Yoga, left, and Pilates, right, strengthen different muscles.
Is Pilates better than yoga for strengthening exercises?
Asked by Rodin’s Muse • 786 votes
The answer depends to a large degree on what it is you’re trying to strengthen.
In general, Pilates exercises, originally developed by the fitness trainer Joseph Pilates, target the core muscles around the spine. If your aim is to strengthen your midsection, then Pilates is a fine choice. In a small but well-designed study last year, nine sedentary women who completed 36 weeks of supervised Pilates training bulked up their abdominal muscles by as much as 20 percent, while also lessening any existing muscular imbalances there.
“Pilates can be recommended as an effective method to reinforce the muscles of the abdominal wall and to compensate pre-existing asymmetric developments,” the authors said.
But whether such training fortifies the rest of the body is questionable. A review last year of Pilates-related science found little credible evidence that the exercises added muscle or incinerated body fat apart from in the midsection.
Yoga, however, especially hatha yoga, with its flowing poses, may strengthen larger sections of the body.
“Depending on the specific style, yoga is a quite intensive exercise intervention,” said Holger Cramer, a research fellow in integrative medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, who is studying the physical impact of yoga. A telling 2011 study published in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine found that after six months of almost-daily sun salutations (a multipart yoga pose) and no other resistance training, young men and women could bench-press significantly more weight and complete far more push-ups and pull-ups than at the start of the study.
The upshot? Pilates may be preferable if your primary goal is a solid core, but if you’re hoping to strengthen your upper body and goose your push-up tally, you’ll probably accomplish more with sun salutations and other yoga moves.
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