Do Pilates and Train like an Olympian

By Joanne Sgro

There is much talk in the fitness world about resistance stretching to not only improve flexibility but to also build muscle. This type of stretching is used by Olympians and other professional athletes.

According to, "Resistance stretching uses tension on the muscle while it's in an elongated position, not just when it's being contracted like in typical weight lifting." This type of stretching allows for much more increased range of motion.

But as many Pilates teachers like myself know, the root of much of resistance training can be found in the works of Joseph Pilates. According to, "Pilates is a method of exercise and physical movement designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body."

There is a system of exercises done on a mat as well as on specialized equipment. In fact the creator of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, has been noted as saying "you will feel the changes in your body in ten sessions, see the changes in 20 sessions and have a whole new body in 30 sessions."

Pilates is also perfect for Olympic athletes who need to work on their core strength and flexibility to get an extra edge. Because of the mind-body emphasis it helps them to focus on the total control of the integrated movement.

One of the pieces of equipment developed by Joseph Pilates is the Pilates reformer. I myself am a certified Pilates instructor and spend most of my work with clients, and train myself, primarily using the Pilates reformer.

According to, "The Pilates Reformer is a sliding platform based machine with various levels of resistance springs and ropes."

"These springs provide variable or measured resistance, from light to heavy, to the muscles while exercising. The springs offer more resistance at the strongest point of muscle contraction and less resistance at the starting and finishing point."

With this added resistance, the muscles are lengthened like the above-mentioned resistance stretching through the accompaniment of the ropes and springs. The lengthening contraction of the ligaments is less stressful on the body then traditional weight training.

According to, "The reformer challenges the body to stretch legs to the fullest, and strives for full extension of the limbs."

But the deep connection created in Pilates exercises is through the Pilates breath. That breath allows for control of the movement while simultaneously stabilizing and strengthening the core muscles.

When breathing in Pilates, you want to breathe deep into the lungs, allowing the belly to tighten like you're trying to zip up a tight pair of pants. As you exhale pull your belly in even deeper.

That deep connection with the body's center and core is "deeply" important for many required moves in Olympic sports such as basketball, gymnastics, swimming as well as track and field.

Online References:

"Resistance Stretching: Train Like an Olympian -" Shape Magazine. Web 31 July 2012.

"An Exercise in Balance: The Pilates Phenomenon -" Pilates Method Alliance. Web 31 July 2012.

"The Benefits of Stretching with a Pilates Exercise Machine -" Live Strong. Web 31 July 2012.

Joanne Sgro-Killworth is a Television Fitness Expert, Certified Personal Trainer and Sport Nutritionist. She is Certified in Pilates, Pre-natal/Post-Partum, Yoga and Senior Fitness. She specializes in Weight Loss, Post-Rehab and Post Cancer Training. Joanne's fitness plans and recipes are available globally on her website She resides in the Phoenix, AZ area with her husband, where she runs her personal training business, Fitness Answer, LLC.

Reviewed August 1, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith