Pilates for Bodybuilders
I’m an unabashed fan of Pilates. After my third child was born, I decided to get serious about losing weight. When I joined the gym, I was terrified of group exercise classes.
When I passed by those six glass doors and saw people dancing (which I didn’t do), taking step aerobics (which I was scared to do), or lifting weights (which I was too weak to do), I wanted to turn and run. Too bad I was too out of shape to run. Sigh. It was a bad scene.
The only thing I had the guts to do was try a Pilates class. I had taught myself some basic Pilates from a Mari Winsor book in college, and I thought I might be able to hack it. Some new gym clothes and a mat later, I decided to brave the group ex room.
I sauntered in that first day and placed my mat on the floor. For the next hour, I was tortured in ways I previously wasn’t sure were possible. The worst part? The instructor was ubercheery and kind and wonderful.
I mean really, isn’t it the worst when someone is kicking your butt but telling you what a GREAT job you’re doing? I thought she might be a sadist. I was sure I would go back.
The next day, I couldn’t breathe without pain, which is of course the best indicator of a good class to a newbie. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, I took mat classes.
After a couple of months, the instructor asked me if I wanted to try a Pilates Reformer class. The gym had just opened a studio, and they were giving free demo classes.
I left the demo knowing that taking my Pilates practice to the next level was on my to-do list. Now I was Pilates girl three days a week, and in the best shape of my life.
Pilates was instrumental in my losing 90 pounds. It helps you gain and maintain strength and increases flexibility. If you don’t know about the origins of Pilates, there’s a great piece Pilates is series of exercises developed by Joseph Pilates whose primary goals are body awareness and core strengthening. Each exercise has both a strength and flexibility component, making your body super tight and super flexible.
Joseph Pilates believed that everyone should use his fitness methods. I’ve come to believe that his name for the exercise, “the Art of Controlology”, is a much better descriptor.
The goal of Pilates is primarily to teach you to be present in your body. Most people live their daily lives in some degree of pain and tension, but have no idea where or why.
When you improve your cognizance of how you perform everyday tasks, you begin to do them in ways that are healthier. Do you sit hunched over a desk? Practicing Pilates regularly can help with that. Chronic neck pain? Pilates can help with that, too.
Why Should I Do Pilates?
First, Pilates will help you “lift within yourself”. Do you know what I mean? It’s the Zen moment of lifting when you know that your mind, body, and spirit all work in perfect harmony to attend to a single goal. It’s amazing.
The goal of body awareness isn’t just to know what your body’s doing, it’s to recognize so you can change things that don’t work for you. When you pull cables so hard that you rip a pec, you weren’t aware of your body.
With Pilates, you’re teaching your muscles to do what YOU tell them do to. They don’t dictate whether you burn out that last rep, YOU do.
Second, you’ll get killer abs. I got a six pack and “fingers” doing no ab work other than Pilates three days a week. Two days I took a mat class, the third day I had a Reformer class. Not a crunch in sight.
We all know that abdominals wrap around the midsection to stabilize the whole body. If we make them stronger, we take pressure off of the opposing muscles, those of the low back. If you have low back pain (and over half the population claims to), you NEED to start doing Pilates.
I bet you’d dead lift and leg press more if you started doing Pilates. Yes, that’s a dare.
Which Equipment Should I Use?
Here’s where you have some choices. Most people do fine starting in a mat class, for which you’ll only need a mat and perhaps a Pilates ring. However, there are quite a few other options.
Most people who think of Pilates equipment only know about the Reformer, as you see at the top. It’s an amazing piece of equipment, and you can get a full body strength and flexibility workout with it, along with some low-impact cardio.
This thing looks like a torture device. It’s about 8 feet tall, three feet wide, and mean as all get out. The springs make is harder to push against the machine.
Think about coming into bridge with several hundred pounds working against you. Think about pushing away from the jump board as your thighs burn. You get the idea.
Where the Reformer is torture-driven, the Cadillac looks like an exotic bedroom accoutrement. I mean come on, the trapeze bar? The furry cuffs? The ability to hang from the ceiling? It’s every guy’s dream!
Most instructors won’t take you onto the I recommend three days per week with a rest day between. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday worked well for me, but you can work your three days any way you prefer.
Reformer classes aren’t cheap. The least expensive I’ve found in the Atlanta area is about $20 per hour, and the most around $75. Many studios will let you audit a class before committing to a package, so it doesn’t hurt to call and ask.
The equipment is designed to allow your body support and range of motion that you can’t get on the floor. The Reformer makes some exercises easier by increasing range of motion. It also makes many more difficult by placing the body on a movable surface.
Can’t get to a class, or prefer to try Pilates at home first? Here are a few DVD options:
This Ana Caban DVD is my favorite. Her cueing is thorough, and her voice is pleasing. Plus, she’s pretty hot, which never hurts.
Short on time? Try the Ten Minute Pilates Solution. Traditional Pilates moves in a super compact workout.
Been practicing Pilates for a while? The Classical Pilates Technique DVD is amazing. It’s what Joseph Pilates designed his mat workout to be without all the “fusion” and bells and whistles that are so popular now. It’s not for beginners, but it’s worth the effort.
If money is no object, why not sign up for a Pilates retreat in Turks and Caicos in March? Here’s the info if you’re interested!
If you’re ready to take your workouts to the next level, become more aware of your body, and improve your flexibility and ab work, give Pilates a shot. I can’t wait to hear how it changes your body!