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Another Reason to Try Pilates: Sculpted Arms

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I love Pilates. Having practiced the method for more than five years, I can't imagine my workout routine without it. My once-persistent back pain is virtually nonexistent these days, an improvement that I attribute to the core strength I've gained from my twice-weekly sessions.

While most people think of Pilates as a core workout—and it definitely is one—it offers so many more benefits, from increased flexibility to the mood-boosting effects of mind-body exercise. And thanks to a recent study, we can now we can add upper body strength to that list of perks.

Our friends at That's Fit recently blogged about a new study showing that traditional mat Pilates exercises improved upper body strength in middle-aged men and women.

What's particularly interesting about these findings is that traditional mat Pilates doesn't really focus much on upper body strength. Sure, you may do some Pilates pushups and a few plank exercises for shoulder stability in a mat class. But without the use of a reformer machine or other props, there are not many upper-body specific exercises in mat Pilates. Researchers believe that a stronger core aids your upper body in exercises like pushups, and I agree.

Your body moves as a chain (often referred to as the kinetic chain), but that chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If your core is weak, full-body movements and other exercises, including pushups, will suffer. When your core is strong, however, your kinetic chain is stronger, and that helps you perform more repetitions and/or lift more weight in good form, which helps improve strength and endurance throughout the body. This is yet another reason core strengthening is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle and a sound fitness plan.

So if you've been struggling to move that pin to the next level on the weight stack or to finally complete the 100 Pushups Challenge, concentrate on your core and the rest of your body will follow!

Do you believe that a strong core improves upper body strength? How do you strengthen your core?

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Thank you. Report
Thank you. I needed this today. I was just trying to figure out how to strengthen my core and arms. Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Thank you. Report
I will try them Report
Pilates is a GREAT exercise for your whole body-- not just your core. Report
...tried a Pilates video but never really got into it...but coach sold me when she talked about her back pain relief from doing Pilates...chronic back pain is my 'thorn in the flesh'...think i'll give it a second look...
05/22/18 Report
Awesome. I love Pilates. Report
Never tried Pilates. Think I'll check out a class to see about the jiggly, jelly arms removal moves. Report
I have done pilates in the past...I need to start back. Report
I just started using a medicine ball and it was AWESOME for a core workout! Report
I read somewhere that core is like a gum between upper and lower body. So, for my 2-day strength workouts, I usually combine core with upper or core with lower body workout. Very seldom did all three as I always running out of time and less energy to do all in same day - more like my psychology effect, haha. Report
As a dance instructor, it is imperative that my students learn Pilates. I had been unable to demonstrate because of health challenges over the last two years, but this summer I'm determined to get back my dancer's strength and Pilates is the way to do it!!! Report
Good to know. My arms have been large jelly molds for a couple of decades and already with a couple of rounds of pushups a week they're feeling firmer. I'll have to add Pilates to the mix. Report
I don't know about pilates but I do yoga on a regular basis and it really works for my core and my upper body. I usually do ashtanga yoga and when done well my 30 minute routine gets me to work up a sweat and gets my heart rate up. It is even difficult to finish. I enjoy it very much. Report
one of my goals is to get back to doing Pilates. I know how much better I felt when I was doing a Pilates workout regularly so why is it so hard to start again?? Now that I am getting back on track with a healthier lifestyle, Pilates will be included too. Report
Tried a few Pilates moves a while ago and I found them really hard. I haven't ried them since then. I guess I should give it another go... Report
I enjoyed Pilates very much when I was doing it, but there were positions where it was very uncomfortable for my neck and shoulders. Most likely it was a stress that I created, but I also wonder about the instructors, if they were diligent enough to make sure , not only myself but others in the class were following correct form on the reformer. I've stopped doing pilates because of that and time and cost and now my neck and shoulders are much better. Now I've started doing yoga and the instructors do pay attention. I will incorporate pilates slowly again for my core and posture. Report
I discovered it several years ago and have been hooked ever since. Report
Pilates.. I have done regularly, got off them, then now back on them.. My vote is definately put a class minimum once per week in schedule... it really makes a difference in posture, and back strength.. Report
My arms are looking good with core training. I do planks everyday which strengthens my arms too! Report
thank you...and as always, I always learn something new from your blogs! Who knew arm/shoulder strength was linked to the core???? Guess now I know :) Report
I can't think of anything negative about Pilates. If you are fortunate to join a class and have an excellent instructor, anybody can do it. The idea is that you start where you are and work to improve yourself (only as compared to yourself!). It strengthens the muscles that support the spine. The breathing alone is worth the benefit gained! No matter how I felt when I began class, I ALWAYS felt better when I was done. It was a GREAT stress reliever.
My only sadness is that I have been unable to find another class with a great instructor that I can afford of late. Report
Thanks for the link to the 100 pushups program. I'm going to do that one. :-) Report
Hey folks. I'm new & have underlying cervical, lumbar spine probs. So I need some low impact beginner exercises suggestions. I kno nothing about pilates but want 2get 2kno about more strengthening of arms, legs & back strength without causing damage to my spine. Doc just says low impact exercises no other restrictions. Cept I've been practically bedridden for nearly 4 yrs now so I have little strength to begin with. Thanks for your ideas! Report
i replaced yoga (which i could not fully get into) with pilates and ballet-infused workouts (i.e. ellen barret) and i have found i really love how much taller i seem to carry myself. my body feels like it's tightening up and my flexibility HAS increased. Report
I love Pilates, but I don't do it as often as I should. I definitely think that it can help in various aspects! Report
Does anyone know what I can do to strengthen my neck muscles?? I have a long slinder neck and having trouble because of it! Report
I love pilates. Thanks for sharing the info about 100 pushups. I'm going to add that challenge to my to do things, starting next week. Report
Interesting. I have a 10 Minute Solutions Pilates, but I haven't done it in a while (it is a VHS). I might have to give it a try again. Report
I've heard so many good things about Pilates but have never taken the plunge to take a class...this was a good reminder that I really need to get "around to it" and sign up at my local Y. Report
welll finally i think it is time for me to get into this... i would get back soon today i would start my first session with nicolle for Pilates Report
I like Pilates. Report
I am definitely going to try the 100 Pushups Challenge! I've always wanted to be able to do even 10 normal pushups, and being able to do 100 would just be fantastic. :) Report
how nice five years . have heard some great things about this form of excerise . Report
My gym just started offering an morning Pilates Mat class after spinning. I love it. Not only is it a great workout on its own it is great for after spinning class. Report
I think I might try this 100 pushup challenge. My Arms need help! Report
I get core exercises through an aerobics class that I take on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Report
Is there a system that you can recommend for a beginner, in their early 50's? I am intrigued by this and would like to incorporate this if possible..... Report
YOGA can certainly build core muscles and arms as well. Report
Interesting, Nicole! Several years ago a physcial therapist taught me a simple Pilates routine to strengthen my lower back and from there my hips. Ever since, I've done it daily. I did discover that I was getting biceps again, before I'd added in curls with a 10lb weight and the 100-pushup challenge. Report
Absolutely. Without having a strong core you are going to use your butt, legs, and back muscles to help you with your push-ups and not get the full benefit. Also look at how many moves use your arm strength without you realizing it (unless it's your first day, then you feel it!) such as plank, downward dog, even cobra uses arm strength. Report
Yes I do think upper body strength comes from the core but everything comes from our core. Report
Yes, I do as well as pull ups which I have limited skills in. It also offers a lot of body control and balance. Definitely a nice alterntive to aerobics for those who are limited or unable to bounce, run and jump around. Report
You have this one correct! Report
Interesting that you focus on pilates mat rather than reformer, et al, as crucial in accessing improvements to the core, which would aid in improvements to your arms. That means, to me, that - just as with free weights vs. weight machines for a traditional gym workout - any benefit derived from machine pilates might be a little bit more progressive resistance or the fine tuning of alignment; but that, in the main, machines for pilates are not necessary ....

Now, I am doubly happy that I'd had those arguments with my yoga teachers: Yoga had been killing my arms - (one class had me feeling like they would fall off the next day); and you can't lose weight standing on your head; and some things you are teaching me don't make sense [not that my bad feet could take the standing balances much better, but that's something else again] ... ! And you GOTTA LET ME TWEAK ALL YOUR CLASSES FROM NOW ON ...

So, being the yoga student from hell that I know I had been—especially as a grossly underestimated student hanging out in the beginners' classes—I had been in the back, putting standing-up style pilates in my downdog splits, etc.

A very astute yoga teacher had slipped in a couple rounds of utthita prasarita padasana in the next few classes I attended (this pose is actually very like an exercise taken from pilates; but in that school of yoga, it is done more reps) ...

I totally believe that having a strong core helps improve a person's upper body strength. Now, how do I strengthen my core ? I do pilates and yoga on a regular basis. I also do strength training exercises on a stability ball. I do balance exercises on a BOSU and I occasionally use a Dyna disk. I do find the BOSU very good for improving my balance. The key to good balance is having a strong core.

I not only believe I know for a fact that a strong core improves your entire body. Report
so good i hope i ll be back to do them soon Report
Yay, one more reason to **Love** Pilates, now If I could just re-find my favorite Pilates tape on dvd (I sent it to the library years ago when our vhs died) I'll be even happier until then it's Coach Nicole & Netflix to the rescue. Report