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Pilates for Weight Loss

Q: What is your opinion about using Pilates for weight loss? I’ve read that ballet dancers have a lot of success with it, and that seems like a nice change of environment.

A: Pilates for weight loss? Not really—in fact, you might be better off dancing! The reason that most elite ballet dancers are so lean is that they are genetically suited for that career. That’s why, regardless of how many celebrity chefs and trainers she hires, Oprah will never have the body of a ballet dancer.

The founder of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1925 and opened a studio in New York City. The studio became popular with many dancers, and two of its most famous clients were Martha Graham and George Balanchine, who became legendary choreographers and referred their students to the studio.

The problem with Pilates as a weight-loss method is that the resistance level is too low to stimulate the development of muscle, and an increase in muscle mass is the fastest way to increase metabolism. The same holds true for the release of growth hormone, a key to losing bodyfat, because a certain threshold of intensity must be achieved to produce that response. Pilates doesn’t provides sufficient intensity.

Rather than doing Pilates, I recommend strongman training for a change of pace. Strongman training fulfills the definition of functional training for many sports, as the movements have great carryover to both athletic fitness and general physical fitness. Strongman movements create high levels of muscle tension, use a great deal of the body’s musculature and develop anaerobic endurance.

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit Also, see his ad on page 155.   IM

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