Is Pilates Strength Training?

Is Pilates Strength Training Featured Photo

Have you ever wanted to try pilates but you are not sure if it counts as strength training? Or are you looking to try a different kind of strength training aside from weightlifting?

You may want to look at taking pilates classes to add to your fitness routine.

When you think of strength training, pilates might be the last thing that will come to your mind.

As someone who has been doing mat pilates for a while, I can definitely say that pilates can count as strength training, but it all depends on your goals. 

In this article, you will learn how pilates can benefit you in your fitness goals. We’ll dive into what pilates is, its benefits, and the equipment you will need to start your pilates journey. We will also be looking at why we can consider pilates as strength training.

What is Pilates

What is Pilates

Before we can discuss how pilates can help in building strength, let’s take a look at what pilates is.

Pilates is developed by Joseph Pilates.

He wanted to have body-conditioning exercises that focus on breath, concentration, control, flow, precision, and centering of the body.

It is often confused with yoga, which is understandable as it can sometimes look the same.

Both pilates and yoga are done using flowing movements that concentrate on strength and flexibility. Yoga focuses on holding the position and flowing into a different one, focusing on balance and stability. While pilates focuses on strengthening your weak core muscles.

Another difference between the two is, pilates exercises are done on a yoga mat or equipment. In yoga, some of the essential equipment you need is a mat and some yoga blocks.

Pilates exercises are low-impact and focus on finding the deep abdominal muscles to have that strong and stable body.

This is why pilates is popular among the dance community, like ballet, as it helps strengthen the deep, intrinsic muscles. If you have seen ballet dancers, you will find them very stable and in control of their bodies when they dance. It is because they have developed strong core muscles.

Aside from having a strong core, people who do pilates also have improved posture and balance.

You can do pilates exercises using four pieces of equipment:

1. Yoga mat

2. Reformer

3. Cadillac

4. Chair

We will be talking about these pieces of equipment later on in the article.

What is strength training?

What is strength training

When we say strength training, we usually think about weight training. If we think about it, strength is mostly associated with the ability to lift heavy things. But strength training can be other things, too.

So what is strength training if it is not just weight training?

Strength training uses resistance to build strength in our muscles. There are different kinds of resistance training we can do to build strength – free weights, gym machines, resistance bands, or your body weight.

Resistance training causes our muscles to contract to be able to handle the weight of the object we use as resistance. Repetition causes the muscles to get used to the current load which makes us gain strength.

What are the benefits of strength training?

Aside from an increase in strength, it can help you burn calories, lose weight, build muscles, and it can even improve your mood.

Overall, strength training makes us fit and strong.

Does pilates count as strength training?

Now that we have defined what pilates and strength training is, it is safe to say that yes, pilates can be counted as strength training.

Pilates uses your own body weight to create the resistance needed in strength training. Aside from that, different equipment can also be used if you want to level up your pilates sessions.

Pilates equipment

Pilates equipment

Different pilates equipment can be used depending on your fitness goal and what you want to work on during your pilates session.

Having a professional pilates instructor can assess your strength level and guide on which equipment to use. But if you do not have access to a pilates instructor, there are a lot of resources online to get you started with pilates.

Let’s take a look at the different equipment you can use in your pilates session.


When you see a mat, the first thing you might think of is yoga.

Yoga and pilates are almost similar in the way of controlled and flowing movements. But, pilates exercises are done in repetition, much like weight training.

Mat pilates is good for anyone who wants to start their pilates journey because you do not need any special equipment. It’s just you and your mat.

In mat pilates, you usually hold a position while simultaneously moving your arms or legs. For example, in the Hundred workout, you begin lying on your back with the head and shoulders off of the floor and your legs extended at least 45 degrees off the floor. You are going to hold this position while you move your arms up and down in quick and short movements for 100 beats.

This is a typical pilates workout done on the mat. This warms up the core, as well as work the legs and the arms. It might look easy but it does its job even after a few beats.

What’s good about pilates is you can modify the exercises depending on your strength level.

Let’s take the Hundred workout again. If you are a beginner, you can start on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. You can just lift your head and shoulders off and see what it feels like. If it starts to get easy, lift one leg at a time until you can get into the version where you extend your legs.

The Pilates mat is great if you want to become more aware of your deep core muscles.


The pilates reformer is the equipment used by many in the pilates community.

The reformer looks like a bed frame and it has cables and springs which makes the carriage slide. The carriage is the part of the reformer where you lie or sit to perform the exercises.

The other components of a pilates reformer are:

– Reformer frame

– Cables and springs

– Foot bar

– Gear system

– Headrest and shoulder blocks

– Straps and ropes

The cable lets you perform controlled and stable movements while the spring provides more resistance.


A Cadillac looks a lot like a reformer but it has horizontal and vertical bars attached to the reformer frame – think four-poster bedpost.

The Cadillac has a stationary platform that offers more stability than the reformer. But, there are Cadillac – reformer combos that have the sliding carriage of the reformer and the bars of the Cadillac.

You can perform a variety of exercises on both pieces of equipment that can help you build strength.


The Pilates chair, also known as the “wunda” chair has a wooden base with a padded mat on top. It resembles a chair without a back.

There is a pedal attached to a spring at the back of a chair that offers resistance. This equipment is smaller than the reformer or Cadillac so your stability and control will be challenged as the body is not supported as much.

You can perform seated or standing exercises on a pilates chair. Some chairs have two support handles which you can adjust and remove easily.

Benefits of pilates

Aside from building strength, here are some of the benefits in doing pilates:

1. Mind and body connection

2. Full body workout

3. Increases flexibility

4. Core strength

5. Improves posture

Pilates: Where to find classes & How Much They Cost

Pilates Where to find classes and How Much They Cost

There are group and private classes offered in pilates studios but you can also find pilates classes on YouTube.

Pilates classes can get expensive especially if you take the equipment classes. Private classes can range from $50 – $150 while semi-private and group classes come at a lower price range.

If you want a cheaper alternative, you can take mat pilates or do mat pilates at home. There are a lot of pilates instructors who have YouTube channels where you can find classes from beginners to advanced. All you need is yourself and your mat.


If you want a different kind of strength training, definitely try pilates. It can be a good complement to your other exercises, especially if you want to do more of a low-impact session.

Pilates workouts are good if you want to have a toned and leaner body. Pilates exercises also focus on lengthening your body, so it can tone your muscles without bulking up.

I hope this article helped you understand why pilates is considered a form of strength training. Maybe you can try a pilates class one of these days and see how it works for you!