Take yoga, remove all the airy-fairy lingo and cringy cultural appropriation, replace it with scientific physiological notions, and, by and large, you get Pilates.
With a focus on strengthening core muscles, increasing range of motion, and improving posture, if you’re dedicated enough, Pilates alone can completely transform your body, your health, and your quality of life. With that in mind, can it be considered strength training? Yep!
It may not have much in common with, say, weight lifting, at least on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that technically speaking, Pilates has all the rudiments of more traditional forms of strength training.
Defining Strength Training
To explain the significant overlaps between Pilates and strength training, we first need to understand what strength training means exactly.
In a nutshell, strength training is any exercise involving the performance of concentric, isometric, and eccentric movements against resistance. This resistance arrives in one of a few different forms.
When we think of strength training, we tend to picture big, heavy weights as the artifact of resistance, but it can just as well be machine-generated resistance or the resistance of our own body weight.
The goal of weight training — also sometimes referred to as resistance training — is to build muscle, strengthen muscle, improve anaerobic endurance, or all of the above.
What Are The Benefits Of Strength Training?
We’ve already mentioned some of the reasons to work strength training into your exercise regime…
- Enhanced muscular strength — Resistance forces your muscles to work harder than they do in day-to-day life, gradually strengthening them over time.
- Improved muscular endurance — The repetition of strength training conditions your muscles to work, not just harder, but longer.
- Larger muscles — The more you work your muscles with hypertrophic exercises, the bigger they grow!
… However, the list of weight training benefits goes far beyond its primary purposes:
- Better bone density — People don’t think of their bones as something they can alter, but, on the contrary, the controlled stress of strength training facilitates an increase in bone density, lowering the risk of osteoporosis.
- Weight management — Most strength training improves metabolism over time, making it an effective weight management tool.
- Improved muscular control — Strength training prioritizes form, leading to more articulate control of your muscles and enhanced motor skills.
- Helps to keep chronic conditions in check — Strength training is proven to reduce the risk of arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease.
In What Sense Is Pilates Strength Training?
Now we know what strength training is all about, it should be pretty clear why Pilates falls under this exercise umbrella term.
Let’s think about the primary goals of strength training and how they relate to Pilates:
- Enhance muscle strength using resistance — In Pilates, you’ll start out using body weight alone, then, as you progress, you’ll use free weights and possibly even resistance bands in order to challenge and strengthen your muscles.
- Increase muscular endurance — There may be a plethora of different moves in a single Pilates class, but they’re all exceedingly repetitive, meaning your muscular endurance will improve with each session.
- Build muscle — This is one area that Pilates isn’t so good in. Intensive sessions will increase muscle size over time, but for the most part, if you’re looking to build muscle quickly, you’ll choose a different, more focused form of strength training.
Considering an exercise needs only to adhere to one of the above objectives to be considered a form of strength training, with two significant overlaps, we can say conclusively that Pilates is indeed strength training of a sort.
Now let’s take a look at some of the secondary benefits of strength training. Does Pilates offer up the same or similar gains? Let’s find out!
- Does Pilates improve bone density? Yep! Any weight-bearing exercises improve bone density.
- Does Pilates help with weight management? Affirmative! Strengthening your muscles gives your metabolism a kick in the pants, and even though you won’t burn as many calories in a Pilates class as you would a cardio session, you can repeat classes every day of the week without incurring injury.
- Does Pilates improve muscular control? You betcha! — Much like any other strength training, Pilates is all about good form. The more you do it, the more muscle mastery you’ll attain.
- Does Pilates help to ease chronic conditions? Absolutely! Pilates can help to reduce the impact of fibromyalgia, and, by improving posture, it can ease localized chronic pain most commonly felt in the back. As it strengthens both bone and muscle, it’s also fantastic for reducing the risk of arthritis and easing arthritic pain if this condition has already set in.
Is Pilates Enough?
As long as your health and fitness goals are pretty loosely defined, Pilates may well be enough for you.
Keep up with regular classes and work hard to improve to get the most benefits from Pilates. Ideally, class difficulty will rise incrementally as you get stronger and more articulate.
If, on the other hand, you have more specific exercise goals, Pilates alone isn’t going to get you where you want to go.
For example, if you want to build muscle, you’ll have to engage in hypertrophy exercises such as those that fall under the weight training umbrella.
Similarly, if you want to improve your cardiovascular health and endurance, it’s essential to get a sweat on by doing lots of dynamic, high intensity exercise.
Now, that’s not to say that Pilates isn’t intense, because it absolutely can be, but it’s never going to get the heart racing the way running on a treadmill does.
However, no matter what other exercises you introduce to your workout regimen, Pilates always makes a fantastic supplementary physical activity that will help to expedite your overall progress.
Is Pilates strength training? Yep, indisputably so, but don’t take it as a given that it’s going to help you reach all your fitness goals.
Most of the time, you’ll need to weave a variety of different strength training exercises into your workout routine to see more comprehensive gains.