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Pilates--Work Your Muscles in a Whole New Way

Pilates--like yoga--is a hot new workout that is quickly becoming a favorite routine of people across the country. CBS Early Show’s fitness correspondent Minna Lessig explains what makes Pilates unique compared to other kinds of exercise, and she demonstrates a few beginner moves to help you get started.

Like yoga, Pilates helps you discover muscles you never knew you had. It increases strength without adding bulky muscle and helps train the body to better align, thus improving posture. It also improves flexibility, balance, coordination, control and fluidity, and awareness of movement.

Many people gradually build up muscle imbalances due to daily activities like walking in high heels or carrying a bag on only one shoulder. Having a muscle imbalance can make a person more susceptible to injury: One sudden movement and your back goes out.

Given these benefits, it’s little wonder that Pilates has become popular among many athletes. It can be especially useful to athletes such as tennis players or baseball pitchers, who have developed one side of their body more than the other. Making Pilates part of their training can help them function at peak performance.

Mat Pilates is sufficient for most people because our bodies provide all the resistance we need. If you want more intensity, Pilates machines are designed to increase resistance via springs and pulleys. The main focus, as in yoga, is the "core" of the body.

One main difference distinguishes Pilates from yoga: In Pilates, you set a posture and then challenge the torso by moving your arms and legs in repetitious fashion; in yoga, you generally move from one static posture to another with no repetitions. Conscious control of all muscular movements of the body is the main object.

The Exercises

  1. Roll up to V hold: works abdominals, massages all the muscles that run along the spine, and challenges your balance and control. The V hold strengthens the front of the legs while lengthening the back of the legs.
  2. Knee drops: works all abdominal muscles, especially the obliques. Strengthens your abdominals so you can better support your spine while in a rotated position. You can make this exercise more challenging by straightening your legs.
  3. Heel taps: strengthens lower back and buttocks. Strengthening the back muscles can help maintain a good posture. As a baby, this is the first exercise we do! Once we get to our feet we tend to neglect moving our bodies this way.
  4. Twist: great for developing control, balance, strength. Everything is about lengthening and expansion! This particular exercise strengthens one side of the body while stretching the opposite side (It's done in yoga too.)

Some of the exercises may appear easy to do at first glance. What most people who have never done Pilates don't realize is that every part of the body is working in every exercise. You are traveling in your mind from your hea to your toes. In moves such as the knee drop, you may think you’re just working the abdominals. Don't be fooled: You are also working your inner thighs, calves, and even your toes!
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