Joseph Pilates, born in Germany
in 1881 was an innovator and inventor in the fitness field. In the 1920ís,
Pilates moved to New York City, where he and his wife opened a fitness studio to
teach his method. For decades, Pilatesí techniques were considered somewhat
esoteric, practiced almost exclusively by professional dancers. Today, training
based on Joseph Pilatesí concepts enjoys widespread recognition as a superior
way to achieve strength and flexibility for individuals at any fitness level.
The work based on Joseph
Pilatesí principles has been embraced by the medical profession because of the
emphasis on core conditioning, economy of movement, biomechanical precision and
safety. While some practitioners and therapists recommend or use Pilates as a
compound of injury rehabilitation, others find patients presenting with injuries
sustained from partaking in Pilates.
Why the Controversy?
Core Stability (aka Spinal
Stabilization) involves the strengthening of muscle groups that are under
voluntary control, as well as groups that fire involuntarily, to enhance the
stabilization of spinal joints. Recent research clearly shows that enhanced
spinal stabilization leads to reduced rates of low back pain. However, it is
vital that strength of the core musculature be developed in a gradual manner.
Immersion in a strenuous Pilates program can overload insufficiently trained
muscles, leading to muscular misfiring, consequent improper spinal loading and
ultimately greater symptoms of back pain. We recommend a more traditional
supervised 6-week core stability program prior to commencing a Pilates program.
The Pilates workouts include
exercises performed on the floor or mat and on various pieces of equipment.
These apparatuses use springs and pulleys to provide resistance, oneís own
body weight provides added resistance. Unlike traditional resistance strength
training, lighter springs (less resistance) may actually increase difficulty by
increasing the demands on the muscles.
Joseph Pilates taught that the
body should be treated as a functional whole rather than a collection of
separate parts. Breath and concentration combine to facilitate fluid yet
controlled movement with maximum awareness. Each exercise involves multi-joint
actions and use of numerous muscle groups. For example, in a leg warm-up
exercise, the legs move through flexion and extension of the hip and knee
joints, engaging quadriceps, hip flexors and hamstrings.
More efficient movement patterns
are achieved by using the deep muscles at the bodyís core: the muscles of the
pelvis, abdominal cavity and lumbar spine region. Stabilizing and moving from
core muscles is critical for the health of the spine. The Pilates methodís
emphasis on core conditioning makes it suitable for most patients with chronic
back pain. Deep abdominal strengthening combined with stabilization of the
pelvis and spine are the skills these patients need to learn in order to
function. As mentioned above, it is imperative that the individual have adequate
muscular fitness before beginning a Pilatesí program.
Because almost everyone develops
negative habitual movement patterns, learning The Pilates Method is a
re-education process for most. Individuals recovering from injuries or with
chronic pain need to unlearn bad habits and relearn how to move. The Pilates
Method offers a means to both re-educate the neuromuscular system and make
significant strides in improving overall physical fitness.