Pilates is a low-impact exercise that engages the core, back, and thigh muscles, along with other muscle groups in the body. Despite its targeted approach, Pilates has some drawbacks that might not fit certain fitness goals.
Pilates neither provides quick muscle mass gain nor drastic weight loss like strength training or aerobic exercises. Pilates focuses more on the underrated facets of fitness, such as coordination, flexibility, and mobility.
Pilates helps with functional movement. Understanding the disadvantages of Pilates can help to determine if it’s an appropriate form of exercise for you.
The Disadvantages of Pilates
Pilates is Not Considered a Form of Strength Training
Strength training, also known as resistance or weight training, involves using external resistance such as weights to achieve muscle hypertrophy. Pilates, on the other hand, focuses on using body weight to improve flexibility, mobility, balance, and range of motion.
Pilates engages the muscle groups in the abdominal region, primarily the traverse abdominal muscles, through slow movements and controlled bodyweight pressure. Pilates positions rely on using the extremities to apply pressure on and engage the isolated traverse core muscles. Strengthening the core muscles enhances balance as well as coordination.
Compared with strength training, Pilates will not make the body stronger in the traditional sense. However, by focusing on strengthening the core muscles, Pilates can supplement strength training by enabling more consistent, effective, and injury-free workouts through improved form.
Pilates, however, is better than strength training at developing the core muscles. The mechanics of Pilates allow for better engagement of the small muscles in the abdominal region.
Professional athletes like former NBA player Dwyane Wade said that Pilates helped him avoid injury during a game where he slipped on the basketball and almost pulled his groin muscle. In essence, Pilates helps to lengthen the muscles and helps to prevent injury.
Pilates and Body Composition
Aerobics, or aerobic exercise involves the cardiovascular system and includes exercises such as cycling, running, and boxing, which elevate the heart rate in order to supply oxygen to the muscles.
Pilates, however, is an anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercises break down glucose for energy without oxygen. In essence, a lot of energy is expended in a short period of time and the oxygen demand surpasses the oxygen supply.
Anaerobic exercises do not burn as many calories as aerobic exercises. An hour of Pilates will only burn 218 calories, whereas running for an hour can burn more than 500 calories.
A low-impact, and relatively low-intensity exercise like Pilates is not an effective means for weight loss.
Pilates, as an anaerobic exercise, values the principles of body control, precision, concentration, and breathing to improve mobility and to identify, engage and become more aware of the movements of smaller muscles in the body.
Dancers and swimmers are most aware of the benefits of Pilates in increasing range of motion and mobility to perform movements more fluidly, and the efficient use of energy.
Pilates Does Not Produce Quick Visible Results
In strength training, repetition is crucial in achieving fast results. Repeated engagement of the muscle helps reach muscle hypertrophy, which drives muscle mass gain through the process of tearing the muscle fibers and allowing them to heal through rest and nutrition.
In Pilates, many exercises involve holding certain positions while performing deep, audible breathing. These exercises target specific muscles, specifically small muscles that are disengaged in strength training. As Pilates workouts lengthen the muscles by stretching, it increases flexibility and mobility.
It is common for most people to become frustrated due to the lack of visible results. Six months of Pilates classes may not produce any substantial and visible results. However, people who are aware of the benefits and disadvantages of Pilates appreciate the improvement in their flexibility, mobility, and balance more than the physical changes on their body.
Also, rest plays a substantial role in Pilates. The common Pilates workout week involves at least two to three days of rest. This workout pattern is different from weightlifting where-in people can go to the gym every day and train different muscle groups on a daily basis.
Pilates Requires Coaching and Instruction
Pilates requires discipline and mastery of form. It may seem easy and low-intensity, but doing Pilates workouts, especially advanced Pilates positions, without supervision can cause muscle strain and injury. A Pilates instructor should be able to identify and correct mistakes in form and execution to prevent injury.
Commonly, Pilates workouts only require a mat. However, the mat’s features are not universal and do not fit everyone. Certain features of the mat, such as size and thickness, can increase the effectiveness of Pilates workouts significantly. A Pilates instructor’s advice is necessary to determine the best specifications of a Pilates mat for a particular individual.
Pilates also use special equipment such as the Reformer, Wunda Chair, and Cadillac, which adds resistance on top of body-weight. Equipment used for Pilates often involve springs, pulleys, and a sliding platform. Like doing Pilates on a mat, using specialized equipment with several moving parts also requires proper technique and form.
Despite doing strength training exercises for years, people used to strength training still require coaching when doing Pilates. Practice and form in strength training do not necessarily translate to good form and execution in Pilates. Pilates requires good posture, slow and steady movements, and good concentration. Rushing into the positions can lead to pulled and strained muscles.
Precision is also another key factor in Pilates. Proper execution of precise techniques, both in holding positions and breathing, enables better engagement of the body’s smaller muscles. This is especially true for people with certain conditions such as disorders or injuries. In fact, proper form and technique in Pilates can help the auxillary muscles assist in enhancing balance and preventing further injury.
Pilates exercises are often tailor-fit to the individual’s needs, even more so for people with certain conditions. With proper consultation, a Pilates instructor could help make a program that can help in recovery or avoidance of further injury.
Pilates addresses some of the underlying principles of fitness, such as coordination, flexibility, mobility, and range of motion. Most athletes could benefit from enhancing these facets of fitness, but aerobic exercises are often more prioritized.
Most of these underlying principles are underrated in the fitness world, which explains its lack of recognition. However, people, particularly athletes, who are aware of the benefits and disadvantages of Pilates are more able to discern how to use the exercises more effectively in supplementing their existing fitness plan.