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The History of Pilates

  • Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates during the First World War as a means to improve rehabilitation of injured veterans. He believed in a connection between mental and physical health and his approach emphasized maintaining form and control through a series of precise movements.

“The Pilates Principles” include:

Alignment – maintaining correct postural alignment throughout exercise

Breathing – maintaining even breathing throughout exercise using a technique that engages the deep stabilizing muscles

Centering – engaging the core prior to movement of the extremities

Concentration – using the mind to control muscles and movements

Control – no uncontrolled movements

Precision – every movement has a purpose

Flow/Efficiency of Movement – once efficiency has been achieved, exercises are intended to flow together

Originally, Pilates consisted of 34 exercises performed on a padded mat on the floor. Joseph Pilates later invented many pieces of equipment, such as the Reformer and Trapeze Table, which utilize springs and pulleys to either add resistance or assist movement

What are the goals of Pilates?

  • Pilates emphasizes motor control, and teaches how to maintain neutral postural alignment throughout movement
  • In Pilates, “the core” refers to deep stabilizing muscles that attach to the pelvis and the spine, including pelvic floor, transversus abdominus, and multifidus. Pilates focuses on isolating, activating, and strengthening the core. When combined with motor control, this will help protect the spine.

What should I expect from a Pilates class?

  • Pilates classes may be advertised as “mat” or “equipment” classes. In mat classes, exercises are performed on foam mats on the floor, primarily using body weight resistance. Equipment classes utilize some of the equipment originally developed by Joseph Pilates to add resistance or assistance to exercises.
  • Each class usually lasts around 45 minutes
  • Ideally, a Pilates class won’t be too large, allowing the instructor a chance to assess each individual for correct execution of the exercise. In Pilates it is possible to “cheat” using larger muscles, rather than the deep core muscles, to perform a movement. In some cases “cheating” can only be identified when the instructor physically checks to see what muscles are active. This level of attention is precluded when class size is too large.  

Who may benefit from Pilates?

  • Individuals who have back pain, neck pain, or headaches
  • Individuals who have difficulty with motor control or poor posture
  • Pre-, peri- and post-natal women. Women who are pregnant should check with their physician before initiating an exercise regime
  • Athletes looking to improve stability, balance, and motor control


 At Sydney Sports and Orthopaedic Physiotherapy our highly qualified physiotherapists specialise in the assessment, treatment and prevention of neuromusculoskeletal injuries.

Contact us today – 9252 5770

This handout was prepared by Sydney Sports and Orthopaedic Physiotherapy and is intended as a general information service. Please note that the information provided is not intended as a substitute for advice from a registered physician or healthcare professional. If symptoms persist, please consult your doctor.

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