I get a lot of questions from my clients about Pilates and how it compares to weight training. And my response is that I’m a big believer in the good, better, best approach to health and fitness. Pilates is definitely better than sitting on the sofa, but is it the best way to achieve your goals? But before I get into that, there’re a couple of myths I’d like to discuss…
We’ve all heard that weight training shortens the muscles while Pilates lengthens them. Clearly, this belief is based on a lack of knowledge of muscle physiology. The truth is that all muscles contract and shorten when they’re activated; and all muscles lengthen when they relax. So if your muscles appear to lengthen and flatten with training, that would imply that you’re losing muscle which is not a desirable state for anyone.
And if you take this idea one step further, it suggests that the more Pilates work you do the longer your muscles become. This would mean that eventually your muscles would develop so much slack that you’d lose the ability to move your joints!
The second myth is that Pilates realigns the body and corrects muscle imbalances while weight training causes imbalances. The truth is that both individually designed weight training programs and Pilates can be used to correct imbalances and improve postural alignment. Conversely, poorly taught weight training and Pilates can create imbalances and cause injury.
As to the question, is Pilates the best way to achieve your goals… There’s no doubt that beginners can make significant strength gains and improve flexibility with Pilates. But at some point, you’ll reach a plateau where you’ll need to push your muscles a bit harder to continue building lean muscle. The only way to do that is with weight training.