gymnast, while his German-born mother was a naturopath who believed in the principle of stimulating the body to heal itself without artificial drugs. No doubt his mother's healing philosophy and father's physical achievements greatly influenced Pilates' later ideas on therapeutic exercise.
Small and sickly as a child, he was afflicted with asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever, and was continually taunted by the bigger children. He quickly became determined to overcome his physical disadvantages. Thereupon young Joseph began to self-educate himself in anatomy, bodybuilding, wrestling, yoga, gymnastics, and martial arts. He soon achieved an almost Adonis-like "anatomical ideal," to the extent that at the age of 14 he was posing as a model for anatomy charts. He was also an accomplished boxer, skier, and diver.
His physique was such that, like Eugen Sandow, Pilates in his public career as a circus entertainer used to perform a "living Greek statue" act. He was enamored of the classical Greek ideal of a man who is balanced equally in body, mind, and spirit, and he came to believe that our modern lifestyle, bad posture, and inefficient breathing were the roots of poor health.
His answer to these problems was to design a unique series of vigorous physical exercises that help to correct muscular imbalances and improve posture, coordination, balance, strength, and flexibility, as well as to increase breathing capacity and organ function. He also invented a variety of machines, based on spring-resistance, that could be used to perform these exercises.

There is a famous story about Pilates' inspiration for his unique apparatus. Before World War I he was touring England as a circus performer and professional boxer, and even teaching self-defense to the Scotland Yard police force. But when war broke out, he found himself interned in England as an enemy alien on the Isle of Man.
The health conditions in the internment camps were not great, but Pilates insisted that everyone in his cell block participate in daily exercise routines to help maintain both their physical and mental well-being. However, some of the injured German soldiers were too weak to get out of bed. Not content to leave his comrades lying idle, Pilates took springs from the beds and attached them to the headboards and footboards of the iron bed frames, turning them into equipment that provided a type of resistance exercise for his bedridden "patients."
These mechanized beds were the forerunners of the spring-based exercise machines, such as the Cadillac and Reformer, for which the Pilates method is known today. Pilates legend has it that during the great flu epidemic of 1918, not a single one of the soldiers under his care died. He credited his technique (which he called "Contrology") for the prisoners' strength and fitness — remarkable under the less than optimum living conditions of internment camps, which were hit especially hard by this deadly flu.

The Pilates method

Pilates is a form of overall strength and conditioning used in the development of strong core muscles which also focuses on breathing, balance, and range of motion. Unlike other hardcore strength training regimens that focus more specifically on muscle mass, Pilates focuses on re-balancing your muscles around the joints, improving your alignment and flexibility.

Core strengthening is an integral component of any injury prevention, rehabilitation, or sports performance program. A strong core provides a dynamic link between the upper and lower body, alleviating excess stress on the peripheral joints. In athletes, core strength contributes to enhanced athletic performance by providing a solid foundation from which the upper and lower extremities can generate force for running, throwing, rowing, or jumping. STOTT PILATES® exercise improves core strength and balances the muscles around the joints, improving the way your body functions, looks, and feels. The Five Basic Principles, in which this method is based, focus on breathing, pelvic placement, rib cage placement, scapular movement, and head and cervical spine placement.

“The focus on core conditioning is paramount for optimal results and performance,” explains Moira Merrithew, Executive Director of Education for STOTT PILATES®. “Pilates is used to increase joint stability and strengthen the deep core muscles which helps prevent injuries and leads to improved athletic performance.” “It [Pilates] also assists in rehabilitation after injury and creates balance throughout the entire body. As a result, athletes can withstand rigorous training regimes and ultimately improve their strength and endurance for skiing or hockey, and prevent or recover from injury while maintaining an optimal weight for their activity of choice.”

What most athletes don’t realize, however, is that most Pilates exercises can be easily incorporated into regular sport-conditioning regimens. For instance, on a light weight day, a recovery workout day, or prior to skill acquisition days, a Pilates workout is a great way to work on neuromuscular coordination and proper musclefiring patterns. Another option is to add some Pilates exercises to your warm-up ritual.

“Although core training may be a bit of a catch phrase in the fitness industry, the true definition of the term is widely acknowledged in medical and rehabilitation communities as the basis for reconditioning the support musculature of the body.” explains Mr. Lindsay G. Merrithew, President and CEO, STOTT PILATES®. “The attention to the core, proper alignment, and good posture that Pilates offers through its numerous variations of movement, with or without specialized equipment, is a natural carryover for the athlete into regular living.”

Matwork® is the foundation of the exercise system. All the basic exercises are designed to target very specific muscle groups in very specific ways. In the STOTT PILATES® method, the Five Basic Principles are used to help ensure the movements are being done effectively. There are numerous basic exercises that can be performed and/or modified on mats found around the gym that can be helpful in addition to an already established workout program. Some popular Pilates exercises can put strain on the low back in clients with typical postural imbalances, so it’s important that instructors are properly trained to teach more complex exercises.

Light equipment such as 1 lb, 2 lb, or 3 lb toning balls help close the kinetic chain, add proprioceptive awareness, and add challenge to exercises by increasing the load or de-stabilizing the base of support. Other small equipment such as Mini Stability Balls™, Fitness Circles®, and Flex-Bands® can also add variety to mat-based programming.

“Pilates focuses on active eccentric lengthening of muscles rather than prolonged static strengthening,” adds Moira. “This results in maintaining the integrity and strength of the joint while allowing it to move more freely in a greater range. Because Pilates works on a controlled lengthening of the muscles, it can be beneficial in assisting with overall flexibility and stamina. The emphasis on breath helps athletes focus better during the game and control precise movements required for their sport.”

“The attention to the core, proper alignment, and good posture that Pilates offers through its numerous variations of movement, with or without specialized equipment, is a natural carryover for the athlete into regular living.

PJ O'Clair, STOTT PILATES® Master Instructor Trainer and owner of STOTT PILATES® Licensed Training Center Northeast Pilates, agrees that winter sports are extremely demanding on the body and require a tremendous amount of core strength and endurance. “The deep core stabilizers are challenged through all planes of motion – a strong and flexible core is extremely important and critical for all winter activities.”

Thus, Pilates is effective because it trains all three functional muscle systems. Trainers can encourage athletes to stabilize the joints effectively at low loads, and then progress to strengthening eccentrically which will control deceleration movements by using the global stabilizers and finally progressing to the larger global mobilizers, with the inherent joint stability already in place.

When all muscular systems work in a timely and coordinated fashion, athletes can achieve large gains in strength, skill, coordination, and biomechanical efficiency. Pilates focuses on improving stabilization of the lumbo-pelvic region, and therefore improved core stability improvement will carry over to the sporting realm, reducing the risk of injury and improving performance.

The Corset

Pilates workout is for all the abdominals. Your TVA wrappes around our waist, around the deepest abdominal – the transversus abdominis- which is stabilizing the torso. It is thought to be a significant component of the core. Important to engage the Corset through the whole Pilates class, to prevent lower back pain.

The transversus abdominis muscle, also known as the transverse abdominus, transversalis muscle and transverse abdominal muscle, is a muscle layer of the anterior and lateral (front and side) abdominal wall which is deep to (layered below) the internal oblique muscle. The transversus abdominis, so called for the direction of its fibers, is the innermost of the flat muscles of the abdomen, being placed immediately beneath the internal oblique muscle.

It arises, as fleshy fibers, from the lateral third of the inguinal ligament, from the anterior three-fourths of the inner lip of the iliac crest, from the inner surfaces of the cartilages of the lower six ribs, interdigitating with the diaphragm, and from the lumbodorsal fascia.

The muscle ends anteriorly in a broad aponeurosis, the lower fibers of which curve inferomedially (medially and downward), and are inserted, together with those of the internal oblique muscle, into the crest of the pubis and pectineal line, forming the inguinal aponeurotic falx, also called the conjoint tendon. In layman's terms, the muscle ends in the middle line of a person's abdomen.

Throughout the rest of its extent the aponeurosis passes horizontally to the middle line, and is inserted into the linea alba; its upper three-fourths lie behind the rectus muscle and blend with the posterior lamella of the aponeurosis of the internal oblique; its lower fourth is in front of the rectus abdominis.

The transversus abdominis (TVA) helps to compress the ribs and viscera, providing thoracic and pelvic stability. This is explained further here. The transversus abdominis also helps pregnant women deliver their child.

It may be more or less fused with the Obliquus internus or absent. The spermatic cord may pierce its lower border. Slender muscle slips from the ileopectineal line to transversalis fascia, the aponeurosis of the Transversus abdominis or the outer end of the linea semicircularis and other slender slips are occasionally found. The nerves associated with the transverse abdominus are the intercostal, iliohypogastric, and the ilioinguinal.

Our abdominals

Good to know which are the layers of your Abs. As we mentioned in the article named The Corset the deepest abdominal is the Transversus Abdominis which is the most important stabilizer of the lumbo-pelvic area. (Yellow colour)Next layer origins from the Os Ilium (Internal Obliques) and mobilize the pelvic front and backward. (Rose)Above this the layer (External Obliques) start from the lower ribs.The muscle group between the Symphysis Pubis and the Sternum (Rectus Abdominis) is the most superficial layer of our Abs. (Green colour)