New clients will often ask “is pilates strength, cardio or both?”. They want to what results they can expect when beginning a Pilates program. They’ve already heard that Pilates is great for building a strong core, helping with balance and stability as well as improving posture. But usually what they are asking is ‘Will my body change for the better?’. There’s a bit of confusion whether pilates counts as strength or cardio, so people are unsure as to what results they’ll experience. In this article we hope to demystify this common question.
Does Pilates count as Strength Training?
Yes, Pilates is effective at building long lean muscle. During a Pilates class, the focus should be on slow and controlled movement. When done correctly, the working muscles will be under contraction for the entire movement.
For example, during a leg press exercise on the Reformer, keep the movement slow on the exertion and return the carriage to the stoppers in a controlled manner. This is much more effective at keeping the muscles under tension when compared to erratic movements using momentum.
How is Pilates Considered Cardio?
An exercise that lasts longer than a few minutes is considered aerobic exercise (also known as cardio) since the body is using oxygen as fuel. 
If you imagine a sliding scale of cardio, different forms of exercise fall at various points on this scale. For instance, a 10km run would be at the high end of the scale, offering more of a cardiovascular challenge than a gentle yoga session. So while a 45-minute Pilates class might not leave you as exhausted as if you’ve just been for a run, it does offer a cardio challenge. It’s determined by the intensity with which it is performed.
Getting the Most From Your Workouts
The important factors which make Pilates both a strength and cardio workout are engagement and intensity. There are few ways you can increase the effectiveness of your Pilates workout and help see more results.
- Get Engaged. Focus on keeping the working muscles engaged (or switched on) during the entire exercise. Think slow, precise and controlled movements. If you need advice on how to engage a specific muscle, speak with your instructor.
- Make it Intense. Go up a spring level – in Reformer class it’s easy to increase the intensity by adding a spring or two. Listen to your instructor’s suggestions for increasing spring levels.
- Challenge Yourself. Try the higher level options. Try planking on your toes or removing a hand that you usually use for balance during mat work Pilates.
So pilates can be classified as both strength and cardio. It’s up to you and the class style as to what effects the class will have on your body, so think about your goals when heading to a class. Your Pilates workout can most definitely strengthen muscles and give you a cardio workout, provided you are focusing on the exercises, ensuring you are fully engaged and working at a level that you find challenging. Talk to your instructor if you want to learn more about how you can tailor your workout to suit your goals.
Do you want to learn pilates so it can help with your travel experiences? Call or email us to find the right class and location for you. Joining the Rebalance Family means more than just a workout. We care about your wellbeing and have a supportive environment. We prioritise your wellbeing and provide a sanctuary for you to come and relax. Workout. But workout with purpose with us!
Written by Angela Brown – Capalaba Manager