8 Common Pilates Myths – Busted

Pip Jarvis
common Pilates myths

We hear a lot of Pilates myths at our Melbourne physiotherapy and Pilates clinic. From thinking Pilates is yoga minus the meditation (it’s not), to assuming it’s not much of a workout (wait ‘til you try it!), many people seem to have the wrong idea.

So, to sort the Pilates fact from fiction, two of our highly skilled instructors – Chris and Luisa – have taken time to break down some common misconceptions. Here are 8 Pilates myths, and the real truth behind them.

1. Pilates is just for women 

The suitability and benefits of Pilates is not biased towards women. The Pilates Method was originally created by Joseph Pilates – a gymnast, boxer and a military trainer who had a ‘strong’ physique even towards his later years.  Originally a more male-centred practice, Pilates became an integral part of conditioning for dancers. This brought a surge of a greater ratio of female instructors, which changed the modern perception of the practice. However, this is evolving – Pilates is now incorporated in a lot of rehabilitation and injury prevention programs for elite athletes. Recently, Times Magazine featured an article listing many male celebrities and athletes who have incorporated Pilates into their lives. Chris

2. Pilates is easy

One of the most common Pilates myths is that it’s easy, or ‘just stretching’. Pilates, when done with correct technique, can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. I danced for 10 years and still find Teaser on the Reformer harder than a lot of my ballet moves! Luisa

3. Pilates isn’t a ‘real’ workout  

Pilates is indeed a real work out. You are working out every muscle in your body including the deepest muscles that often get neglected in a ‘gym’ work out. It’s not always the most obviously hard looking exercises that are the most challenging, and a tiny adjustment can make a huge difference by increasing the challenge of the movement. Luisa

4. Pilates is only for rehab

Another Pilates myth that persists is that the movement practice is only for rehabbing injuries. Not true. Pilates is a completely adaptable practice based on the needs and goals a person presents with that day. Utilising a variety of equipment, a movement/exercise can be challenged accordingly with spring resistance, playing with base of support/balance, orientation relative to gravity, coordination, etc. This is why Pilates is part of an elite athlete’s practice, even when they are out of an injured state. Chris

5. Pilates is the fast-track to a 6-pack

Many people have heard that Pilates gives you a stronger core – which it will – but this doesn’t just mean giving you a flashy 6-pack. If you come to class expecting a 6-pack in a few sessions, you’ll probably be disappointed. However, what you will achieve with Pilates is improved alignment and organisation of your ribs and pelvis, greater pelvic stability and therefore improved posture.

All of this means that the parts of your deep core – which includes your transverse abdominals, pelvic floor, internal obliques, multitudes and diaphragm – will be able to do their job more effectively. Not only do these deep core muscles work like a corset to draw your waist in and give you a flat stomach, they’re the most important muscles for reducing most back pain and other postural complaints.

As for those rock-hard abs? Pilates can definitely play a part by strengthening your entire core, including your deep core as well as your 6-pack! Why work only one muscle group when you can work a whole bundle at once. Luisa

6. Reformer Pilates is harder than mat

Both Reformer and Mat Pilates can be equally challenging. With Mat you don’t have the feedback of the Reformer or the resistance of the springs to work with or against which can actually make the class more challenging for some. For instance, hypermobile bodies may benefit more from the feedback given by the Reformer. With Mat Pilates, you are only working with your own body weight and gravity which may be more challenging for clients who struggle with their proprioception (knowing where their body is in space).

The benefit of Reformer Pilates is that each exercise can be adapted for the individual by increasing or reducing the tension on the springs or adjusting the footbar and headrest height. Often clients who haven’t enjoyed Mat Pilates will find Reformer Pilates more enjoyable, but it is very much dependant on the individual. A mixture of both Mat and Reformer will challenge your body in a multitude of ways. Luisa

7. Pilates is the same as yoga

This is another common Pilates myth. Pilates and yoga do have similarities in their movement approach, particularly in drawing importance to a harmony of strength and mobility. However, as yoga is essentially practiced on a mat, it is not adaptable to many injuries and pathologies in the way that Pilates can facilitate with the use of equipment. Additionally, yoga is traditionally taught in large group classes with everyone performing the same movements (sometimes with a couple of modifications added for each movement).

On the other hand, Pilates, particularly in a Studio environment, allows for movements to be adaptable and tailored to a person’s short and long-term goals. Chris

8. You can’t injure yourself in Pilates

Though all instructors at The Alignment Studio have a full comprehensive certification, this unfortunately isn’t the case across the board as the Pilates Industry is not fully regulated. Therefore, an instructor who has only done a weekend course cannot be expected to safely modify movements based on certain injuries and pathologies. In addition, when a class is too large (eg. more than 8 students*), an instructor does not have the ability to tailor, modify and spot every single person in the room. Often, when Pilates is taught in a gym environment, the emphasis of a class leans more towards working hard and getting a ‘burn’ rather than facilitating a safe, informative and educational movement experience. Chris

To experience the benefits of Pilates for yourself, book an Express Reformer or Studio class at our Melbourne CBD Pilates studio.
* We intentionally keep our classes small (maximum of 5) to ensure a safe and supported practice.