The benefits of Pilates & how to choose your gear
Pilates focuses on strengthening your core and creating a balance of mind and body. It's been helping people build long, lean muscles and strong bodies since the early 1900s. And it's incorporated into the training programs of many Olympic athletes and major sports organizations, including the MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, and NHL.
You can create your Pilates body in the comfort of your home with a little know-how and some core Pilates equipment. Or get started by bringing your Pilates mats, rings, and resistance bands to a Pilates class so you can be guided first-hand by a qualified instructor. Either way, with core strength exercises and Pilates meditation techniques, you'll benefit from whole-body workouts that are good for your mind, body, and spirit.
Benefits of Pilates
At the core of Pilates are gentle, low-impact movements that can be adapted by their degree of challenge for beginners through advanced athletes. You learn how to maximize your body's potential with proper breathing, aligning your spine and pelvis, and concentrating on smooth movements. Consider these additional benefits from Pilates:
- It reduces stress through breathing techniques and exercise.
- You get flat abs and a strong back by working on deep abdominal muscles and those close to your spine.
- Your joints and muscles become more flexible, which reduces the risk of injury.
- Pilates evenly trains your whole body so that no muscle groups are bulky or underdeveloped.
- It improves your posture by focusing on proper spinal alignment, which improves your overall health.
- The aerobic exercises help you lose weight by burning calories.
Choosing a Pilates mat
It's possible to use your yoga mat as a Pilates mat, but you'll be more comfortable if you choose a thicker, denser Pilates mat. A lot of the Pilates exercises require you to roll on your tailbone and back, so you'll appreciate the extra cushion and support. Here's what to look for:
- Thickness: 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch
- Density: dense foam that doesn't make an imprint when you sit on or put pressure on it for more support
- Material: foam, PVC, or eco-friendly materials, such as jute or recycled rubber, depending on your preference
- Size: 68 to 74 inches long (depending on how long you are) and at least 24 inches wide
- Texture: smooth surface instead of a textured one, which helps you glide through your movements
Finding the right Pilates bands
Resistance bands give you low-impact, strength training workouts that are often as effective as lifting weights. Bands are portable, light, inexpensive, and easy to use in your home gym too. The resistance bands you'll use for Pilates are the same type you'll use for yoga and resistance training exercises. Whether you choose Pilates-branded bands or go with any brand, use these tips to figure out the type of bands you need:
- Flat exercise bands that look like a long piece of ribbon are most often used in Pilates exercises. They wrap around your body easily and are kind to bare feet. You may be able to adapt tubing bands that have handles on the ends to your Pilates workouts if you already have them.
- Choose a length that's within 8 inches of your height, so it's long enough for you. Buying ribbon bands in a roll lets you cut them to the length you need.
- Check the label for latex-free if you're allergic.
- Getting bands in packs that have a variety of resistance levels is very convenient. You can use different bands for different exercises and move up to higher resistance bands as your strength increases. If you'd prefer not to go with a pack, choose resistance bands in the medium to medium-heavy range, which will accommodate most exercises.
- Ribbon or tubing bands with detachable handles are a plus. They'll help you perform exercises that are similar to Pilates reformers.
Selecting a Pilates reformer for your home workouts
Pilates was for a long time only accessible by going to a club or private studio, but now you can bring its unique equipment to your home. A Pilates reformer allows you to do hundreds of Pilates movements by using a series of cables, pulleys, and springs along with a gliding platform, shoulder rest, and foot bar.
Buying a reformer will be an investment to take seriously, so consider your budget. Use these guidelines to find a Pilates reformer that's best for you:
- How much space do you have? If you have enough space to leave your reformer out, get a commercial-grade reformer (made for studios) for durability.
- Do I need a portable reformer? If your space is limited or your home gym doubles as your living room, choose a reformer that is light, does not have legs, and is designed to be stored upright or under your bed.
- Does it come with a warranty? A warranty that covers replacement parts and repair due to normal use gives you peace of mind and saves you money should something go wrong with your reformer. You can also add a Walmart Protection Plan, which will cover failures from normal wear and tear, mechanical and electrical failures, and power surges and supply failure.
- How versatile do I want it to be? Some reformers let you be very flexible with the types of exercises you can do. Look for features such as adjustable footrests that move to the front and back of the reformer, adjustable shoulder rests so that more than one person can use the reformer, and add-ons like Pilates boxes and ballet bars.
Choosing your Pilates ring
This is called the magic circle by Pilates aficionados. The Pilates ring helps you find your center as you engage in exercises.
- Choosing a ring made of metal rather than rubber gives you more resistance and therefore builds more strength.
- Getting pads on both the inside and outside of the ring lets you do a greater variety of exercises with ease.