Clinical Pilates is a form of physical exercise that focuses on posture, core stability, strength, balance, control, flexibility and breathing. Pilates works to improve the dynamic stability of the spine, which in turn transfers functional strength through to your limbs, as well as improving your posture.
Pilates can be extremely beneficial for people of all age groups, both with or without injuries. For those with injuries, Pilates needs to be specifically tailored to the individual, otherwise further injury is likely to occur. Clinical Pilates (as distinct from generic gym-based Pilates classes) is run by Physiotherapists and applies carefully selected exercises to patients, to assist in the treatment of specific injuries. All Pilates exercises vary in complexity and can be made easier or harder depending on your control of the exercise.
One of the many benefits of Pilates is how easily it targets our core muscles and pelvic floor. These muscle groups are often weak spots that contribute to dysfunction and pain. Whether you are exercising on the Pilates equipment or floor, the exercises specifically target the stabilising muscles of your spine. These are the muscles that work to support your spine and maintain your posture. One muscle that has a major role in supporting our spine is transversus abdominis (TA). Ordinarily, TA can be difficult to feel working. However, due to the resistance of the Pilates equipment and the postures the exercises are performed in, activating TA becomes a lot easier in Pilates. Our pelvic floor muscles are another muscle group easily activated by Pilates exercises. Strengthening our pelvic floor muscles can assist in the treatment of many spinal and pelvic issues along with different types of incontinence.
These muscles – with their postural or stabilising roles – need to be working continuously throughout the day. In other words, they need to have endurance. When we’ve had an injury or pain, these muscles tend not function optimally. So when we’re reactivating or strengthening them, low resistance and high repetitions is generally what gets those endurance or slow twitch muscles working.
As opposed to doing weights training in a gym, Pilates works by challenging your body’s control of the movement, not by simply adding extra weight. This is often why we see a difference in results – especially from those who do Pilates – for fitness. Instead of big bulky muscles that often come with weight training, Pilates often results in longer, leaner, toned muscles. This is also achieved by the repetition (rep) range of Pilates exercises, which is often higher than those lifting weights. By doing 20-30 reps or 2 minute round circuits, Pilates exercises tend to recruit more endurance slow twitch muscle fibres. We know these muscle fibres are smaller than fast twitch. Slow twitch also take longer to fatigue, this is specifically beneficial for our postural muscles which we want to be working for long periods of time throughout the day. For example, when we are sitting at a computer desk or standing at work all day, our postural muscles can start to fatigue, that’s when we start to lose our posture, and aches and pains can start. By strengthening our postural and core muscles, we can avoid this occurring and start to avoid many associated injuries.
The other main reason we see leaner, toned muscles with Pilates is the actual exercises and movements themselves. Many exercises involve using your limbs throughout their full range, again as opposed to short movements like when lifting weights. A gentle stretch can be felt with many exercises. Over time not only will your muscles become more toned, you should also notice a big improvement in your flexibility!
Pregnancy and Pilates
As mentioned in some of our previous blogs, exercise in the pre and post natal periods has numerous benefits. We see Pilates as an essential part of your pre and post natal exercise routine and many women that have done Pilates through their pregnancy will agree with us. Pilates is ideal in many ways and as mentioned above, helps not only to strengthen your postural muscles but is also an excellent way to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. It can be tailored to your size and fitness level. We can accommodate your growing tummy and find comfortable positions for you to still exercise in, especially for the many women who are able to attend Pilates classes right up until they go into labour!
If for some reason you were unable to do Pilates during your pregnancy, there are still many benefits of starting post pregnancy. Your labour and type of delivery will determine when you will be ready to commence post natal Pilates. You may benefit from a post natal assessment from your Physiotherapist to develop a tailored plan to reach your post pregnancy goals.
With Pilates at Revive, you will do a combination of equipment-based and floor-based exercises. Our Pilates studio contains state of the art, specialised Pilates equipment including Reformers and Trapeze. Floor-based exercises may incorporate gym balls, foam rollers, Pilates rings and balance trainers. We are the only physiotherapy centre in Altona North to offer equipment/reformer based Clinical Pilates. At Revive, your Physiotherapist will perform a thorough assessment of your injury before recommending the appropriate Pilates option to meet your goals. See your Physiotherapist to book a Pilates assessment or post natal assessment.