A lot of women are told (by uninformed, or downright dishonest, Pilates instructors) that traditional weight lifting will make muscles shorter and more compact. They go on to say that Pilates training will lengthen muscles and give that lean, long, beautiful appearance. Unfortunately, this is not possible. Both forms of exercise condition and train a muscle.
Both forms of exercise will deplete muscles of glycogen, in turn pushing them to their limits and allowing them to grow back with greater strength. However, Pilates is great for improving the core muscles and strength. This in turn corrects postural defects and allows individuals to stand taller. By improving postural awareness you may LOOK longer and leaner. While there isn’t a physiological basis by which Pilates creates longer muscles, the fact you are now standing up straight and maintaining better posture will give that impression.
To debunk another myth often told in the Pilates world: traditional weightlifting does NOT make a muscle short and bulky. It is possible to gain flexibility in your body by performing weightlifting and following a full range of motion. This isn’t to say you will develop more flexibility than you would during a Pilates routine, but to say weightlifting will make your muscles bulky is just false.
Something weightlifting does that Pilates does not however, is help you maintain bone density. Weight bearing exercises are not only good for your muscles, but good for your bones. Bone density depletion begins occurring in most women in their mid-30’s. The best defense against osteoporosis is a consistent workout plan that includes ample amounts of weightlifting.
During our mid-30’s we start to pack on body fat as our body chemistry begins to change. To combat this, adding muscle mass to the body is well advised. For each pound of muscle you add to your frame, your body must work harder to maintain it. What this results in is an elevated metabolism which will have you burning more calories at rest than an individual of the same weight, but with less muscle mass. Adding muscle is fantastic for burning fat.
Best bet: Combine a full body workout plan 2-3 times a week along with your Pilates class. Both forms of exercise are great in certain aspects, but when combined together will produce unbelievable results.