"Pilates is the only thing that has changed my body. Weight training didn't do it for me." "How can it not be resistance training? I've got muscles!" (My client then flexed her biceps for me and we laughed.)I came home, frankly fuming, and started researching articles for this post. I was looking for studies that showed the benefits of Pilates and to back up my "crazy claim" that, yes, Pilates is, in fact, resistance training. There are a lot of small studies out there that show different benefits of Pilates, but unfortunately there isn't one big be-all, end-all study that either debunks or supports my point of view. (I have links to over 80 smaller studies at the end of this post though.) Then I went over to my equipment manufacturers website. I use Stott Pilates machines and love them. Here's what they have to say about the springs we use in my Pilates studio.
Initial tension is five pounds for the first inch of tension (for full-strength springs), and then increases by approximately one pound per inch of movement per spring. Multiply the number of springs and distance traveled to get approximate tension in pounds. On a Stott Pilates Reformer, four springs are full tension and one is half tension. (Most people will simply note the number of springs used per exercise).
Pilates is Math!Yay! I grabbed my tape measure and gauged my heel-to-head distance when I was "at return" on the reformer and when I was pushed away with my feet. I also measured how far my hand moved for some of the arm exercises. You do have to work harder on the machines if you're taller or have longer limbs; I am 5'7" and have decently long arms, so the math for me will be different than for you.
- Leg work on the Reformer: I use 3 1/2 springs (three at full tension and one at half tension) so that's 80 pounds of resistance when I fully extend. Our machines can "rack out" at 104 pounds for my height.
- Arm work on the Reformer: My longer arms get me 32 pounds of resistance at full extension when I use one full-tension spring.