Pilates: do you lose weight? See practice exercises and benefits


What is Pilates?

Pilates is a method of physical exercise initially developed during the first world war (1914 – 1918) to gain muscle strength, but today it is used for several purposes, such as gaining balance, improving flexibility and rehabilitation.

It was created with inspiration from the principles of oriental culture. Yoga, meditation, martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine were major influencers.

The Pilates method seeks the most efficient and conscious use of muscles during movements and does not necessarily need equipment.

Through certain fundamentals, Pilates creates an efficient line of exercises, without impact, that seeks to improve the health and physical strength of the practitioner. Because of this, anyone can practice. Elderly, children, adults, pregnant women… everyone!

As the practice is performed, the exercises increase in difficulty, following the practitioner’s development.

Pilates Basics

Pilates uses six fundamentals  in its exercises. It is around them that the practice revolves. Due to its objective of precise muscle control, the technique used by the Pilates method is called contrology .


The six fundamentals of Pilates are the basis of contrology. Through the technique, it is possible to achieve the maximum control of the muscular movements of the human body. It is divided into: Breathing ,  Centering ,  Concentration , Precision ,  Control and  Fluidity . Neither is more important than the other and they connect during practice. These principles are as follows:


Breathing is one of the main and most basic principles of pilates. The method preaches that breathing should always be deep during the exercises, seeking to oxygenate the muscle groups well. Likewise, expiration should be as complete as possible.

Thus, according to the principles of pilates, “impure air” is completely removed from the lungs to make way for “clean air”.

Control  is also achieved through breathing .


According to the Pilates method, every movement must be initiated in the mind. Practitioners should pay attention to each movement and effort made, following the instructions carefully. The details of the movements cannot be missed.

Because of concentration, the Pilates practitioner can learn to perform movements more efficiently, without making unnecessary efforts.


Centralization concerns the central region of the body. Called core  (from English: core) or powerhouse  (from English: center of force), the central region involves the following muscle groups:

  • Diaphragm;
  • Spine extenders;
  • Deep column spindles;
  • Abdominal muscles;
  • Hip flexors;
  • Muscles of the pelvic floor (kegel).

These are the muscles that support the spine and internal organs, in addition to having a strong role in the balance of our bodies since our center of gravity is in them.

The Pilates principles say that it is important to strengthen the powerhouse, since through this, the body can have a better posture, which avoids injuries and facilitates balance, making less effort necessary for him.

In addition to the muscular strength of the region, Pilates seeks mobility in the center of the body, allowing greater control of it and its muscles.


One of the main principles of Pilates, control depends on breathing, centralization and concentration. With the mastery of these three essential principles, control is achieved.

Control is necessary for the proper execution of the exercises. The practitioner must be attentive and focused on his muscular movements and breathing.

This control seeks to relieve the body’s effort, making the energy expenditure of Pilates more efficient. Only the muscles that are needed are used for each movement.


The movements performed in Pilates must be accurate. This is achieved thanks to two factors: the control and the instructor.

Control, together with breathing, concentration and centralization, allows movements to be carried out in an appropriate manner. The practice of each of the movements is necessary, and the control is especially useful in this learning.

However, it is necessary to learn the movement in the correct way. The instructor will teach these movements. He must demonstrate to the practitioner the step by step of each Pilates exercise, correcting the student’s mistakes.

It is important that each movement is performed accurately, avoiding unnecessary movements being used in the exercises.


Fluidity is the sixth principle of Pilates. Each movement must be fluid. The sequences of movements must connect one exercise to the other, so that the practitioner can move on to the next with as little effort as possible.

The exercises should be smooth and linked together in sequence like a dance.


There are two types of pilates. Are they:

Pilates solo

Solo pilates consists of doing the exercises using only your body weight on the floor. It is the most practical to perform since it can be done anywhere, without the need for expensive devices.

In addition, solo pilates classes can be done in groups, which reduces the price since a single instructor can coordinate several practitioners.

Pilates on appliances

When exercising is performed on devices such as pilates balls, sprung chairs, rubber bands and others. Pilates in devices has the facility for the device itself to help guide the correct movement, just that the student learns how to use it. The instructor usually also offers a personalized exercise.

What to start with?

There is a doubt as to what type of pilates to start with. This varies from person to person. Either type is accessible to everyone and the difficulty gradually increases in them.

Pilates solo has the advantage of practicality and of having a lower price, however it is recommended that, if possible, start the practice on devices. They make exercise and learning easier, and having an instructor working directly with you can facilitate exercise corrections.

The pilates instructor must talk to the student for this choice to be made. If the future practitioner wants to start on the ground, it is not a problem, but only the instructor can tell which type of pilates is ideal for each one.

Other variations

There are some variations in the types of pilates. These variations were not created together with pilates, but added and adapted to the practice and can bring benefits.

Overhead or overhead pilates

Aerial pilates, as the name says, is performed “in the air”. Sometimes called suspended, it is carried out with the help of fabrics or handles attached to equipment or to the ceiling. The fabric keeps the practitioner in the air and can make the exercises more advanced or not, depending on how it is used.

It is important to perform the aerial with the help of an instructor, as a fall can be dangerous, especially if any limb is wrapped and trapped in the fabric, which can cause fractures and dislocations.

Learning how to use this equipment safely is especially important.

With ball

The Swiss ball, also known as the pilates ball, is made of elastic material, and can be used for pilates exercises. It is possible to perform sit-ups, push-ups, squats and other movements with the ball, adding variety to the practice.

Benefits: what is pilates for?

The Pilates method is a set of physical exercises and stretches that has several benefits. Between them:

Increased muscle strength

Like all physical exercise, with time and discipline of practice, the muscles become stronger due to the effort. This applies, in the case of pilates, especially to the abdominal and core muscles of  the body.

Increased flexibility

The frequent practice of pilates causes increased flexibility, since your exercises also include stretching.

Improved blood circulation

Physical exercise improves blood circulation and heart conditioning.

Reduced stress and fatigue

The practice of physical exercises and pilates helps to reduce stress and tiredness accumulated during the day. It is a practice related to health, but also to fun.

Improved fitness

Physical exercises like pilates, when practiced frequently and regularly, improve physical conditioning, increasing endurance and strength.

Improved posture

The stretches and positions provided by the pilates method help the body to maintain a natural and adequate posture, improving it as a whole.

Improved breathing

Learning how to breathe correctly is essential for any physical exercise. Breathing is one of the six principles of pilates and is considerably improved with continued practice of the method.

Concentration growth

As one of the principles of pilates, concentration needs to be practiced by the student of the method. With this practice, your ability to concentrate will improve over time.

Improved motor coordination

Pilates principles help with motor coordination. Learning how to move each muscle properly, with precision and control, is essential for practice.


Especially in the case of solo pilates, practice groups are usually formed. Although concentration on exercise is extremely important for pilates, breaks between them can be great times for socializing.

Pilates for the elderly

Physical exercise is important at any age, but the elderly may find it difficult to exercise. Bones and muscles lose strength and high-impact exercises can be problematic for the joints.

Pilates has the advantage of not being a high-impact exercise. The effort is reduced, the repetitions are few, but the exercise is still there and makes a difference in health.

The benefits of pilates can be enjoyed by the elderly, improving balance, breathing, circulation and muscle strength.

Pilates for pregnant women

Pregnant women can enjoy the benefits of pilates. Physical exercise is important for pregnant women and the pilates method can bring several useful advantages to the woman who is expecting a baby. For example, the increased strength in the pelvic floor, the muscle that supports the organs and, in this case, the baby as well.

Strengthening the pelvic floor can help with childbirth. In addition, Pilates is an exercise with little effort and impact, which is suitable for pregnant women. It is important to remember that the instructor must be prepared to assist pregnant women.

Check out the main benefits of Pilates practice for pregnant women:

Reduced back pain

Stretching and exercise reduce back pain due to the strengthening of the region of the body that supports the spine, which during pregnancy can suffer from the extra weight of the baby.

Improved posture

Greater support for the spine also improves the posture of the pregnant woman, as well as that of anyone. But the pregnant woman may need to monitor her own posture due to the child’s weight and, therefore, pilates can help.

Breathing practice

Breathing is essential during childbirth for the relief of contraction pains and for the baby’s oxygenation. Pilates improves breathing and will help in those moments.

Strengthening the pelvic floor

The pelvic floor supports the body’s organs, including the uterus with the baby during a pregnancy. Keeping this muscle strong and exercised helps to have a healthier pregnancy and an easier delivery. It also helps in controlling urinary incontinence.

Improved sleep quality

Physical exercise, in general, improves the practitioner’s sleep quality. Pilates, with breathing techniques and physical exercise, can improve sleep, whether pregnant or not.

Socializing with other pregnant women

There are groups of pregnant women to practice pilates. Socializing is one of the great benefits of pilates.

Pilates for children

Pilates practice, adapted for children, can be a good exercise for them, ensuring proper posture and muscle strengthening for life, as well as flexibility.

Among the benefits of pilates for children are:

  • Improved posture;
  • Improved flexibility;
  • Improved concentration;
  • Muscle strengthening;
  • Greater body perception;
  • Development of exercise habit;
  • Discipline development.

Pilates lose weight?

Like all physical exercise, Pilates has the potential for weight loss and will, yes, make you burn more calories. However, it is important to remember that the method was not created for this purpose and some adaptations may be necessary for this.

The Pilates method was created to improve physical condition and health. Their movements and exercises aim at efficiency, aiming to spend little energy. Little energy expenditure equates to little weight loss.

There are variations of the method that focus on weight loss, with the use of weights, more extensive and intense exercises, in addition to combinations with aerobic activities. However they were not developed in the same way as pilates

It is important to find out about them before going after this, and if your goal is weight loss, aerobic exercise may be more suitable.

Pilates defines the body?

As with weight loss, pilates was not designed to define the body. Normally, what prevents a person from having a six pack abs is not the small muscle, but the layer of fat that covers it.

Pilates increases the muscle mass of the abdomen, but what eliminates fat is aerobic exercise. Therefore, if you have a lot of fat, muscle growth will not be enough to define the body.

The practice, however, can be used in conjunction with aerobic activities to increase muscle definition.


Pilates is recommended for physical therapy rehabilitation. Several studies indicate that the benefits are numerous and the contraindications are few. Athletes, the elderly, pregnant women and people with orthopedic problems (such as scoliosis ) can practice.

In order to be used in a therapeutic way, studies indicate that the sessions are spaced for at least one hour, and that all the basic principles of pilates are applied.

However, it is important to consult with the physical therapist before going after the practice of pilates for health conditions. Only he knows what is the best indication for his specific case.


The original pilates exercises are already diverse, totaling 34. In addition to them, there are still exercises with devices! So there are many different exercises so that we can list them all here.

Therefore, we will separate some of each device and mode, starting with the devices. Remember to look for pilates instructors to learn the correct way to perform each of these and other exercises.

Ladder Barrel

Ladder barrel translates to “ladder barrel” (those vertical ladders). The equipment has two parts, one that is the vertical ladder and one that is a rounded structure, like a lying barrel, with a pad. It has around 90 to 98 cm in height.

Some of the exercises are:

Stretches front

Done to stretch the hamstring muscles (the ones at the back of the thigh), this exercise consists of supporting your back on the stairs and stretching your leg over the barrel, then flexing your torso over it and finally returning to the starting position .

Roll over barrel

Done to mobilize the spine and strengthen abdominal muscles, this exercise consists of lying on the barrel with the belly up, with the hands on the highest step of the stairs, with the legs stretched upwards, then flexing the hips so that the legs are parallel to the body.

Step chair

The step chair, which can be translated as a “step chair”, consists of a small padded bench with one or two internal pedals, attached to the chair by springs at one end. The device is small, easy to move, and serves to stretch and increase strength.

Possible exercises include:

Hamstring Stretch

To perform this exercise, you must face the chair with your feet together and, with your legs straight, push the pedals towards the floor. This exercise uses the counter force applied by the springs to strengthen the muscles and stretch the back muscles of the legs.

Swan Front

Done to stretch the paravertebral muscles, this exercise consists of lying in the chair on your stomach, with your belly resting on the pad and, with your body stretched, holding the pedals. When stretching the body, the steps must be pushed down with the arms straight, and then the springs are again allowed to pull them upwards.

The arms should be straight throughout the exercise and, while the pedals are raised, the torso should be slightly arched.


The reformer was the first device to be developed for pilates and consists of handles, springs, bars and a cart that slides in a structure similar to a bed. It is a large device, but it has many possibilities for exercise.

This device makes exercise difficult, making it more intense and requiring more effort. It is recommended for more experienced practitioners.

Some of the exercises that can be practiced in it are the following:

Pulling the car

This exercise strengthens the thighs, buttocks and abdomen. It consists of lying on the device’s cart, removing the springs from it, attaching the feet to the appropriate bar for this, and then flexing the knees and hips, pulling in the direction of the bar. After that, the starting position is returned.

Unilateral Shoulder Press with Inclination

This exercise strengthens the trapezius, the deltoid, oblique muscles, the rectus abdominis and the triceps. You should be on your knees in the cart, facing sideways towards the bars. With one hand, one of the handles is held, which must be lifted above the head with a shoulder extension. This will cause the cart to drag close to that of the bar.

After the shoulder extension is completed, you should return to the starting position.


The last piece of equipment on our list is the Cadillac. It is also a great device. It consists of a padded table, bars, trapezoids, springs and handles. Several exercises can be done on it, among them:

Hanging Pull Ups

This exercise mobilizes the spine, in addition to strengthening the deltoid, biceps, dorsal and infraspinatus muscles.

To do this, you must hold the side rods, then lift your feet and place them over the trapeze bar. Then the spine and hips must be extended, and then returned to the original position.


This exercise strengthens the rectus abdominis, biceps, triceps and rectus abdominis. You should stand with your feet on the safety strap, face down, and your hands should hold the straps suspended. Then, the force is made to close the arms in front of the body, rising, and then to return to the initial position.


The solo mode is the original. Created before the appliances, it is made only with the body’s own weight and may need, at most, a mat to soften the floor. Some of the exercises in the apparatus are adapted from the ground.

Among the exercises are:

The Bicycle

Supporting the elbows on the floor and with the hands on the lumbar, face up, the practitioner should raise the hips and leave them at 90º in relation to the floor. Then you have to make the pedaling movement in the air, synchronized with the breath.

Rowling Back

One of the simplest movements in pilates, the practitioner should sit on the floor, bringing his knees to his chest and lifting his feet off the floor. The thighs should be at a 90º angle to the floor and the hands should be supported on the heels.

During inhalation, roll back until the shoulder blades are resting on the floor. Then, you must exhale and return to the starting position.


The price of pilates classes varies widely from studio to studio, in addition to how many weekly classes you want to have.

In 2017, NAMU, an online course portal, did a survey in the city of São Paulo and came to the conclusion that, on average, you pay R $ 339.35 per month to have a weekly individual class in the city of São Paulo .

Three classes per week, in the west zone, in São Paulo (The most expensive region), costs an average of R $ 834.76, while in the north zone, which is the cheapest region, it is around R $ 754.70.

This price varies according to the region of the city, so it will clearly vary from city to city.

When classes are in groups (which is more complicated when using equipment, but common in solo pilates) the price is lower, since an instructor can handle several students at the same time.

Pilates with equipment needs more investments in the studio to purchase equipment, which is also why it is more expensive than solo pilates.

It is important to research the prices in your area and decide which type of pilates you want to do, as this influences the price.

Pilates and other practices

Pilates is related to several other practices. The method is capable of improving several activities due to the benefits it brings.

Pilates and yoga

Yoga is an Indian technique that seeks balance and union between body and spirit. It is common to find questions about which practice is better, yoga or pilates, but it is important to know that the two can be allies.

The benefits brought by pilates can help in the practice of yoga and vice versa. Balance, concentration, breathing, all of these can be used in both practices to be able to access the benefits of both.

Pilates and weight training

Combining pilates and weight training is possible. Weight training seeks muscle growth, but the principles of yoga can help the practitioner to improve their health and their muscle training.

It is important that the instructors, both pilates and bodybuilders, are aware that the student practices both modalities so that there is no overload and for the necessary adaptations to be made.

Pilates and sports

Pilates improves fitness, breathing, balance, concentration, precision of movement and muscle strength, among other things. All of this is extremely useful for any sport, be it climbing, marathons or that game of beach volleyball on a family trip.

The practice of the pilates method improves physical conditioning, so it is an advantage for health and sports.

Pilates history

The creator of the Pilates method, Joseph Pilates, was born in Germany in 1883. He had asthma , rickets and rheumatic fever and, because of the influences of his parents – a gymnast and a naturalist -, he believed that with exercises and breathing he could solve his problems of health.

He began to exercise outdoors and to study his own anatomy, creating an exercise and breathing routine.

He moved to England in 1912 and was a professional boxer, circus artist and trained Scotland Yard in self-defense. Two years later, the First World War began and, along with other German citizens, Pilates was arrested by the British authorities.

The Pilates method took shape in prison. Joseph continued to perform these exercises in jail, and encouraged his fellow prisoners to exercise as well. He removed springs from the beds so that those who were too weak to get up could exercise with the springs attached to the foot and head of the bed.

The first Pilates equipment appeared at this time and years later, the springs would be an important part of the creation of the cadillac and reformer.

After the war, Joseph returned to Germany, where he stayed until 1926. It was in this year that he moved to the United States and met his third and last wife, with whom he opened the first pilates studio in New York.

Due to the studio’s location, close to Broadway theaters, Pilates became known for dancers and actors, who sought strength and improved posture, as well as rehabilitation when injured.

From the 1960s, the method began to become known outside of New York as well, popularizing the practice.

Joseph Pilates died at the age of 83 in 1967, and his students took the method further. Therefore, today it is one of the most popular types of physical exercise linked to health.

Common questions

Who can practice pilates?

That’s the beauty. Virtually everyone. The exception is if your doctor says you shouldn’t do the exercises. It is a good idea to ask your doctor if you are able to perform the exercises.

It is important to remember, however, that some conditions require monitoring for the practice. Uncontrolled diabetes hiatus hernia , hypertension  and patellar chondromalacia  are conditions that require attention and adapted exercises.

Physically disabled people may also need adaptations in practice.

What to eat before and after practicing?

Light foods are recommended. Excessive feeding before practice can be a problem because many exercises strain the abdominal muscles, and there are several that elevate the stomach above the head. However, it is not good to exercise on an empty stomach.

After practice the recommendation is the same. Since Pilates is not designed to expend a lot of energy, eating a lot after exercise is unnecessary.

How long do I notice the results?

With frequent practices – something like 3 a week – you can see the results in 10 sessions. According to the creator of the method, in 10 sessions you see results, in 20 sessions others see, and in 30 sessions, your body will already be a different body.

Pilates is a healthy practice, a low impact physical exercise that helps to bring balance to the body with different possibilities for everyone, but like any physical practice, it is important to be instructed by a professional.