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How to Do Pilates Workouts for Weight Loss

Design Your Weight Loss Workout

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Updated July 17, 2014

Group of young people exercising on a Pilates machine.
Kristian Sekulic/E+/Getty Images

One of the most frequently asked questions about Pilates is: Will Pilates help me lose weight? The short answer is yes, Pilates is supportive of weight loss. In many cases just beginning Pilates class, or a home routine, is enough to jump start weight loss. However, as time goes by you may find that your body becomes accustomed to your workout level. Then, you will need to increase the intensity of your workout enough to help you continue to burn extra calories. Here are some ideas to help you amp up your workout:

Do a Faster Paced Routine

Pilates is sometimes done slowly, especially at the beginner and intermediate levels. This gives a student a chance to establish inner-attention, good alignment, and familiarity with the exercises. But if you want to burn calories and lose weight, you might want to create opportunities to do your Pilates with more zest. One of the best ways to do that is to get the Pilates principles of breath and flow working for you and pick up the pace.

If you take a Pilates class regularly, talk to your instructor and find out if it is possible to move the class along a little more quickly. Sometimes a class needs to take that step. On the other hand, it may be that some members of your class are not ready to increase the pace of their workouts and you will have to graduate yourself to a more advanced class. For more thoughts about getting the most out of your classes read: Ways to Maximize Your Classes.

If you workout at home, it is a good idea to have a routine or two that you know quite well. That way you can focus on the breath and flow of the workout and not have to pause to review the exercise instructions or sequence. Get to know the many Pilates mat exercises that are available here at pilates.about.com and put a routine together for yourself. Then, you can mix in new, more challenging exercises as you progress. Also, Pilates routines like quick workout 1 and level 2 strength and stretch will work very well as sets that you can memorize and flow through rapidly.

Another great way to get a weight loss workout at home is to expand your Pilates DVD collection. Look for workouts that push your current level or add a new challenge like the magic circle, fitness band, or exercise ball. There are also a number of Pilates based DVDs specifically oriented toward weight loss. You will find reviews of DVDs for different levels in the DVD Reviews folder.

Fully Commit to Each Exercise

Even if you can't move through a routine rapidly, do make sure that you get the most out of each exercise. Stretch to your fullest length at every opportunity, go for the extra scoop of the abs, breathe deeply, be precise, move with control and grace. This kind of fully engaged attitude is very much in keeping with what Joseph Pilates taught, and increases the exertion level (read weight loss potential) of your workout tremendously.

Add Equipment

Adding equipment, or different equipment, to your workout will help build muscle and strength by giving your body new challenges. Remember, muscle burns a lot of fat. If you go to a studio to workout, you could move from the mat to the reformer. If you have been using the reformer, take a chance and sign up for a class that includes a new piece of equipment, like the wunda chair or ladder barrel.

At home, smaller types of Pilates equipment such as magic circles, exercise balls and fitness bands can add the extra challenge. They also help keep your workouts interesting.
Read more about Pilates home workout equipment:

Use Less Resistance

Now here is a Pilates trick that is not used by many other fitness systems: If you are working out with Pilates resistance equipment, decrease the resistance level. This seems counter intuitive, but the instability that less resistance creates provides a significant challenge to the muscles as they attempt to maintain control and balance, especially the core muscles. This technique works very well on the reformer where you can use lighter springs, but you can apply the same principle to a lighter resistance magic circle or fitness band. You may be surprised at the level of intensity that instability can add to your workout, especially as you work to maintain precision and control during both the exertion and the release phase of an exercise, as we do in Pilates.

Workout More Frequently

Working out more often is an obvious choice for weight loss and it can work like a charm. After all, the more opportunity you take to increase your respiration, build strength, and tone your muscles, the more weight you can lose and the trimmer you will appear. These articles will give you ideas about how to make Pilates a vital part of your weight loss plan.

Make an Exercise Log

Keeping an exercise log helps you stay motivated, track progress, and plan improvements. This becomes even more relevant when you have a goal like weight loss. Here is a link to a set of tips on what to include in your exercise log, as well as a copy and paste template:
How to Make an Exercise Log

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