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Everything you didn't know about the most famous body exercise system

Kinesiologist and nutritionist Marija Andrijašević reveals how Pilates was created and the prejudices that still exist about it.

by Marija Andrijašević

March 3, 2024


Pilates never goes out of style. Sometimes, it may seem overshadowed by new fitness trends, but it always comes back into focus. You might not realize just how old Pilates actually is.

This exercise system has been around for nearly a hundred years, invented by Joseph Pilates, a German. As a child, he suffered from rickets, asthma, and rheumatic fever. He had an excellent intuition that led him to certain physical activities and a quality diet as a way to alleviate his issues and strengthen his body. During World War I, he was detained in a camp for foreign enemies in England, where he learned wrestling and self-defense. To motivate others to engage in physical activity, he began developing an original exercise system he called “Contrology.” 

How did Pilates come about?

Using a bed and springs from the bed for those who were bedridden, he developed his first rehabilitation equipment (hence the idea for today’s reformers). After a brief stay in Germany, he moved to America where, with his wife, he developed the “Contrology” training system. He was ahead of his time and understood the essence of biotic movements. The mind and body must be actively engaged to achieve a physical result. By controlling movement and becoming aware of the entire body, the mind and body are brought into balance. As the Pilates Contrology method evolved, so did Pilates equipment like:

  • reformers
  • Cadillac
  • wunda chair
  • ladder barrel
  • pilates ring
  • bands, balls, weights

There are also numerous prejudices related to Pilates

  • Pilates consists of stretching exercises
  • Pilates is exclusively for women, particularly those of older age
  • Pilates is easy and monotonous
  • Pilates is not for men, especially not for athletes

However, top athletes like David Beckham, LeBron James, Tom Brady, Cristiano Ronaldo, Maria Sharapova, and many others have recognized the value and benefits of this type of training, yet prejudices against Pilates still persist. Pilates is actually extremely challenging because it requires control over a whole series of physical principles for successful execution. For example, during exercises, we must be highly concentrated, maintain control over every movement, be aware of centering and proper breathing, and it’s essential to maintain proper posture with every move. Then, let’s not forget how important the sequence of exercises, precision in execution, endurance, and finally, proper relaxation when necessary are.
Pilates offers a whole range of measurable results such as increased strength, mobility, efficient movement, self-awareness, and many also testify to its mental benefits. Pilates is an excellent choice for working on the entire body, but its difficulty and the power of Pilates results should not be underestimated.