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Pilates Myths

I get questions quite frequently about my thoughts on Pilates and figured it was time to do a post on this subject. Let me start off by saying that I have nothing negative to say about Pilates as a fitness modality. It certainly has benefits and it would be foolish for someone to argue otherwise.

However, I must admit that I get very irritated when I hear Pilates being marketed and promoted through misleading and false information. I’m going to share with you the three biggest myths with Pilates so you don’t get caught up in the hype.

Pilates Myth #1: Weight training creates shortened, bulky muscles while Pilates creates long, lean muscles.

Fact: This is the one that gets under my skin the most because it’s nothing more than hype to attract women who are afraid of getting big and bulky with weight training.

The Pilates claim is total nonsense and betrays a sorry knowledge of muscle physiology. It would seem to suggest the more Pilates work you do, the longer your muscles become.

Let’s do a real quick lesson in anatomy and I’ll let your common sense be the judge. As we all know muscles are connected to bones and joints. The biceps muscle in your arm for example attaches at your elbow and up by your shoulder.

Now unless you think you can make your humerus (arm bone) longer, there’s not much chance of the biceps muscle getting longer. Think about it for a second!

The idea that a certain exercise will make your muscles longer and leaner is nothing more than straight up B.S. Women will not automatically get big, bulky muscles from weight training.


In order for significant hypertrophy (muscle mass increase) to occur there would have to be several things happening.

First you’d have to be doing heavy weights on a regular basis, not just included every now and then in your workouts.

Secondly, you’d need to have a caloric balance in excess of your maintenance requirements.

Thirdly, and probably most importantly you’d need to have enough testosterone for the “bulk” muscle growth to occur. In short, you’d have to be working very hard with specific factors in place for this to happen (simply doesn’t happen by chance).

Here’s the truth of the matter. It makes no difference whether you work with pilates instructors Ann Arbor, weight training, body weight training, bands, kettlebells, machines, or whatever form or resistance training you can think of…if you don’t apply an “overload stimulus” you wont’ see a change in your muscle shape or definition period.

Forget about some exercise shaping your muscles in a certain way. This just doesn’t happen. You either increase lean muscle and thereby get firm and see definition or you don’t.

Any type of resistance applied to your muscles against gravity can make this happen if done with a proper overload stimulus, good nutrition, and adequate recovery time. Alright enough on that rant, I could go all day long on that subject.

Pilates Myth #2: Pilates offers more variety than weight training as it has over 2000 exercises.

Fact: Oh really, so someone actually sat down and figured out what the 2000 Pilates movements are? Give me a break!

When I see this stuff I have to laugh as anyone with even a basic understanding of exercise and human movement patterns knows the truth. There is literally no end to the number of exercises you could do through variations of human movement patterns in all different planes of motion.

If anything, you’re limited to the number of exercises you could do with Pilates while you wouldn’t be with weight training.

You can pick up a set of dumbbells for example and never stop being able to come up with new variations of movements. You have to remember the dumbbells or cable pulley, band, medicine ball, whatever, are just “drivers” or extensions of your body where resistance is being applied.

While the average person thinks of weight training as being limited to the typical standing or seated press, pull, curl, squat, etc, fitness professionals take these exercises and add movement variations for an endless array of possibilities.

Pilates Myths #3: Pilates realigns the body, corrects muscle imbalances and help to eliminate low back pain. Weight training causes muscle imbalances and overstresses the low back.

Fact: personalized Pilates and functional weight training programs can both be used to help correct “muscle imbalances” and improve postural alignment. Either one taught incorrectly can equally cause the same problems.

Anyone who says you can’t develop true core strength with weight lifting compared to Pilates has never really “trained” with weights.

I’ll put my core strength up to a guy who does Pilates any day of the week. All the pretty planks and Pilates movements in the world can’t stabilize the lumbar-pelvic region like barbell squats, single leg deadlifts, and other compound movements.


I could literally go on and on with this argument but here’s the bottom line.

If you do Pilates as part of your exercise and fitness routine, great, keep it up. I’ve got nothing against it as an effective way to develop core strength, flexibility, muscle strength, and toning if done properly. Just remember NOT to forget your cardio-respiratory fitness, as the two go hand in hand and are not interchangeable.

Why don’t modern Pilates teachers and enthusiasts simply state that they really just prefer Pilates training and that other forms of training may be just as effective?

There’s no scientific evidence that Pilates is any better or worse than any other form of training so let it be marketed as such.

Years ago Pilates teachers and weight trainers got along just fine, they learned from one another, and often shared ideas and movements. That was until the commercial marketers came along to distort the facts with their comparative advertising.

I respect Pilates for the benefits it provides and it deserves that recognition. I just wish it was promoted and marketed without the misinformation. There you have it…I’ve spoken my peace and hopefully shed some light on this subject for you.

At the end of the day it’s my mission to simply help spread the truth and lead people through the marketing hype and B.S.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. You can receive a FREE no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal fitness programs and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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Category: Fitness Training.