Pilates is a name that could’ve been unheard of a few years ago, but with this growing world of fitness and people finding their way into the modes of workout, Pilates isn’t an unfamiliar territory anymore. Often related to Yoga, Pilates also tends to focus on the breathing, flexibility, mobility, and overall fitness of an individual. The best part is that it is for all ages and has barely any restrictions for anyone who wants to give it a shot.
How did Pilates come into existence? What philosophy does it follow? How can a beginner get to it? We discuss similar questions and different aspects of Pilates in this article. But that’s not the only thing as we review some of the best Pilates apps and equipment that you will need to fully master this art. So before you start the strengthening journey of your core, give this article a read and know all the essential information about Pilates.
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a form of exercise, or a system of exercises, that targets your core, strengthens muscles, improves postural alignment, correct muscular imbalances, create efficient movements, and enhances the overall body potential and health. It was Joseph Pilates who came up with the workout and the philosophy behind it. He termed it as ‘Contrology’ but the exercise system got renamed after him as a tribute later.
While the exercise works out all the major muscle groups and improves flexibility, the moves mostly focus on strengthening your core. The core here is referred to the entire trunk, which consists of abs, hips, thighs, and the back, while some exercises might even target your arms and legs. The exercises are slow and have precise movements as they often engage your smaller muscles through breathing and relaxing your body for better mobility and mood; as studies have shown that Pilates can reduce feelings of anxiety, fatigue, depression, while working towards increasing your body’s energy. (Karl M Fleming n.d.)
Pros of Pilates
- Pilates is for everyone, regardless of your age, fitness level, and if you’re injured or not, as it will benefit all individuals to a great extent;
- Your muscles are strengthened;
- You become more flexible;
- Your core becomes stronger;
- Your body posture is improved;
- The amount of energy in your body is increased through exercise, leading to better circulation of air and blood as well;
- It can help you shed pounds;
- It forms coordination of your mind, body, and soul;
- It acts as rehabilitation of your body.
Cons of Pilates
- The results are slower than any other form of exercise;
- If done incorrectly, it can lead to injuries;
- The classes are expensive, and so are some Pilates apps for training at home;
- While it helps you lose weight, it doesn’t come under the category of cardio and will take a lot of time to even burn off calories.
Are Pilates and Yoga Similar?
As a beginner, it is possible to confuse Pilates and yoga to be somewhat similar as they’re both concerned with little equipment and exercising on a mat. It can’t be denied that there are numerous similarities between the two, especially the mindfulness and meditating approach in the sessions.
However, there exists a thin line between Pilates and Yoga which can only be observed by someone familiar with both. While yoga deals with breathing and movement, Pilates does that with its main attention towards the core of your body. It is more leaned towards exercises than yoga is, which is mostly influenced by the meditating approach. While both complement each other, it is important to know that there is a difference in logistics between the two.
Principles of Pilates
The philosophy of Pilates can easily be summarized into six principles; breathing, centering, concentration, control, precision, and flow.
Before you get to the actual exercise, it is essential to focus on your breathing first. Pilates believed that breathing in a good amount of air and letting it out repetitively will calm one down and ensure a healthy blood flow.
The idea here is to bring all the energy and awareness of your mind to the center of your body, or as termed by Joseph, the ‘powerhouse.’ This powerhouse is at the core of your body and will function to power all the Pilate exercises to be carried out smoothly.
Concentrating on all the movements that your body is carrying out is more important than you might think. It helps build a connection between your mind and body and will yield better results if you concentrate better.
Joseph believed that controlling and pacing your movements and muscles is better than opting for workouts with speed and high intensity. He said that controlling all your movements deliberately and consciously will prove to be more effective.
Quality over quantity is the basis of this philosophy. It doesn’t matter how many exercises you’re doing if they’re not precise and accurate. You need to be sure that all your movements are precise and those movements target exactly what they’re supposed to.
The idea here is derived from ballet and how smoothly it is carried out in a flow. Similarly, when it comes to Pilates, the energy of the body running from the powerhouse to all the muscles ensures that the movements are in a fluid motion. Each movement is supposed to be graceful and continuous.
Best Pilates Apps
While Pilates is an experience of your body and the mind in the order of nature, it can be a bit paradoxical to say that this experience depends heavily on the technological world. Pilates is something that you can carry out easily in your home or in your office with little to no equipment, but to surely know what you’re doing, you’d require nothing less than an app that connects you with the world of Pilates beyond your expectations.
There exist a huge number of Pilates apps that are focused on Pilates and giving people the relevant training sessions. These are both free and paid, while the apps consist of different features for different purposes. We aren’t here to talk about all the apps though, as we’re simply concerned with the five best Pilates apps that will be ideal for all your Pilates needs.
Standing out as one of the most remarkable apps of fitness, Pilates Anytime does a great job at teaching everything there is to know about Pilates to all its users. Offering several different programs such as active aging back care, breast cancer recovery, bone health, embodied anatomy, etc., this app even offers motivational talks to keep you going. The idea behind this was to make Pilates training available for everyone, anywhere, and at any time of the day.
Therefore, Kristi cooper white created the app in 2010 and ended up impressing a huge number of popular people who found the app groundbreaking in helping with Pilates training. The app consists of both recorded sessions as well as live workouts with trainers in real-time.
This app is specifically catered to those who want to work out and stay active but find it hard to find time for it. To accommodate their busy lives, Pilates anytime can provide short classes that are less than 10 minutes and can go with minimal equipment.
You do not need any dumbbells or rollers to follow the workout as most of these are only focused on body weight. Apart from that, flexibility is also a key takeaway in the workouts featured in this app. From cardio to yoga, a vast range of workouts is featured here with the main concept of Pilates in mind. There are thousands of videos available for streaming that feature basic skills, such as working with the mat or introduction to Pilates, followed by moderate and advanced exercises for the users who are fond of the concept and want to work further on their fitness level. The videos have filters for equipment or no equipment along with intensity to narrow your search.
Keeping aside the workout plans and exercises, the app has an educational aspect to it too as it provides its user with health educational content. It has a community that questions everything from the benefits of Pilates to how to meditate effectively for psychological well-being. Made specifically for flexibility, it will not provide any weight loss plan or calorie counting either.
The monthly subscription of Pilates Anytime is $18, but that’s after you’ve completed and are satisfied with their 15-day free trial. Do you want to know more before you download the app? You can read the detailed review.
Alo stands for Air, Land, and Ocean, which happen to be the three essential elements of life as we know it. Ergo, the name itself is pretty much self-explanatory upon the spiritual and meditating approach of this app that aligns with the goals of its creators. It was originally launched as a website in 2008 but got rebranded and upgraded to an app in 2018 for easy access of all the fitness enthusiasts around the globe. It can be used and practiced anywhere, regardless of if you have an internet connection or not as ALO Moves also works offline so you can get the most out of it.
Alo Moves is an app that is remarkable when it comes to offering workout and training sessions under the disciplines of yoga and fitness. From Pilates to HIIT and Ashtanga to Yoga Nidra, this app covers it all. And apart from these training, meditation sessions are also offered to promote mindfulness and a better approach to a healthy lifestyle. For the days when you don’t feel like working out a certain way, you can practice and work on improving your skills, such as flexibility, mobility, arm balances, backbends, inversions, and various other poses.
The best part is that all the classes are ranged according to their difficulty level so you can build starting from your current skill set and build up to more with time and practice. For instance, you can have an easy workout of 9 minutes as well as an intense one for 60 or 90 minutes. And you wouldn’t have to worry about the exercises being repetitive or boring as new content comes out weekly, featuring new workouts and combos. What these workouts lack is the time for cool-downs as the sessions featured offer warm-ups only.
Since the app saves you money for the equipment and hassle of going to a gym, it does ensure that the saved money gets utilized in the subscription. Alo Moves can be subscribed to with $20 a month or a sum of $199 a year. Compared to other apps under the same category, this app tends to be a bit more expensive. Additionally, it doesn’t offer a calorie counter or meal plans which are the features one can expect in an app of this cost. However, anyone who is fine with the features and price can be sure that this app is a worthy investment for both yoga and Pilates enthusiasts.
Before you go on to try their 14-day free trial, perhaps you should go through the list of pros and cons of Alo Moves here.
The daily burn was originally a website launched in 2007 that dealt with different workouts and training sessions, meal plans, tracking, and calendars for progress updates. However, over the years, the site has developed into an app and has narrowed down its features to focus mainly on the workouts. These workouts consist of a huge range, including yoga, HIIT, barre, kickboxing, cardio, and of course, Pilates, etc. For each discipline, there are over a hundred sessions available that can be filtered through the level of difficulty as well as the amount of equipment required and duration of the workout.
A distinctive thing about this app is that it not only offers live sessions to you, as an individual, but rather a live group workout where you train and connect with all the fitness enthusiasts in your class, and possibly end up making more friends. The community on this app is vast and allows you to find like-minded people and share your progress with each other. Things get better and easier when you have good people around you, and that’s just one of the good things about this app.
With the tracking option, you can set your weekly goals and track your progress, both in the terms of the number of workouts done as well as the loss or gain of weight in the time being. The statistics in this app are detailed and will deliver the progress through easy-to-get visuals and interface.
One thing that most Pilates training apps lack is the option for customizing a meal plan. Apps usually leave this bit to the users but daily burn ensures that whatever you eat is entered here for calorie count to keep a check, and perhaps provide you with a gluten-free or vegetarian diet to lose fat faster. Even though the plans are mostly customizable for the user, they do offer a few of their own plans as recommendations to your preferences. For instance, if someone wants to lose weight but enjoys sweets from time to time, they can easily find a flexible enough meal plan for them to carry out both tasks.
When it comes to pricing, the app does consider all that it is offering and has a cost that defines its features. For a monthly subscription, the app is a mere $10. The catch? You’d have to pay $30 per month for one workout session daily, along with $10 per week for a meal plan. To sum it up, you’ll be spending nearly $80 a month to get the most out of the daily burn.
If you think that’s enough to go with, you can enroll for their free trial, but if you need more assurance, you can weigh the pros and cons in this detailed review and decide for yourself.
FitOn is a highly popular and appraised app for fitness that was created by none other than Lindsay Cook, who once held the position of vice president of Fitbit. Being someone who wanted to work out and stay healthy but didn’t have time to regularly go to gyms, she understood what she needed and presented this app to the entire world, or mostly the people with the same issue. But unlike any other home workout app, FitOn has trainers that train celebrities, and you get to train with them for not even a single dollar as it’s absolutely free!
FitOn workouts are vast in number and can only be scrolled through if you know what you’re looking for, otherwise, it’d take you months to completely get done with all the videos. It offers you a chance to select a video that suits you the best in any situation, therefore, the sessions can be placed under four different categories to help you filter better. You can choose a video based on the nature of the workout i.e. yoga, HIIT, dance, etc., or in this case, Pilates. If not that, you can choose one based on the area of your body you’re looking to target, as well as the length and intensity of the workout session.
Another option is to simply select the trainer of your choice and start following their videos. Although most of the sessions are recorded, there are daily workout live streams as well, where you can join and exercise in real-time. And for the days you don’t feel like following your exercise routine, you can simply meditate to relax and calm your nerves.
FitOn tends to be an app that offers its services for free, or at least most of them. There is also a paid version of this app too which features not the workouts but rather the option of meal plans. These plans are customized to help you reach your final goal of shedding weight. What’s distinct about these is that you won’t know anything about the calories as there isn’t any counter for that, thus you won’t worry about calculating calories before even taking a tiny bite during the day.
Apart from this, the app features informative blogs, training tips, and notifications to keep you motivated and updated with the world of fitness in your hand.
While all the workout sessions are free, the meal plans and advice section comes with a cost of $19.99 per month. There are still several aspects to look for and more features to consider in the in-depth review, which you can read here.
The Centr app is gradually getting the attention it truly deserves with time as more people are being attracted to it, perhaps when they found out that Chris Hemsworth has been using it regularly. Being a fitness app, one would expect the normal sort of recorded and repetitive sessions but Centr has a different approach towards workouts. You’ll witness a full-length workout routine with a professional coach who’ll exercise with you and make you follow him. This method has turned out to be very effective and motivating for people who don’t work well with recorded videos.
The workouts here are very diverse and feature a great range of training types, such as Pilates, yoga, boxing, and MMA, to name a few. This leaves room for a bit of a surprise element in each workout session, thus making sure that your body doesn’t get used to a certain type of routine. It is important to keep your body guessing for what’s next to come to avoid the workout plateau. Additionally, the Centr meditation is one of the best types of training that work wonders for your mind, body, and soul.
The interface is pretty simple and straightforward. You register yourself, answer a few questions about your fitness level and goal, and get presented with a recommended workout plan, meditation session, and a meal plan that will work best with the exercises. The meal plans are divided into four categories; regular, vegetarian, pescatarian, and vegan recipe selections. You can mix and match a few of them to customize a meal as well, which then will be incorporated into your daily schedule and calorie counter. It must be highlighted that these plans can be a bit pricey with their ingredients.
The app costs $15.99 a month, or a sum of $95.99 a year, which is almost half the money if you pay monthly. Another deal is to subscribe for a 3-month course that will be available for $37.99, which is again a better offer than paying the monthly fee for 3 months.
Whether or not you want to opt for Centr, you can read this detailed review, weigh the pros and cons, and decide if you should consider the 7-day free trial first.
Best Pilates Equipment
While Pilates can be carried out effectively without any equipment, there still are several things that can be needed with the exercises to enhance your training process and maximize efficiency. For instance, you wouldn’t want to start off your training without a Pilates mat. You need one to lie down comfortably on a thick surface, provide comfort to your back, and avoid touching the floor directly especially when you sweat. Similarly, there are more things that might come in handy and improve your overall experience of Pilates to a great extent.
We have researched and picked five of the best equipment ideal for Pilates which you’ll find helpful.
RitFit Pilates Ring
Acting as a secondary prop to the Pilates workout, a ring can help improve your strength and add endurance to your workout which otherwise isn’t that possible. Joseph Pilates considered the Pilates ring, or magic circle, to provide more resistance for a more targeted and faster toning of the different muscle groups. It can be used for working out both the upper and lower body, along with thighs, abs, core, and pelvic muscles. Even though it is lightweight, it is strong enough to hold a tremendous amount of weight and make Pilates more effective for your overall body and heart health.
The RitFit Pilates Ring is made from fiberglass with the outer material being EVA-foam. The ring is highly elastic in nature and will not break upon daily use, regardless of the pressure on it. The sleeve of this ring is of cushioned rubber with padded handles that make you more comfortable during the exercise and eliminate the risk of any sports-related injuries that could happen.
RitFit is a company with numerous satisfied customers over the years who find their products ideal for fitness and maintaining a healthy life. When it comes to the RitFit Pilates Ring, you wouldn’t find much disappointment. The users of this ring found it the perfect fit for the Pilates workout routine. A noteworthy part is that these rings are colorful and look aesthetic when they’re contrasted with the colors of your mat and outfit. However, nearly 3% of the people who used this had an issue with it slipping off mid-workout, which is contradictory to the ‘no-slip’ feature of the RitFit Pilates Ring.
Having said that, it can easily be established that a Pilates ring has more benefits than any consequences. You can give it a shot and see the progress.
Bbtops Pilates Bar Kit with Resistance Bands
Like all fitness equipment, the Pilates bar kit is also used for keeping your body in good shape and helping you become more efficient in Pilates workouts. Using a bar and bands with different lengths and resistance can train your back, neck, arms, hips, waist, core, legs, thighs, and any muscle group that you want to target specifically. How you customize the bar and which area you focus on depends on you, while the kit acts as a tool to ensure that your goal is achieved sooner.
The Pilates Bar Kit consists of a 3-section steel rod and 2 kinds of resistance bands; 30 lbs. and 40 lbs. The steel rod is covered by a sleeve of soft foam which happens to be non-slip and sweat proof, thus providing a better grip for your workout and ensuring that it doesn’t slip off. The distinct feature of this Pilates bar kit is that the connecting points of the bands are attached to the carabiner with a loop of nylon fabric, which isn’t something that is usually seen in bar kits with resistance bands. Most bands are connected through rubber which is not the safest option.
The functionality and assembly of this Pilates kit are pretty simple. You can quickly detach and attach the rods, according to your required length, as well as for storing purposes. You can even take it to work or someplace else in your bag without much hassle.
The resistance bands are thicker than average, thus extending to 6x length and providing more resistance. This is a good thing for those who are looking for bands this strong, but perhaps not the ideal situation for someone who’s a beginner and needs thinner bands. Apart from that, this kit is all you need to experience a new aspect of Pilates training and how entertaining it can be with the relevant equipment.
ProBody Pilates Mini Exercise Ball
Similar to how mini exercise balls are used for yoga and fitness exercises, Pilates isn’t so different either when it comes to having effective equipment for even effective workouts. Hence, a mini exercise balance ball is something that can be included in your routine to improve your core strength, body posture, balance, back, and tone the major muscle groups in all parts of the body.
The ProBody Pilates Mini Exercise Ball is made from soft PVC material and remains free from any harmful chemicals and their odor. This ball tends to be extremely durable and can hold a good amount of pressure without bursting. The exterior materials offer a strong grip and will not slip off during the workout, thus causing you trouble or posing a risk of injury. It was the very aspect of back-related injuries that drove the company to come up with a product that can help avoid it. Currently, they’re doing a great job in the world of Pilates with their safe products for fitness and offering a remarkable Pilates experience to all the users.
Also known as a barre ball, it is recommended by experts to tone your body and increase overall flexibility, thus serving the purpose of Pilates in the first place. It is also helpful for those who have issues with their knees, hip, or sciatica but are more than enthusiastic to work on their body and remain fit with Pilates.
When it comes to the reviews of its users, we see a great percentage of people finding it to be the perfect addition to their Pilates routine. They praise the material, effectiveness, and funky colors that the ball features to add life to your workout. There are a few users who found an issue with the very material of this ball as they claim that it’s sticky and ruins any surface it is put on. They’re unsure about the chemicals used for it but this specific ball has apparently gotten stuck to rexine, wood, and a carpet.
A AZURELIFE Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are something that almost everyone is familiar with, especially those who tend to work out at home, either through Pilates, yoga, or any other similar exercise. These bands can be used during the warm-up by stretching your muscles and testing them throughout the session. If you’re working out at home, these bands will help you keep your form in check and give room for functional and effective Pilates training. The bands can help in building muscle strength, improving flexibility, enhancing muscle recovery, and reducing the risk of injury during the workout.
The resistance bands by A AZURELIFE are made from rubber that is non-sticky, non-toxic, odorless, eco-friendly, and latex-free to avoid the risk of any chemical-related issue. The bands measure 5 ft. long and 6 inches wide, while they’re divided into three categories; light, medium, and heavy. These categories are highlighted with different colors so you know which one to choose without looking for any imprint or stamp. You can start with the light one and gradually move your way up to the next color once you’ve gotten the hang of it.
To improve the grip, you can get a wrap around your hand or tie a knot in the band to be used as a loop. They can even be doubled together to increase the resistance and force for a more effective Pilates session.
It has been highlighted by a few users that the lifespan of these bands isn’t too long and some of them can break within a few months of use.
Ozaiic Yoga Socks for Women
Working out bare feet can have its issues, such as your feet getting cold, being exposed to bacteria, or slipping from sweat and risking an injury or muscle strain. It is thus considered a good option to wear socks that protect your feet and offer extra grip for you to train with ease.
The Ozaiic Yoga Socks for women are the ideal choice as the non-slip and anti-skid features make it perfect for Pilates, yoga, dance, and ballet, etc. They help maintain your balance on slippery surfaces as well as wood and gym floors because some athletic socks lack the required grip and can cause potential injuries. These socks are designed with your safety in mind.
The most appreciable part of these socks is that they’re very aesthetically designed with cute colors and ethnic patterns. They are low-cut and have elastic straps to secure your feet tightly. The fabric is of combed cotton while the heel features a tread to enhance your performance and reduce pain in the concerned area. The geometry of these socks is noteworthy as it has straps over the top, allowing more room to breathe and secure a better grip. This ensures that you work out for as long as you want at any surface and do not worry about losing your balance or staying upright.
While the quality and comfort of these socks remain unparalleled, the only issue ever raised is that some had trouble with the sizing. The socks come in one size that fits all women, but apparently, a few ended up with either the socks being too tight or too loose, thus restraining them from working out perfectly.
If you’re interested in starting out Pilates, there are just a few things that you should consider before diving into it. For starters, you don’t have to worry about your age and fitness level because all it requires from you is the will and devotion to workout. You’re starting Pilates to strengthen your core and improve flexibility, not build muscle or lose weight rapidly.
Then comes the decision of choosing between the two types of Pilates; Mat and Apparatus. This decision will be influenced by your budget and accessibility, but make sure that you pay enough attention to decide what’s best for you. You may even consult an expert regarding this matter and ask for their guidance in the right direction. Lastly, it again lies on your shoulders to see if you want to attend a Pilates class or work at home through an app. Once you’ve taken care of these matters, you’re good to go.
One important reminder that you need to constantly give yourself is that it requires a lot of patience. Being a low-impact exercise with slow and precise movements, the training takes longer, while the results take even longer. It could demotivate you but remember why you started it in the first place. It is essential for your body and mind in the long run, and this fact can’t be denied.
With that, we come to the conclusion of our in-depth discussion of everything important there is to know about Pilates. Go through the aforementioned points, apps, equipment, and tips, and give a green signal to your Pilates journey!