By Guest Blogger Paula Jager CSCS
I have written a number of posts on the importance of strength training and metabolic conditioning. What often gets neglected in the equation of complete health and fitness is our mobility or flexibility.
Of the ten general characteristics of fitness–strength, cardio respiratory capacity, stamina, power, speed, coordination, accuracy, balance, agility, flexibility/mobility has the greatest capacity to limit the other nine.
As with anything else in fitness or life for that matter there is not “one best method”, there are usually a few excellent paths that will lead to the same improved circumstances or results.
Pilates, yoga and other flexibility/mobility programs are to be considered “supplements or compliments” to a solid strength and conditioning program and not a “substitute”. They should be seen as part of a larger fitness regimen and not a complete system of fitness. They can be done on the same days, off days or as “active rest”.
Anyone reading this blog on a regular basis knows that I am a hardcore CrossFitter and a big advocate of strength training and intense metabolic conditioning no matter the program one trains with. I am not however so myopic in my views to not realize there are other disciplines that will blend very well and actually enhance the chosen strength and conditioning program. One of those programs is Pilates. Consequently both CrossFit and Pilates have their origins in gymnastics. While they are vastly different there are more similarities than actually meet the eye.
Pilates was originated in the early 20th century by a man named Joseph Pilates, a former gymnast and boxer. His frail childhood inspired him to pursue a path of lifelong fitness. His main goal was to return bodies to a functional level, strengthening the muscular system from the core, with an emphasis on the postural and stabilizing muscles. The use of functional movements and the ability to control your body under a large variety of demands will lead to improved health and fitness. Bodyweight movements are incorporated as well as more advanced gymnastic skills. These basic functional movements of pushing, pulling, squatting and rotating all require our bodies to work with optimal function, a full range of motion in the joint and stability. Many of us, through years of sitting behind a desk, in a car and on a couch have “unlearned” these basic skills leading to imbalances and dysfunction. Pilates is one method that aims to return us to that functional level.
It can be the perfect foundation for a serious strength and conditioning program as well as a compliment to one. It will set up the body optimally, restoring muscle balance and aiding the recovery process. Some of its principle guidelines are spinal stabilization, joint mobility, and posterior chain engagement. Pilates, as does the CrossFit method, believes the body works as a whole functioning in an integrated manner and not in isolation such as in bodybuilding. While Pilates does use various “machines” they are minimalistic and basic equipment which recruit the body’s stabilizers and are relevant to proper functioning.
Three ways to incorporate Pilates would be:
- Attend a group class–they should have all the equipment you need
- Private Lesson–the best way to learn although the priciest
- At home–you will need a video and props and should have some experience before setting out on your own
If you want to perform your best in life and sport you need to have a strong, stable and mobile foundation. Addressing and correcting joint issues and imbalances is also important for injury prevention. By activating your core, becoming dynamically flexible, engaging your neuromuscular system and aware of where and what your body is doing in space can be accomplished by a Pilates routine which will ultimately enhance the efficacy of a strength and conditioning program.
Paula Jager CSCS and Level 1 CrossFit and CF Nutrition Certified is the owner of CrossFit Jaguar.
Her exercise and nutrition programs yield life changing results
At our studio we’re always recommending that our clients engage in other fitness regimes alongside Pilates. This isn’t because we’re saying one is better than the other, but because each different regime acts to target and develop different parts of your mind meaning by combining them all you’re going to end up like Superwoman!
As a professional dancer and teacher, as well as being married to an incredibly knowledgeable strength coach, I’ve seen, heard, and tried most everything. Pilates entered the dance world long before it became trendy. I never quite understood the Pilates fad- I tried, don’t get me wrong. I had dance teachers recommending it and all my friends were doing it. But, they were also continuing to have injuries and weak points that needed strengthening. Intuitively, a work out such as strength training where you’re using the body as you do in normal life- pushing, pulling, reaching, bending, and squatting seemed to not only work better in keeping my body strong and healthy as I maintained grueling schedules dancing and performing, but is also felt more rewarding. Then I began reading more and more explaining how pilates is not what it’s cracked up to be, including this article http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/magazine/21FOB-physed-t.html?ref=pilates and it all made sense. We are busy trying to specialize our bodies, just like the food industry is trying to specialize food (added vitamins and minerals, less sugar, etc….) Our bodies are meant to eat real foods and move as nature intends them. What sense does it make to lie still and try to move all limbs in crazy directions? What does this get us other than acrobatic looking skills that serve no purpose when picking up our kids, putting a box up into the closet, and taking the trash out. I suggest people look at their primitive movement patterns as a guide for how they should move, not a fitness trend like Pilates.
LA Residents, win a week of Free Pilates at Sumbody Studio, Santa Monica, here: