Bending the image of a healthy, well-balanced physique

Pilates is a type of exercise therapy. This workout is a series of movements, done from a sitting, reclining, kneeling or standing position, designed to increase strength and flexibility, release tension and relieve chronic neck and back pain.

Developed by German-born Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, this technique uses specially designed apparatuses for stretching and strengthening exercises uniquely tailored to individual clients' needs. Repatterning movements and proper breathing techniques are important components of the training.

The Pilates Method is used in physical rehabilitation and is popular with athletes and performance artists, as well as those seeking to improve body conditioning.

Pilates has grown in popularity exponentially over the past two decades. Almost every large fitness facility offers classes. But originally, according to pilates-studio.com, Pilates was offered on a one-to-one or small group basis. The instructor supervised your workout and it was custom designed for your body. The Pilates apparatus was also an integral part of the workout, whereas now, Pilates without apparatus has become increasingly popular.

Pilates-studio.com says that the original exercise system Joseph designed included more than 500 exercises which were performed on five different, unique pieces of exercise equipment. Instead of performing multiple repetitions and sets, he preferred a smaller number of exactly performed repetitions, and a program that emphasized total body development.

The trunk of the body is a major focus for Pilates. The abdomen, obliques, spinal erectors and glutes need to be well conditioned, because a healthy body, proper movement and development all derive from the strongest part of the body - which is the core.

The focus on health and total body development has recently found a ready following in North America. Women, in particular, seem to be drawn to Pilates, a shift which may be owed, in part, to adoption of the Pilates method by female celebrities, such as Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, who sought to achieve a balance between being slender and toned. While the size of a muscle is directly related to its strength, Pilates focuses on total body development. It allows a woman to substantially increase her level of fitness - while strengthening her entire frame. In addition, Pilates involves the benefits of stretching - an appealing way to achieve a healthy, well-balanced physique.

Advertiser Links for Pilates