Pilates and Weight Training

By Stephanie Muir

Pilates Weight TrainingThere seems to be this myth that Pilates is for ladies and weight training is a more masculine method of working out. Although men have probably been pumping iron longer than the ladies this does not mean it is of limited benefits to women. Vice versa, Pilates has been branded a more feminine discipline. Of course neither of these statements are true. In fact just the opposite. Typically gentlemen need more elongation of the muscles, and ladies could do with more resistance training. On top of that these two methods of training combined together would be the ultimate whole body, lengthening and strengthening routine no matter if you are male or female.

Weight training

There are many ways one can approach weight training. The one I am going to look at is specifically “pumping iron”. Resistance weight training has been used as a way to build muscle mass and lean out. Many associate it with gaining size. This is not incorrect. The problem is that when women hear the word weight training an image of Arnold Schwarzenegger appears in their head. Naturally this is not a look many ladies are going for, therefore those blocks of iron are given a fairly wide berth in favor of bands and bodyweight movements like Pilates.

Pilates Weight Training


In Pilates a whole class can be done on the mat with absolutely no weights or even resistance bands. A 55 minute class can be done purely using our own body weights resistance to gravity. Now for your weight training male this does look rather like “child’s play”. The assumption here is that it if you are not pushing something heavy you are not working and it is “easy”.

So if you walk into any gym you will probably see that the men are lifting and the women are in the stretching area or doing a class in the studio. Lets bust these myths right here, right now. Firstly weight training alone, especially for a female will not result in size gains.The scale yes but your clothes size will generally decrease. For a female to grow in size takes an incredible amount of work, eating and quite a dramatic lifestyle change. Secondly resisting your own body weight against gravity is incredibly challenging and for your macho male who is all muscle bulk and no length, he is going to sweat bullets! Weight training and Pilates for men and women yields incredible benefits.

Pilates Weight Training

Weight training benefits for women

The female body has a higher fat percentage than the male body and instead of the muscle building hormone testosterone we have the nurturing hormone estrogen. This does make building muscle, toning and losing weight more challenging than it is for men. We are not going to look at the different body types in this article, but rather just the general differences between men and women in terms of cross training with Pilates, weights and the benefits. Weight training helps increase lean muscles mass, decrease body fat percentage and increase the body’s metabolism. As men and women get older their bone density decreases. This is more of an issue with women than men due to the naturally low muscle mass and hormonal changes they go through during menopause. Using heavier resistance such as “pumping iron” more than just springs and body weight will increase bone and muscle strength further. What is always important is form. This is just one of the areas where Pilates comes in.

Pilates Weight Training

Pilates practice benefits for men

The male body builds muscles much more easily thanks to the dominant hormone testosterone. Men therefore have a lower fat percentage and higher metabolism than women. Men predominantly struggle flexibility wise which is where Pilates comes in. Since men build muscle more easily the chances of muscles shortening and becoming tight are higher. Pilates caters so well to the inflexible male. There are many pieces of equipment that utilize springs and pulleys to help lengthen the body by allowing people to get into positions that would be otherwise impossible on the mat. Contrary to popular thought, mat work is incredibly hard to begin with. On top of that men have a different build skeletal wise to women. Typically a male pelvis is smaller, there is no real waist and they have broader shoulders. A mans centre of gravity is higher than a woman’s which makes the lower back much more vulnerable. Strengthening the powerhouse and ensuring all movements emanate from the centre will help prevent injuries and improve power and performance.

Pilates and weight training

When lifting heavier weights to stimulate muscle growth it is really important that the centre is strong and stable. The Pilates principle of doing everything from your “Powerhouse” is integral to preventing injuries. Your Pilates practice will also teach you to focus and control all movements. It is wise to implement this to your everyday movements, not just in your Pilates class. The integrity of the muscles is really important. A muscles ability to release and contract determines its ability to resist force or generate force. If you continually focus on shortening muscles you will reduce its ability to generate force efficiently. This is when we see injuries. In summary Pilates will greatly help to maintain muscle integrity and elasticity needed for generating the push and pull forces to weight train effectively. Weight training adds to Pilates in that it further increases the strength of the muscles and bones and can be used work on specific imbalances for example: One is struggling with the exercise swimming in Pilates, weights exercises such as bent over rows, lat pulldowns, deadlifts and single leg deadlifts can all assist in the overall goal of creating balance in the musculoskeletal structure.

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