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Put simply, Pilates is a way to strengthen your body with a focus on your core strength to improve your general fitness and overall strength. The Pilates Reformer is the most easily recognisable single piece of equipment, but there's also Barrels, Chairs, Rings and a range of accessories. Influenced by a range of Western exercise forms, whether you are a complete fitness beginner or an advanced athlete, needing rehab or focusing on specific muscle groups, Pilates will be able to help you.
Pilates was pioneered by Joseph Pilates. Helping to work your abdomen, lower back, obliques, thighs and more, Pilates is similar in some ways to Yoga. By emphasizing your core Pilates helps to develop your strength, flexibility, co-ordination, balancem posture and muscular endurance. Importantly you also have a lower chance of injury from Pilates and it is particularly helpful for rehab post injury.
Stott Pilates is a more updated approach to his original methods. The Stott Pilates approach is designed to restore the natural curves of the spine and rebalance the muscles around the joints. More emphasis is placed on pelvic and scapular stabilisation and integration of all the parts of the body into one. Stott Pilates has five basic teaching principles-breathing, pelvic placement, rib cage placement, scapular movement and head and cervical spine placement.
There is a wide range of Pilates equipment, some of the larger pieces of equipment include:
The Reformer is a Pilates machine that uses springs to create resistance and has a moving horiztonal carriage bed to allow for additional exercises. This is quite different from mat Pilates as more intense and more dynamic thanks to the resistance you use. Accessories include a Cadillac Tower, Jump Boards and Mat Convertors. Increasingly the design of a Reformer takes into account vertical storage for home and studio needs.
The tower trainer is a multifunctional fitness tool that you can use for literally hundreds of exercises. It comes with a cushioned mat and accessories which include springs, straps, handles and bars. Many reformers now come with a Tower 'accessory' you can buy.
A great piece of equipment if space is an issue - also called a Pilates Chair or a Wunda Chair. It’s great for balance, strength and general stability exercises for the core. Distinct areas can be worked on including shoulders, arms, quads, glutes, knees, abs and back. It's great for legs as with the better models, you get independent foot pedal movement.
This includes rotational discs, weighted bars and bars with adjustable weights. Resistance bands are also a great piece of small equipment which will really increase muscular strength, endurance and will tone your body.
There are also a good range of accessories including stability balls, mats, rings, handweights, cushions and straps. A good Pilates mat is an essential piece of gym equipment with the need to source a form foam that helps support your back and muscles whilst in use. Pilates balls are great for developing core stability and the 'Fitness Circle Pro' is great for muscle tone, inner and outer thighs, upper arms and chest.
In addition, check out rollers which will deal with any knots that you have in your muscles. With many of the rollers you will get the equivalent of a deep tissue massage.