Should I Join a Pilates Class?

Perhaps second only in popularity to yoga, Pilates seems to be the go to exercise for millions of Americans. The studios seem to be everywhere.

But for those who haven’t even participated in a Pilates class, it can seem kind of intimidating. Especially for beginners. Often, it can seem like experienced Pilates goers emphasize the difficulty and the muscle burn associated it as a badge of pride.

With more than 20 million Americans participating it, it’s only becoming more and more popular. But is it right for you?

What to Expect from a Pilates Class

The purpose of Pilates is to build a strong core, increase body strength, and improve flexibility at the same time.

Whereas yoga typically focuses on breathing and flexibility, Pilates can seem much more rigorous to the beginner.

Even though there is no official governing body, most Pilates instructors are certified. Most instructors have spent quite a bit of time either apprenticing or training.

A reputable Pilates instructor will not hesitate to share their credentials and experience. Most studios or gyms will only hire certified instructors.

Pilates is not an aerobic workout, so even though it will improve your strength, you will need to do some kind of aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, swimming) in tandem with it for a full body workout.

Studies from the NIH have shown Pilates to contribute to the improvement of balance and flexibility.

Common Types of Pilates


As the name implies, mat Pilates is done on a yoga mat. This is one of the easiest ways for beginners to ease into Pilates, as some of the moves might seem familiar to those found in yoga.

But don’t be fooled or expect this to be a light exercise regimen­–this class will use gravity and your body’s resistance to give much more of a workout than an average yoga class.

These are the classes most commonly found in gyms, outdoor sessions, and private, on-site lessons, and they are a good first approach for beginners.

Small Equipment

Many of these Pilates classes will use foam rollers, exercise balls, resistance bands, and other light equipment to move, flex, and stretch your body.

These kinds of exercises are found at local gyms and Pilates studios. They will typically be more rigorous than a mat class. This may or may not be a good introduction to Pilates depending on your level of physical fitness.

Large Equipment / Studio Work

Some of the equipment involved in this branch of Pilates, like the trapeze table (or cadillac), are large, specialized, and should only be done under the instruction of a professional. Most of the equipment will use spring resistance, which can be increased or decreased depending on the person using it.

For these kind of exercises, you usually need to look to a private Pilates studio, and not your local gym. Speak with a certified Pilates instructor about whether or not this is right for you.

Brief History of Pilates

Pilates is older than you might think.

Pilates derives its name from Joseph Pilates, a German national born in 1883. He emigrated to the United States in 1926 and opened a fitness studio. Pilates had asthma as a child, and was unable to do a lot of the different exercise regimens by others, so he made his own.

Among Pilates’s students was Ron Fletcher, who later opened his own studio in Beverly Hills. It was at Fletcher’s Beverly Hills studio that the exercise caught widespread media attention in the 1980s.

In 2000, it was determined that Pilates was not a trademark, and therefore the exercise’s name began to spread to studios across the country.

Where Can I Find It?

Pilates classes can be found at your local gyms, parks, and Pilates studios. There are plenty of local instructors in the South Bay.

Our favorite South Bay studio is TRU Center Training in Redondo Beach. They offer comprehensive health and fitness training with a focus on alignment using corrective exercise, pilates and other modalities. Their custom programs, classes and retreats are designed to help you find new strength and focus.

Author: Mike Treadway

Michael Treadway is a writer based in Los Angeles, California. His current goals are to swim a mile in the ocean, and do 100 pushups in a row.