Joseph Pilates designed his signature exercise method as a means of aligning, stretching and strengthening the human body. Some people use their Pilates workout as their exclusive form of exercise, while others cross-train with a weight program. Since Pilates, like weight training, strengthens your muscles, you might wonder if adding weight training equipment constitutes overtraining. The answer to the question depends upon your fitness goals and your Pilates training mode.
Pilates Mat Classes
Your own body weight supplies most of the resistance in a Pilates mat class. While some instructors incorporate elastic resistance bands and the flexible metal ring called the Pilates fitness circle, this type of equipment only adds a minimal amount of additional resistance. Pilates mat classes effectively strengthen your legs, gluteal, abdominal and core muscles. They are less effective for strengthening the biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest and back muscles. Adding upper body weight training sessions helps balance your workout.
Unless you use the advanced Pilates apparatus such as the Pilates chair, most of the Pilates exercise routines incorporate supine, prone, seated, kneeling and side-lying positions. These effectively strengthen and tone your muscles, but they do not provide weight-bearing exercise, which the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends for maintaining bone density and preventing future bone loss. Exercises such as the standing squat machine, weighted walking lunges and upper-body work performed in a standing position add a weight-bearing element to your Pilates program.
Pilates Equipment Workouts
The spring-and-cable-based Pilates reformer, trapeze and chair machines, provide potentially challenging resistance training. Depending on the nature of your Pilates equipment workout, weight training may be overkill. The Pilates trapeze, for example, incorporates strenuous pull-up-type exercises, which engage your biceps, triceps and upper back muscles. Doing a weight workout before a Pilates trapeze session, or doing a trapeze session after an upper body workout might fatigue your muscles and compromise your form.
Adhering to Pilates principles during weight training assures proper exercise form. Inhale to prepare for each movement, then exhale, draw your belly in for stability, and perform each phase of the exercise movement with maximum control. Likewise, use weight-training principles for scheduling workouts and sequencing individual exercises. If you perform an intense triceps workout on the Pilates chair, wait 48 hours before performing a triceps workout in the weight room. If you decide to combine Pilates and traditional weight equipment within the same workout, perform large, multi-muscle exercises before performing isolation exercises for smaller muscle groups.