You Asked: Does Pilates Count as Strength Training?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This is not an easy question for me to answer. As a certified Pilates instructor and long-time Pilates practitioner, I've seen the many benefits of Pilates first-hand, and with many of my students. A Pilates workout can sculpt your core, help you stand taller, improve your balance, tone your muscles and even prevent and relieve certain issues like lower back pain. I'm a huge advocate of Pilates and think it can benefit any body—male or female, young or old, beginner or athlete.
But I also have training and certifications in more traditional forms of fitness, such as personal training. So I also know how important it is to strengthen your muscles against progressively challenging resistance levels. The benefits you get from strength training, such as improved bone density, increased muscle tone and strength, a healthier heart, and improved metabolic rate come as a result of resistance training. A by-the-book definition of strength training means working your muscles to fatigue (meaning you can't do another rep in good form) with progressively heavier resistance over time. These variables aren't present traditional Pilates, which does not work the muscles to fatigue or continuoulsly increase resistance as you get stronger. This means that realistically, you will not get the same benefits attributed to strength training by doing Pilates alone.  
Yes, anyone who is new to Pilates will experience some benefits like increased strength (in certain muscle groups) and will probably see some improvements in muscle tone and strength. But for most people, those benefits will plateau and reach a maintenance level rather than continuously getting better. There's nothing wrong with that, if that is your only goal. Doing Pilates is certainly better than doing nothing at all, and doing Pilates is definitely a good way to begin strengthening your body if weight training intimidates you. If you are completely opposed to doing strength training, or can't for some health or medical reason, you will still see some strength benefits from a Pilates-based fitness program. But if you want to build increased muscle strength and achieve optimal fitness, adding traditional strength-building exercises is essential.   
Considering these facts, my recommendation would be to do both Pilates and strength training if possible. Aim for traditional strength training at least twice a week. That should be your main priority. Then, fit in Pilates (or other mind-body forms of exercise, such as yoga) once or twice a week if you can. These non-traditional exercises don't always meet strict definitions for "cardio" or "strength training" but we know that they still have many health and fitness benefits. I like to think of them as supplemental to a well-rounded fitness program.

No one form of exercise is the only thing you need to achieve ideal body composition and fitness. Variety is essential! Cover your bases first (strength training, stretching, cardio training), then fit in the extras where you can.
Do you agree or disagree? Do you think Pilates can take the place of strength training?

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I've got to start doing Pilates for something new to do. Report
ELRIDDICK 3/25/2021
Thanks for sharing Report
SUNSET09 3/21/2021
Oh yes, it does, SparkFriends Report
2DAWN4 3/7/2021
Thanks for much! Report
OLDSKOOL556 1/5/2021
Thanks for sharing 👍 Report
USMAWIFE 11/26/2020
thank you Report
VHAYES04 9/16/2020
I’ve never tried Pilates Report
DBEAU57 7/31/2020
I've never tried Pilates. Report
PATRICIAAK 7/28/2020
:) Report
CECELW 7/22/2020
Yes. I definitely agree. Depends on the moves i guess Report
I love pilates Report
I agree that it is a Great Workout!!!!!! Report
It's a great workout. Report
thanks for the tips. I love pilates Report
I love Crossfit because it incorporates so many forms of exercise Report
I do pilates on a reformer, then follow it up with free weights the next day Report
Thanks for a great article. Report
Absolutely great Report
Variety is the spice of life. Since I don't exercise on the floor, I tend to do other workouts. Report
Pilates should supplement but not supplant strength training. Report
I do both Pilates and strength training. Also each week i do yoga zumba ripped and a few other aerobic classes. Plus i walk 5 to 10 miles most days. Report
Great article! Thanks! Report
Great, honest article! I did only pilates and cardio for about 6 months a couple of years back, although I did get better posture, stronger core, better balance and a lot of other benefits, I didn't get stronger. At least not in the same way as when you lift weights or do bodyweight strength training. I was still pretty weak, specially in my legs and my legs are more important for me to focus on because of neurological problems.. So I decided to lift weights instead. Maybe I'll add in a weekly session of pilates though, I miss it! And it does have a lot of benefits. Report
I think, it does and you're stretching and using your body for the most part. Report
I agree! I also have a personal fitness training certification, and have also seen Pilates benefit many people. It is a great way to work your muscles, but not in place of a good strength training routine.

I recommend, as you do, that both strength training and Pilates or yoga be included in a workout plan. It works great for a low day of exercise after working your body hard other days.

When I first started my weight loss journey I did Pilates 4 days a week with other strength routines the other two because exercising was tough for me. The low impact, low stress of Pilates allowed me to feel like I was still accomplishing something every day. Report
Interesting information, I've never been a big fan of Pilates but maybe it's time to try it again. I do traditional ST but maybe I'll try Pilates again to help with strengthening my core. Report
good info Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
Loved this article!!! Report
Great article, Coach Nicole! Thanks! Report
Your attitude determines your altitude. - Zig Ziglar ~ 1/3/18 Report
If by stronger one means your muscles can work harder then YES pIlates counts as strength training. I can hold a V sit up for 60 seconds my husband cannot pull into one. My husband can do 35 push-ups on his toes. I can't on my toes but can on my knees. Pilates strengthens different muscles! This is like saying a bicep curl is not strength training because is doesn't strengthen your quads...pilates strenthens your core. Report
Is the plank a Pilates move? If so, I’m in trouble! Report
I don't think you should rely on just one kind of exercise but rather incorporate various things into a healthy regimen Report
It does, doesn't it?!?!! I can feel it and also enjoy the change of pace in exercising. Report
While I do like pilates I can not soley relay on this as my main workout because I am crazy for weight training. So while there are benefits Pilates often bores me.... Report
It depends on the persons ability to do the exercises, I suppose a little bit of both at a time should work I'm certainly game for it!! Report
Don't know. Never did it. Report
Good article, thanks for sharing! Report
Great article, thanks!! And I enjoyed reading the comments. I take one Pilates class a week but also do Boot Camp and TRX classes one day a week in addition to working with dumbbells and machines in the free weight room and running the other days of the week. There is quite a difference in my opinion between Pilates and using free weights, but I am retired and have loads of gym time. Slinging my body weight in many of the Pilates routines is quite a strength workout for me. but if people can somehow find the time I think regular weight training in addition to Pilates would be ideal. Report
If your muscles get tired and especially if they get sore then it counts! Report
There are many types of Pilates--but the original form, created by Joseph Pilates was intended to strengthen the body while healing from an injury. I've seen folks use it for other purposes today and that is definatley not strengthening after an injury--in that sense Physical Therapy is strengthening like the original Pilates--but the rest isn't and it is only until the injured is "full strength" again. Tho with a Pilates Reformer or Cadillac it is possible to do some things that are beyond traditional Pilates. Report
I have a pilates machine and doing the reformer definitely is cardio. I have problems with my knees and back, so running is out of the question. Walking hurts my joints too much after about 15 minutes. I can do the reformer and for me there is no knee or back pain. The exercise I do on my machine is a full body workout. I do repetitions till I feel the burn and cant do anymore. I really work up a sweat. My fitbit monitors my heartrate and I sometime have to take breaks to let my heart slow down. Now I am 56 years old and have 86 more pounds to go (lost 22). Pilates looks a lot easier than it really is. I also incorporate traditional strength training every other day. Report
Like many things, it probably depends on your level of fitness. For me, at this stage, just getting down to the floor & back UP counts as strength training. :-) Report
Pilates and Yoga definitely help with strength and flexibility, particularly for an older person, but I do think some resistance training and cardio need to be included as well. I have used yoga for years and have now added Pilates to my routine as well as other exercises. I do think that whatever you do to improve your body helps! Report
Great article Coach Nicole. Since I suffer from lower back pain, based on this article and comments of others, I will start to incorporate Pilates into my weekly workout routine. Report
Good article, think I will start with plates program and then add weights Report
In my local community center classes they have pilates tagged as stretching exercises. So I was thinking, it's stretching. Even running or biking can have strength training effects at first, but then that goes away as your muscles get used to that movement. Report
Among the various fitness activities I schedule each week, I have been taking a Pilates class once a week for the past ten years. For me, there is nothing as effective as Pilates for tightening my core. We break over the summer each year, and by September I can see a definite looseness around my middle, even though I continue to be active in other ways throughout the summer. Also, since beginning Pilates I have reduced lower back pain incredibly. I have talked to many people who say they don't like Pilates because it is not hard enough! It is as challenging as you make it. The key, for me anyway, is to focus as intently as possible on the muscles I am using. I agree, you don't grow obvious muscles from doing Pilates. You can however, develop functional strength that can make an incredible difference to the ease with which you move through each day! Report