I Do Pilates. Do I Need to Hit the Weight Room, Too?

We asked Pilates teachers with experience in a variety of other modalities if method fans should also strength-train.

by Anne Marie O’Connor

So in your opinion, do Pilates practitioners also need to do strength training?

Michele Olson, PhD, FACSM, adjunct professor of sport science at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL, and a Pilates teacher: Yes! As we also know from decades of research, it takes a weight heavy enough to exhaust a muscle in about four to eight reps to evoke noticeable changes in pure strength. If you have not been working out at all, Pilates will help you to develop some strength at first. But after a few weeks, that may not be possible anymore. So it is recommended that you start to include resistance training in your routine.

John Garey, STOTT PILATES® master trainer, creator of John Garey TV and NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist: It depends on your goals. Pilates is a strength-training program, but there are limits to what you can do with it. Its primary benefit is for core strengthening, but it’s also great for strengthening the muscles and bones. If you’re just looking for general fitness, for most people Pilates is enough.

Jennifer Price, Peak Pilates® comprehensive certified instructor, senior exercise physiologist and ACE Gold-certified medical exercise specialist at the Penn State Health University Fitness Center in Hershey, PA: It depends on the definition of “regular Pilates practice” and on the client. Since Pilates is done in multiple planes, with exercises performed kneeling, lying, seated and standing, you are getting a total-body/functional workout. Obviously the springs on the Pilates equipment provide resistance. So someone who does matwork and the various equipment most days of the week doesn’t absolutely need to do strength training.

Lynda Salerno Gehrman, founder and owner of Physio Logic Pilates and Movement in New York City: I don’t think you necessarily have to do weight training if you’re doing Pilates—I think you can get the strength component you need from Pilates because the springs act like weights. In fact, each spring has a pound conversion equivalent; you’re increasing the weight as the spring extends.

What can strength training give you that Pilates can’t?

Price: If a person’s goal is strength gains, the spring resistance on the equipment might not be [heavy] enough to work the overload principle.

Garey: I do weight training because I want much better than average strength and I like the look of larger muscles, and that’s difficult to accomplish with Pilates.

Price: If you don’t have access to Pilates equipment every day, you may need to do strength training. Also, if you have a medical condition (i.e., osteoporosis) or an occupation where you could benefit from specific strength-training exercises (such as people who do manual labor or a lot of lifting, including moms and teachers of young children and nurses, as well as professional athletes; in other words, anyone who doesn’t sit at a desk all day), you should consider adding strength training to your routine.


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