Monday, January 10, 2011
Crazy About Pilates -- Everyone's Doing it...Should I??
Q: I keep reading that a lot of celebs (with amazing bodies!) are doing yoga and pilates to stay in shape. What's up with this latest fitness trend, and does it live up to all the hype? Is it really all that these celebs do to get their toned and slim figures?
A: Pilates and yoga may seem like new age type stuff, but these practices have been around for quite a while...but they are just making their way to the Western world. Yoga in particular has been around for centuries and is tied in with a philosophy and often meditation. There are also various forms of yoga, but the most common ones you'll find at a gym are centered around flexibility and strength, holding static poses similar to isometric exercises. Pilates is relatively newer, developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900's. Okay, enough of the history lesson; Pilates hinges on seven principles that stress control, precision, and the importance of the body's core.
Pilates is excellent at strengthening the muscles that make up the core: not just the abs, but the obliques and back too. Because it forces you to breath in a timed manner and to keep the core taut (often called scooping) this will make the stomach area appear flatter. Over time that tone is achieved and all of the moves are aimed at creating a long, lean look. Pilates can be done on a mat or a reformer machine and the adage of quality over quantity is paramount; often you may only do 9-12 rep's of a certain exercise but they are done slowly and controlled.
Both yoga and pilates are great ways to firm up the core muscles and they do work other areas of the body too, but to see the results you want (especially if that's weight loss) they need to be used in conjunction with other activities, especially cardio. Yes, you can build lean muscle, improve flexibility, and range of motion with these kinds of exercises, but to burn enough calories and promote weight loss you have to elevate your heart rate and keep in there with cardio. When celebs say the only thing they do at the gym is yoga, I tend to find that hard to believe; they have to be logging time on the treadmill or exercise bike too!
Finally, while the poses and moves used in yoga and pilates will build strength, one shouldn't forego lifting weights completely. To get enough resistance to really build muscle mass you need to have enough weight working against you, and that's where dumbbells and machines can really help you out. Incorporating yoga and pilates into your exercise program is great (and lots of people enjoy that there is a mental aspect tied in as well that they find relaxing or refreshing) but they aren't some mystical workout magic bullet. To get the body you want, and achieve your own personal goals, you need balance and variance in your routine which includes cardio, resistance training, and flexibility/range of motion work!
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