Clinical Pilates – what is it?

Published: 18 Nov 2016

Clinical Pilates – what is it?

The term pilates is one that is often heard – but who really knows what it means?  Christie Gardner, one of our physiotherapists has undertaken professional training in clinical pilates.  Here are her insights.

The Pilates Method was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century in Germany. Pilates involves exercises which work on:

  • posture,
  • core stability,
  • balance,
  • control,
  • strength,
  • flexibility and
  • breathing.

Pilates is designed to enhance functional movement. It focuses on the retraining and recruitment of the stabilising muscles (i.e. core). Pilates is recommended as a useful tool for rehabilitation, prevention of injuries, pain management, general fitness and to limit the need for surgery.

Difference between the original Pilates and Clinical Pilates:

  • Clinical pilates is implemented by a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist, whereas the original pilates can be taught by a pilates instructor
  • Exercises are individually tailored and prescribed by a health professional based on prior assessment, rather than standardised exercise classes/programs
  • Clinical Pilates focuses on direction based exercises.  Exercise prescription is based on the individual need for better outcomes while minimising the likelihood of aggravating any injury

Benefits of Clinical Pilates:

  • Improved posture, balance and core stability
  • Increased muscular strength and flexibility
  • Prevention of injuries
  • Aiding rehabilitation
  • Restoration of normal movement patterns
  • Enhanced breathing control
  • Improved overall body tone and fitness
  • Improved balance
  • Improved bone density (esp. for osteopaenia and osteoporosis)
  • Falls prevention

Injuries/Conditions which Clinical Pilates is mostly used for:

Principles of Pilates:

There are 6 basic principles that are essential for all Pilates exercises to ensure optimal results.

  1. Concentration – focus on correct execution and the specific muscles involved
  2. Centreing – focus on achieving a neutral spine and activating the core muscles (which includes pelvic floor muscles) to support the lower back and pelvis
  3. Control – maintain appropriate posture and control during all movements
  4. Flowing movement – ensure movements are smooth and efficient
  5. Precision – perform each exercise with attention to detail to promote correct technique
  6. Breathing – maintain relaxed, normal breathing throughout all exercises. Do not hold your breath or try to adapt breathing throughout the exercises.

Types of Pilates Exercises:

  • Mat work – floor exercises using only a yoga mat.
    • Uses gravity and own body weight as a resistance
  • Exercises using a variety of small props (such as a wobble board, foam roller, swiss ball, theraband, dumbbells, magic circle, etc)
    • These are designed to either add resistance or challenge stability
  • Reformer or Equipment exercises – includes the reformer, trapeze table, chair
    • Spring-loaded machine with a moving carriage
    • The springs can either help and make the movement easier or increase the challenge by adding resistance