Created in the 1920s by German physical-culturist Joseph Pilates, this form of exercise creates long, lean, strong, and graceful bodies. Pilates works the abdominals, low back, hips, and glutes to develop core strength, improve balance and flexibility, and develop body awareness. It can also improve posture, coordination, and body control.
Originally called “contrology,” Pilates offers a workout focused on body, mind, and spirit by integrating six principles: centering, control, flow, breath, precision, and concentration. These principles work together to bring focus to the powerhouse—the core—of the body, maximize effort for better results, develop muscular control, build body awareness, coordinate movement with breath, and create graceful movement.
This popular workout can be done on a mat or on various apparatus designed by Joseph Pilates to improve form and enhance mat work. Most Pilates instructors recommend both mat and apparatus work to enjoy the full benefit of the workout.
All Pilates exercises can be modified to offer a safe, yet challenging workout for people of all ages and fitness levels, including those undergoing rehabilitation from injury or illness. Pilates can also be used for pain management for low back issues, due to the core-stabilizing nature of Pilates exercises—though it may not be appropriate for all back pain patients.
Developed for Olympic athletes and made popular by trainers in the 1970s, plyometrics—also called jump training— helps increase speed and strength through dynamic resistance exercises. Plyometrics can help improve your vertical jump and muscle strength, as well as protect your joints.
Plyometric exercises typically involve jumping from various positions, heights, and angles—like jumping from a squat position; side to side; with one leg; or onto and off a large, tall (18” or taller) box. Examples of non-jumping plyometric exercises include explosive push-ups—which require you push your body up with enough force to lift your hands from the ground—medicine ball passes, and splits.
Plyometric exercises require you to move rapidly and explosively. Your muscles must quickly shift from the concentric contraction—which tenses and shortens the muscles—to the eccentric contraction—which lengthens the muscles. Less time between contractions —jumping and landing—results in greater power behind your jump, thus allowing you to jump higher. (Too much time reduces the force and speed gained from the muscle stretch.)
These high-intensity exercises are safe and appropriate for both children and adults, but they may pose a risk for people who have bone or joint issues, or who are out of shape. Plyometric training for children should be supervised by a coach and modified for soft landings to prevent injury.