Photos by Paul Buceta

With new Pilates-style workouts popping up around every major city, it’s not surprising that over nine million Americans practice Pilates in the United States alone. While you may not think this method is for you, Pilates-style workouts can actually do wonders for your efforts in the gym.

But if you’ve avoided Pilates classes because you thought it wouldn’t challenge you like a session in the weight room, think again. “It [is] a very humbling experience,” says Antonia De Santis, who was a certified spin instructor, kickboxing instructor, weight-lifting lover, and personal trainer prior to signing up for teacher training at the super trendy Lagree Studios. “It’s like starting over. [Lagree] is one of the most challenging workouts I’ve ever done.”

Although similar to traditional Pilates, Lagree workouts take the muscle exertion to the next level. By using the Megaformer, Lagree classes take you through a series of weighted resistance movements that work not just your core, but likely many muscles you didn’t know you had. And if you’re still not convinced, here’s a few more reasons why you should consider making it a  complementary regime to your weight training program.

What Are the Benefits of Pilates-style Workouts?

It’s efficient. Pilates is a full-body workout and usually classes are under an hour. Not only is it time efficient, but you’ll rest assured knowing you’ve worked every muscle.

Builds pain tolerance for your other workouts. The micro-movements of Pilates-style workouts (such as Lagree) aim to bring your muscles to exertion and create what can be called “the shakes.” Once you feel this type of burn, nothing else compares. “If I can get through that, I can get through the burn of any of my other workouts,” says Antonia.

Pilates is a workout for the mind and body. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to using a Pilates reformer or other similar machines. Quickly switching positions on the carriage and working the different moving parts of this machine will constantly keep you engaged and improve your coordination for your other workouts.

Strengthens your core. A stronger core will improve your stability and protect your back during heavy lifting. While doing biceps, squats, and any exercise on the reformer, your core is consistently challenged. “I’ve gotten more ripped, honestly,” says Antonia, “because my muscles are under constant tension.”

Betters posture and form. Working on walking with your shoulders back or keeping your spine aligned during your deadlifts? “[Pilates] makes you more aware of your body,” says Antonia. “It helps you lengthen everything.”

Increases your flexibility. During strength training, we shorten and tighten our muscles. Improving your flexibility will only help your mobility during heavy lifting.

How to Crosstrain with Pilates

Pilates classes are a full-body workout. The micro-movements and burnouts make for the perfect complement to your heavy lifting. Although giving up one of your traditional strength training sessions for a Pilates class may sound counterproductive, your improved core, flexibility, and posture will thank you for it.

So how much is enough to get a benefit? Antonia suggests a maximum of 2-3 classes a week, ideally. “I wouldn’t do them back-to-back because you will be sore,” she advises, adding that you might consider taking it easy the following day. “Truthfully, I wouldn’t do any heavy lifting the next day. Maybe the next day is a good cardio day.”

For those fighting to find time, incorporating Pilates movements at the end of your workout that target the day’s muscle group is a great place to start. The fine toning combined with core and flexibility training is the perfect finisher.

It’s important to remember that Pilates does not equal rest day. Don’t underestimate how demanding Pilates is on your muscles (especially when using a reformer). Do not overtrain your muscles.

Sprinkling in a couple Pilates sessions with your strength training will only make you stronger, so why not do it?

“I started getting definition that I never knew I could get,” says Antonia. “I had never gotten it in the gym, and that excites me.”

Mikaila Kukurudza
Mikaila is a Toronto-based writer, photographer, and fitness enthusiast. Follow her at @mikailakukurudza