Why are light weights used in Pilates? (and should they be?)

Why are light weights used in Pilates? (and should they be?)

The Pilates industry is well known for promoting ‘long and lean muscles’ but sadly it’s also got a reputation for pushing lighter weights to avoid ‘bulk’. 

It’s well documented (and proven) that the amount of weight lifted will not determine the bulkiness of your muscles. 

When someone wants to ‘tone’ what they actually want to do is build muscle (and maybe reduce body fat). 

So should we even be using light weights in Pilates? 

It depends … 

Firstly, dumbbells are not cheap and also not easy to transport to and from venues so this can affect weights used in classes. 

However… adding 1-2kg is still a progression on just using bodyweight. 

Secondly, ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ are relative to the individual. Many people actually start Pilates having never exercised before or never having done resistance training (which is what Pilates is). 

So 1-2kg can actually feel ‘heavy’ to these individuals. 

In Pilates there is a huge emphasis on maintaining an ‘optimal’ posture/alignment. If a heavy weight is pulling the shoulders forward, making the elbows bend, causing a compensatory pelvic position etc. Then it is taking away from the exercise intention. 

Also, many exercises in Pilates focus on smaller muscle groups and building strength in end range – often ‘light’ weight is enough for this .  

The truth is, unless you are adding lots of ‘functional’ exercises e.g. squats, lunges etc (which you absolutely should be), Mat Pilates doesn’t really lend itself to handling ‘heavy’ weights. 

Enter the Reformer… 

The beauty of the Pilates Reformer is the ability to add much more load to the exercises you do on the mat (and many more).

Remember – exercises need to be progressed for the tissues to adapt (strengthen). Increasing load used is a simple way to do this!

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