How Does Pilates Shape The Body?

Pilates is one of the hottest exercise trends of the moment.  Pilates receives glowing endorsements from celebrities and everyday people alike who rave about the amazing results they receive from regular workouts. Doing a regular Pilates workout is one of the best ways to tone and shape the body – creating long, lean, toned muscles. These results are created by using controlled, “core-based” movements to increase flexibility, build strength and increase endurance. So how does pilates shape the body?  This blog will discuss some of the ways pilates can shape the body as well as answer some common questions.

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What is Pilates?

Pilates is a functional training style that is focused on endurance in a low impact, moderate-high intensity form. It targets every area in the body, with a heavy focus on the core and deep stabilising muscles. Pilates is considered a very “safe” form of exercise; despite being high in intensity, it’s also very low impact.  This means that the load put on the body’s joints is minimal unlike more traditional weight training programs. The most widely practiced Pilates workouts are done on the Mat, though machines such as the Reformer are becoming more and more popular.

Will I bulk up doing Pilates?

The short answer is no you will not bulk up. Pilates is a form of exercise that focuses on lengthening and toning the body rather than bulking and “building muscle”. The exercises and the duration of the exercises in a Pilates class are not conducive to bulking.  Pilates focuses on loading the muscles to a level that can be maintained for a longer period with a heavy focus on technique. Is it not uncommon to hear a Pilates instructor say that technique is more important that intensity. When it comes to bulking up, exercises are performed at a load that a person can only complete 1-3 repetitions. Pilates is more of an endurance form of exercise and focuses on repetitions of 10-15.  

What changes can I expect to see in my body from doing Pilates?

Changes in body shape can range from a tightening, lengthening and toning of the muscles to improved posture and better alignment. The areas most dramatically affected by Pilates are the abdominals, gluts, inner thighs and triceps – all the areas we love to hate as women! Many people start to see results in the slimming of the waistline first, usually within the first month of taking up this form of exercise. This is because Pilates exercises all stem from a strong core and deep abdominal activation. Aside from losing weight, Pilates is also a posture corrector. With the emphasis on body positioning and technique, correct posture tends to follow.

But it’s not cardio! How can I lose weight without cardio?

While cardio can be a great way to burn fat and lose weight, it is a form of stress on the body, and stress increases the levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol signals the body to store fat, especially in the abdomen. The body cannot distinguish the type of stress the body is under, just that there is stress.

Pilates is a form of exercise that can help to reduce stress in your body and therefore cortisol levels. This is through the use of the breath and mind. Pilates is about control, breathing, precision, concentration, flow and centering. Similar to Yoga, the mind is an element of the workout. By focusing on mindfulness as well as the breath that goes with each movement, Pilates encourages the body to release endorphins and reduce stress., therefore resulting in lowered cortisol levels and a reduction in belly fat.

Is Matwork or Reformer Pilates better?

Mat based and machine based Pilates workouts have several differences. Matwork classes require a lot more support from a person’s own body – there is no machine or prop supporting you. In this sense, Matwork can be quite challenging on the deep core stability muscles. With the reformer, the lower back, hips and spine receive more support. The Reformer allows you to target an area quicker and more intensely, due to the different loads of each spring option.  Further, as you advance, you can increase spring level to increase the load. Both mat and reformer pilates are fabulous forms of exercise.  If you want to challenge the body in ways it may not have experienced, both are good options!

If you have never tried Pilates before, give it a go! No matter your strength or flexibility level, your co-ordination level, your gender or your size, Pilates has something for you.  Get in touch with us to have a confidential discussion about your goals and what might be a good fit for your lifestyle and fitness level.

Written by Kelly Mortensen – Head Trainer

Learn more about Kelly here.

Kelly Lomas - Head Trainer Rebalance Pilates and Yoga
By | 2017-11-09T00:19:18+00:00 September 13th, 2017|Pilates|5 Comments


  1. […] as strength training?  I’ve lived and breathed pilates for many years… I know the results and benefits I personally experienced.  Further, I’ve worked with hundreds of clients and I’ve seen […]

  2. Steven March 27, 2018 at 6:15 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this amazing article. I ‘ll gonna be share this post with my students in Pilates Mastery.

    • Daniella Pozzolungo March 27, 2018 at 6:48 am - Reply

      Thank you Steven!

  3. Sharon May 31, 2018 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    This was one of the best and clearest articles I have ever read on Pilates. So much information overload out there; I am always looking for reliable fitness guidance that is straightforward. I am even more excited that I have discovered Pilates! Will subscribe and share your blog. Thank you!

    • Daniella Pozzolungo June 18, 2018 at 1:20 am - Reply

      Thank you so much @Sharon!! We are so glad you love pilates just as much as us 😀

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