A gym body versus a pilates body

A gym body versus a pilates body

By Vive Active Co-Founder and World Champion Ironman, Guy Leech.

Since taking up Pilates, the question I often get asked is: ‘how will Pilates change the appearance of my body versus going to the gym?’.

The first thing I say is, ‘well, before you see the change in how you look, you’ll notice the change how you feel, which is absolutely incredible.’ Less back pain, less neck soreness, taller, straighter, stronger, posturally aligned, stretchier – the feeling of walking on air is the first thing most people notice after switching from the gym to Pilates.

But getting back to appearance, one of the things I found interesting about reformer Pilates since I started two years ago, was that I’ve put on 4kg of muscle over my body, which has been unexpected for me.

Before Pilates, I was lifting weights two to three times a week and then paddling five times a week. Now, I still paddle just as much but I’ve also added four Pilates sessions to my week.

In this time, I’ve gone from 84kg to 88kg.

Not only do I feel taller and with a far stronger core and glutes than before, but I have also seen my entire body get more muscular and better balanced as a whole. All without putting any extra fat on my physique.

As someone who’s spent most of my life working as an elite athlete, I’ve been genuinely intrigued as to how this is possible. Here’s my explanation of it.

The exercises we do when training on a reformer require total body movements with resistance from the springs we use on the machine, plus our own body weight.

This is done over a period of time – sometimes up to two minutes in one exercise without a rest, which is exhausting to the muscle group we’re working. Stretched over a 50 minute workout, hitting every muscle group, and the result is muscles that want to grow. What’s more, throughout the workout, the reformer holds us in a neutral alignment, protecting against incorrect form.

But unlike the gym, the movements work by both strengthening and lengthening the muscles giving an intensely toned, athletic look over time. The workout also really focuses on core strength and glute strength – and getting these right helps to create a body that holds itself straight and moves like it’s meant to, properly supported.

Thankfully for women, we’re seeing a shift away from an impossibly skinny look as an aesthetic ideal, towards a stronger, healthier aesthetic with defined musculature. This is exactly what I call a ‘pilates body’ – long, athletic and incredibly toned across every muscle group. And that’s exactly what our clients are seeing and coming back for.

Whether you’re female or male, it seems more and more people are finding this look far more attractive than the stockier ‘shorter’ look you see from people that pump weights regularly in a gym. It’s a body that looks like it’s really worked hard all over, not just focused in one spot.

Plus, it’s unfortunately extremely common to see people lift weights incorrectly at the gym or at crossfit and shortening their muscles, which can cause injuries too.

My belief is that as Pilates becomes more mainstream and users get to see the benefit for themselves there will be a significant shift from the gym body to the pilates body.

Of course, for some people, they really want to shift a lot of excess weight, in addition to achieving more tone, which is why we’ve added our Vive Cardio class to the schedule, which is a seriously calorie-burning workout. But for those that are closer to their ideal weight, our signature Vive Essential workout is enough to keep the fat off and build impressive muscle at the same time.