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Callanetics Vs. Pilates

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Callanetics Vs. Pilates
Pilates exercises focus on the core. Photo Credit OSTILL/iStock/Getty Images

Callanetics and Pilates are mind-body exercise systems that can help you become better aware of your muscular balance and movement patterns. Both offer a way to align the body and improve your overall patterns of movement, but differ slightly in their approach.

Although Pilates is core-focused, most exercise tend to involve multiple muscle groups. In callanetics, you isolate each muscle individually. Many of the movements in callanetics are quite small, detailed and nuanced. Both Pilates and callantetics require extraordinary concentration to do correctly.

Which program is best for you depends on your goals and fitness level. You can benefit from both; however, callanetics is a bit more specialized, and it's often harder to find certified instructors.

The Origins

Joseph Pilates founded Pilates based on his study of anatomy and practice of gymnastics and martial arts. He sought to create an exercise system that would bring the body into balance and deter illness and infirmity, which he experienced often in his youth.

Pilates uses equipment, including the reformer and ladder barrel to enhance mat-based exercises. The emphasis of Pilates is on the "powerhouse" -- the term Pilates gave to the core, or the area spanning from your shoulders to your hips.

Pilates might use equipment such as the ladder barrel.
Pilates might use equipment such as the ladder barrel. Photo Credit Satyrenko/iStock/Getty Images

Callanetics was developed by Callan Pinckney, who studied both ballet and yoga extensively. She, too, had physical problems as a child, including clubbed feet and scoliosis, and used exercise to help her manage such conditions. Pinckney's involvement in yoga and ballet informed the development of her unique system.

Pilates came first, as Joseph Pilates developed much of it in the early to mid-1900s. Callanetics is a newer program having been developed in the 1970s and 1980s; it can't help but have been influenced somewhat by Pilates' work.

Exercise Structure

Pilates focuses on the core, and maintains that all movements in the limbs, hands and feet generate from this region. Every movement in Pilates involves multiple muscle groups and a fair amount of concentration and precision, so the number of reps of each specific movement are fairly low.

Callanetics involves small, precise movements repeated for up to 100 reps.
Callanetics involves small, precise movements repeated for up to 100 reps. Photo Credit AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

In callanetics, you isolate very specific muscle groups with small movements. Because each movement is so precise, expect to do about 100 reps of each movement. The theory is that once you strengthen each muscle in isolation, it can then better function as part of the whole body.

Read More: 10 Surprising Benefits of Pilates


Callanetics helps people who have trouble "turning on" a muscle; it teaches you to isolate areas you may underwork and for which larger muscles compensate. However, just because you can fire a muscle in isolation doesn't mean you can use it as part of a whole -- which is the way the body normally works. Thus, Pilates is important in working all your moving parts together efficiently and effectively.

Both practices help you learn how to use the breath and proper muscle engagement to improve your health and body function. One practice isn't superior, rather they complement each other.

A Pilates practitioner benefits from isolating movements occasionally to understand the nuances involved when doing moves like rolling like a ball or teasers. A callanetics practitioner benefits from using multiple muscle groups in Pilates exercises so they see how their targeted strength and control pays off and can be applied to real-life activity.

Read More: Callanetics Stomach Exercises

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