Holistic medicine

Pilates exercises

Pilates exercises

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What is Pilates?

Pilates exercises can alleviate back pain and neck tension, for example. Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born near Düsseldorf in 1883. He suffered from asthma, rickets (bone softening) and rheumatic fever as a child. He began to strengthen his body at a young age and was involved in “movement theory”. Joseph Pilates developed a functional concept of rehabilitation processes early on. He overcame his physical limitations by developing his own exercise program of stretching and strengthening exercises.

History of the Pilates

In 1914 he was interned as a German in England. In this imprisonment he worked as a nurse and developed his later studio equipment there, by using bed springs to try to strengthen and treat the injured. Even today, his converted hospital bed is the heart of every modern Pilates concept.

After the war ended, Joseph Pilates returned to Germany and was inspired by dance and various forms of training such as yoga and various martial arts. He had previously trained in Scotland Yard officials in England, not just as a professional boxer. He incorporated this into his training concept and probably his experiences from working with the founder of German expressive dance, the Hungarian dancer and movement analyst Rudolf von Laban (1879-1958).

In 1926 Pilates left Germany and emigrated to the United States. At that time he was said to have been urged to train parts of the German army, which the convinced pacifist Pilates probably rejected and therefore left for the USA. On the crossing, he met his future wife, the nurse Clara. Her experience as a nurse leads to a gentler and rehabilitation-oriented further development of his training concept. Together they opened a studio in New York in the same building as the New York City Ballet. Many dancers quickly became aware of his method and trained with him. Regular training made the dancers more resilient, had fewer complaints and was able to withstand your tough ballet training.

Joseph Pilates recognized that the ancient Greek principle, healthy mind in a healthy body, was lost in the age of industrialization due to the monotonous movements in the factories or the immobility in the administrations. His life's work is an attempt - with his training concept - to restore this lost unity of body and mind.

Pilates should tighten from the inside without building muscle packs. Pilates, which the inventor first called "Contrology", is intended to create a new body feeling, a natural, upright posture and thus an expressive presence. In 1945 Joseph "Joe" Pilates, as he was also called, published his book "Return to Life Through Contrology- The complete Writings of Joseph H. Pilates", which means "New Life through Contrology" in German. There he described his method and the principles of Pilates.

Joseph Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 84 from an underactive lung and is believed to be the result of a fire in his Pilates studio in New York. He trained his students and himself until the end of his life. The uniqueness of his concept ultimately led to the fact that the Pilates training or Pilates method, has become an important part in the health and fitness area.

His wife Clara Pilates continued his work in the studio and died in 1977. That the principles of Pilates did not completely disappear from the picture is primarily due to the student Romana Kryzanowska, who learned and spread the method since 1941, even when she was in Peru lived. From the nineties, Pilates experienced a boom when it became public that stars like Madonna, Tina Turner or Rod Stewart, besides athletes like Tiger Woods or tennis stars Pat Cash and Martina Navratilova, practiced Pilates.

Pilates exercises on equipment

In addition to the exercises, Pilates primarily designed devices on which exercises could be carried out. One of them is the so-called Allegro device. The “reformer” originally developed by Joseph Pilates for individual training is now successfully used in rehabilitation and prevention. In order to make the diverse exercise options on this device accessible to participants in group lessons, the "reformer" was further developed into the "Allegro". This system of cables and different spring strengths offers a variety of options, both for performing full-body exercises and for isolated training in different joints.

Pilates on the Allegro is designed to train the lower abdominal and back muscles, to relax and relax the shoulder and neck muscles, to improve mobility, to tighten the abdomen, legs, buttocks and arms. The uniform stretching and strengthening of the entire body should help to balance muscular imbalances. The natural balance between strength and mobility should be increased, posture improved and body awareness increased.

Pilates on the Allegro can also be effective against processes of osteoporosis and alleviate complaints in diseases of the musculoskeletal system, such as back pain or neck tension. The slow and concentrated exercises, paired with your own breathing rhythm, should also ensure a deep relaxation of the mind.

The Pilates Allegro training is limited to two to a maximum of four participants. Due to this small number of groups, the training is very intensive, individual and therefore successful. In many facilities you can test this successful training on the device developed by Joseph H. Pilates in a trial unit. You should feel the difference after the first few hours of allegory.

Four effective Pilates exercises

The following four Pilates exercises are effective and ideally suited for daily training at home. All you need is an aerobic mat.

Leg lift

  1. Go to the four-legged stand. Put the tips of your feet up, point your fingers forward.
  2. Build up body tension, exhale while lifting and stretching one leg.
  3. Tighten your stomach firmly - do not fall into the hollow back.
  4. Keep the leg short and then slowly lower it again.
  5. Repeat this exercise about 15 times per leg.
  6. To make the exercise more demanding, the right arm can be raised to the left leg and the left arm to the right leg.

Side Planks (Side Bend)

  1. Lay on one side of your body, legs stretched over each other.
  2. Raise your upper body and support it on your elbow.
  3. Don't let your head hang - it should line up with your spine.
  4. Tense your abs and push your hips and knees upwards.
  5. The entire body should now form a line and only rest on feet, elbows and forearm.
  6. Hold position and inhale and exhale several times (target should be about 60 seconds).
  7. Return to the starting position.
  8. Change body side and repeat exercise.


  1. Support the upper body on the elbow and forearm from the four-legged stand. The forearms should point forward.
  2. The head should be in line with the spine. Look at the floor.
  3. Stretch your legs back and put them on your toes so that the body only rests on your forearms and toes.
  4. Maintain body tension and hold this position. (Target should be about 60 seconds).
  5. Return to the starting position.


  1. Lay flat on your back, arms stretched out next to your body.
  2. Set up your feet so that the legs form an angle of approximately 45 degrees.
  3. Tension the back of your body, lifting your lower back and buttocks up until your back and thighs are in line.
  4. Hold this position briefly while breathing in and out deeply.
  5. Slowly lower your back and buttocks in vertebrae.
  6. Repeat about five times.

(vb; Melanie Adolph, Pilates trainer)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Cherie Wells, Gregory S.Kolt, Andrea Bialocerkowski: Defining Pilates exercise: A systematic review, Elsevier 2012, sciencedirect.com
  • Deutsche Pilates Verband: Pilates - What is it? (Accessed on 24.09.2019), pilates-verband.org
  • Baur, Christof, Thurner, Bernd: The best Pilates exercises. Compact guide: For beginners and advanced, Mankau Verlag 2016
  • Dagmar Mathis-Wiebe: Pilates exercises - Pre Pilates: Valuable basics in theory and practice for beginners, BoD - Books on Demand 2017
  • Michaela Bimbi-Dresp: The great Pilates book: The original exercises for all skill levels, GU 216
  • Thomas Müller: Pilates relieves chronic low back pain, ÄrzteZeitung (clinical study), Springer Medizin, 2018, aerztezeitung.de

Video: Pilates Workout. Best 15 Minute Body Burn For Results (August 2022).