What is the difference between the classical method of Pilates and the contemporary method of Pilates?
The contemporary method of Pilates is based on the Pilates method but also uses other movement techniques. It is heavily influenced by the work of physiotherapists, as well as in kinesiology. There is a strong focus on the pre-Pilates work and physiocise-style exercises. The exercises may not always come from the authentic Pilates method. Fitness based exercises are often done on Pilates equipment.
There are lots of different schools and influencers with the contemporary method. They all have slightly different focuses. There is no set order to the work. Instead they make sure that in every workout you use the whole body from flexion, to extension, to lateral rotation, to twisting and they challenge these ranges of movement in all different positions from lying, to sitting, to all fours, and standing.
The contemporary equipment feels completely different to the classical equipment. The dimensions of the equipment have been changed from what Joseph Pilates originally used. This changes how the work is performed. With different dimensions the position of the body has to be changed slightly to make the exercise safe. For example the position of the legs in the short box series changes to bent legs resting on the foot bar rather than straight legs with your feet pressing out against the straps to keep it taught and create a two way stretch.
The springs on the contemporary equipment are much lighter than on the classical equipment.
In the contemporary work they can add new props that are used in the fitness industry such as foam rollers, therabands and fitballs on which to perform Pilates based exercises. These are used either to give the client more support in an exercise or to increase the challenge in an exercise.
Classical or authentic Pilates
In the classical Pilates method they strive to stay true to the work that Joseph Pilates created. Exercises are done in a set order. Typically a classical class starts on the reformer, followed by a Pilates mat. You will then be given exercises specific to your body’s needs, using a wide range of classic Pilates equipment.
The work is taught following a system that progresses from the basic work to intermediate, advanced and super-advanced. The teacher will look at the client that they are teaching and apply the system using the principles of Pilates to get the most out of them.
The equipment used in the classical work is designed with exact measurements so that each exercise can be performed following specific detail to make the work functional on the body.
The springs on a classical reformer are designed to slacken an inch before coming all the way back in so that you have to work your powerhouse (your core) to pull the carriage home with control. Also, the spring on the classical equipment is much stronger which makes the client really activate their powerhouse to do each exercise. The powerhouse includes your deep abdominal muscles as well as your inner thighs, deep back muscles and butt. In a classical Pilates workout you will work the entire body from head to toe with the support of your powerhouse to move functionally, whilst building support for your joints and back.
At the end of the day both the classical and contemporary methods of Pilates are extremely beneficial. Although they are quite different, they are both ultimately a form of exercise that will both build strength, work on flexibility and control. As a Pilates practitioner, you will have to choose the method you feel is going to suit your own needs the best.
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