Pilates is an exercise program designed to both stretch and strengthen the body. A German man by the name of Joseph Pilates developed this program which was originally named “Contrology” in the early 1900’s. He developed this program during World War One as a method of helping rehabilitate injured soldiers who were bedridden. Joseph Pilates would take springs from the bed and connect them to the bed posts to allow the immobile patients some form of movement. This was the origin of the “Trap Table”. His theory was that lifestyle, bad posture, and inefficient breathing patterns were the root of poor health. His exercise regimen was directed towards improving overall flexibility and strength, correcting muscular imbalances, as well as incorporating proper breathing patterns. Joseph Pilates moved to the United States at the age of forty years old. He worked on perfecting his craft until his death in 1967 at the age of eighty three years old. It was said that Pilates would boast that he was ahead of the times. This statement was very true due to the 1980’s “Pilates” craze that swept the nation.

There is more than meets the eye to the art of Pilates. It is more that the commercialized series of exercise videos that we see across the nation. The true art of Pilates incorporates both mat and machine exercises to engage the body. The reformer table (pictured above) has been developed to aid the body in this regimen and is used in Pilates studios across the country. This table has been modified from the original sick beds that Pilates used and has a sliding carriage for a person to move back and forth on. The series of cables attached to the carriage allow for both assistive and resistive training. This allows for both healthy individuals as well as people with restrictions to safely engage in these exercises. Another machine used in the Pilates studios, the Cadillac (left), allows for more difficult movements by having bars and levers attached to the sides of the table to allow for other degrees of freedom.

The focus of Pilates is body positioning, alignment, posture, and proper breathing techniques, said Jude Chatelain, certified Pilates instructor and Program Director of Balanced Body in Baton Rouge. Jude has spent a number of years perfecting his craft and helping tons of people in the Baton Rouge community. He works both with fit people who just want to get into better shape, as well as patients coming in to the studio for a rehabilitative component.

The many benefits that result from Pilates can include:
  • An increase in overall flexibility and range of motion
  • An increase in strength and overall endurance
  • Indentify and address muscular imbalances
  • A decrease in overall stress levels
Why Pilates works so well is that it can be adjusted to meet each individuals needs and address their weaknesses. It can be used on all ages and genders. This program is actually very safe for older individuals with restrictions due to the assistive components that the tables offer. This regimen of exercise is outstanding for the athletic population as well. Many pro athletes use Pilates in combination with their other training routines to help with their overall flexibility and wellness.

Jude Chatelain recently came over to LSU to work with the Athletic Trainers in the instruction of the Pilates reformer table. LSU is fortunate to have a reformer table located in the Broussard Center for Athletic Training. Jude comes to LSU every few years to re-familiarize the new Athletic Trainers with the art of Pilates and the specific use of the Pilates Reformer Table. The in-service was specific to the treatment of lumbar spine and core muscular imbalances. He will be coming next semester to instruct on both an upper and lower extremity flexibility and strengthening routine.

Below are a few of both the stretching and stabilization exercises that can be incorporated into a Pilates routine, click the exercise to view a video:

For a video on breathing techniques, click here.

Much thanks to Jude Chatelain and Balanced Body. If anyone is interested in the Baton Rouge area in taking a class, please contact Jude at (225) 927- 2134.

For more information on the history of Pilates, click here.

Ana Gross, MS, ATC
Associate Athletic Trainer
Louisiana State University