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Pilates vs Strength and Conditioning

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

Don’t know where to go? Your doctor has referred you to Physio. You may have heard of Pilates but your Physio’s talking about a strength and conditioning program. So what exactly is the difference?

It’s best to understand these common approaches by exploring their origins. Joseph Pilates continues to be one of the most famous names in the world of exercise and rehabilitation. As a German living in Britain, his legacy really started after World War I in where he created exercise programs for bedridden soldiers with bed springs.

This was the start of what would later become a structured approach around rehabilitation. There has since been an explosive movement towards these approaches which been paired with scientific advances and evidence based practice. Joseph Pilates strongly believed in connection between the human mind, body and spirit. His enthusiasm continues to echo through contemporary practices.

Strengthening and conditioning (S+C) programs tend to be all the rage these days. CrossFit, Orangetheory Fitness and F45 gyms are popping up all over the place and with good reason. There are thousands of reasons that exercise is good for the body and mind. These programs tend to cycle through a range of full body, dynamic exercises that target general strength and cardiovascular fitness. When you’re in the habit of exercising, life can feel fantastic.

S+C programs tend to run in the background of our lives, they might not seem obvious but you see them whenever you turn on the TV, open a magazine, scroll your Facebook feed. Everywhere we look we can feel the pressure of comparison and the ‘perfect body’.

So the question is, what’s the best thing for you? Well, if you have a good level of strength and fitness without many prior injuries you’d likely be fine to jump straight into a strengthening and conditioning program (with a good coach) and have no real problems. With this in mind, the majority of people I see require a brief course of Pilates before they jump into a full fledged strengthening program. Many people have not been properly educated in form or have unfavourable movement patterns which can become problematic if left unchecked. It is also quite common to have ‘strength holes’ which are areas of the body that have learned to compensate around an injury or dysfunction at the expense of other areas. It is best to identify and address these early on. Our body’s tend to be a balance of smaller stabilizing muscles that we don’t see and the larger, global muscles that we do see. If there’s an imbalance here it can predispose us to injury. This is where something like Physio or Pilates can be helpful with a skilled clinician.

There are many contemporary schools for Pilates with some fantastic instructors out there. Similarly, there are some great gyms with strengthening and conditioning coaches that strive on helping you to reach your goals and develop some fantastic dynamic programs. The reality is, before you decide to jump into a program whether that’s with a S+C coach or Pilates/Yoga instructor, it’s probably a good idea to understand what’s going on with your body. This takes a bit of work, time and money to begin with but you’re better starting off on the right foot rather than going down a rabbit hole. Set your intentions in order, develop a solid plan of action and stick to it. Just as you would plan a holiday or project. Learn more.

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