Pilates vs Strength Training: Which One Should You Do?

Is there any other way you can strength training? Is Pilates a good alternative? Let's find out, Pilates vs Strength Training, you decide...

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Resistance training is an important part of any well-rounded workout plan.

It’s especially important for us women as we get older.


Because as we get older we lose bone density, and that puts us at risk for diseases like osteoporosis. Especially after menopause.

But strength training is also essential if you have body composition goals.

That toned look you covet so much, is muscle. And to get that muscle you have to build it. With a balanced program.

But how do you do resistance training? And are there any alternatives?

Pilates versus strength training: what are the benefits, can Pilates really be a substitute for traditional strength training? Which is the best one for you?

Pilates vs Strength Training: Traditional Strength Training

Traditionally strength training is an exercise, or workout, that focuses on a particular muscle group, done to promote muscle growth, muscle strength or muscular endurance.

And it’s done using weights.

Depending on what your goal is you would work in a specific rep and set range.

For building muscle size, or hypertrophy, you would use lighter weights and do 12-15 repetitions of a given exercise for three sets.

For muscular strength you would use heavy weights for 5 sets of 1-5 reps.

Whilst this is not the only way of gaining muscle, it is classic. And it’s classic for a reason...it works.

Pilates vs Strength Training: What about Pilates?

Pilates on the other hand is a form of exercise that was developed by Joseph Pilates.

It’s focus is to increase core strength, but as a result it strengthens the rest of your body.

During a Pilates workout you perform a series of movements that are designed to improve general fitness and overall well-being.

So, if both Pilates and Strength training are a form of resistance training, which should you do? Which one is best for you?

Let’s take a look….

Pilates vs Strength Training: Strong Core Muscles

Pilates concentrates on your abdominal muscles giving you a very strong core. Which is great after pregnancy.

Yes, strength training will help you develop strong core muscles, if your exercise routine includes workouts that focus on your abdominal muscles.

Pilates on the other hand was developed to concentrate on your stomach muscles.

Correct alignment, engaging your core muscles in the right way play a huge part in any Pilates workout.

All of this emphasis on your core muscles means that it’s not only good for strengthening your core, particularly after pregnancy, it’s great if you suffer from lower back pain.

Your lower back is actually a really important part of your core.

If your core muscles are weak, which they tend to be after pregnancy, your lower back will take the brunt. It will compensate for the actions your core can’t do. And it will start aching.

So, if your lower back is a problem, it could be that your core muscles aren’t strong enough to do their job.

Pilates vs Strength Training: Equipment

Ok, you can do any strength training program using just bodyweight. But, if you’re serious about getting stronger, you will, eventually have to invest in some weights.

Whether that’s free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells. You will have to invest.

Pilates on the other hand doesn’t need any special equipment. It is designed to utilise your own body weight and nothing else. Although you can use a reformer machine if you want to...and you can get hold of one.

That does mean that the strength gaining aspect of Pilates will be limited, but, you don’t need anything to do it.

You might want to find a Pilates class to go to, or one on YouTube, because you will need coaching for the right body position and core engagement, spinal alignment.

Pilates vs Strength Training: Mind-body connection

All exercise, no matter what it is, if done correctly should improve the mind-body connection.

You should always concentrate on your breath. Your breath should come first. It should direct the movement.

But, I often find this connection lacking in traditional weight training, where the focus tends to be on hitting big weight numbers rather than connecting with your breath.

With a Pilates workout, on the other hand, the mind-body connection is front and centre. Deep breathing and connecting your breath with your movement is at the core of every class.

Pilates vs Strength Training: Better Posture

Pilates can help improve your posture

There is no getting away from it, Pilates can help improve your posture, where as strength training on it’s own won’t.

As I mentioned above, Pilates really focuses on correct spinal alignment as well as engaging your core in a powerful way. This then strengthens the core muscles, lower back muscles and gluteal muscles.

Yes, all of these could absolutely be strengthened with weight lifting. But, if you’re not engaging all of these areas in the right way you could actually exacerbate existing weaknesses.

If you think about it...if your posture is not that great, you’re not alone, but more importantly if you start adding weight, and potentially heavy weight to that, it’s not going to get better is it?

Your other muscles, other areas of your body will have to work harder to compensate.

And any aches and pains you may have at the minute, will sky rocket.

I know. I’ve been there.

Pilates vs Strength Training: Weight Loss

Both Pilates and Strength Training help burn calories, but strength training is much better to help weight loss

Both Pilates and strength training are forms of workout. And when you work out you burn calories. So in that regard they can both contribute to weight loss.

But, strength training takes this one hands down.

The potential for building lean muscle mass is significantly higher with strength training than with Pilates. And the more muscle you have the more calories your body will burn and the smaller you will be.

See, muscle needs more calories than fat does. So the more muscle you have the higher your metabolic rate will be. That means the more calories your body will burn. Even when you’re at rest.

Yes there will be some muscle building with Pilates but nowhere near what you will get with strength training.

Pilates vs Strength Training: Low-impact workout

Low-impact workouts are anything that doesn’t involve putting a lot of strain and weight through your muscles and joints while you’re exercising.

So...not strength training.

If you do suffer with painful joints, there are definitely ways that you can do some serious strength training, but a Pilates workout may be better for you.

And, in case your need for low-impact exercise is pelvic/bladder related, remember that Pilates specifically concentrates on strengthening your core and pelvic floor muscles.

Pilates vs Strength Training: Flexibility

Pilates not only works on strengthening your muscles it works on giving you a greater range of motion as well.

By the very nature of Pilates training it will help you achieve a greater range of motion. Every series of movements not only strengthens your body, it stretches your body, much in the same way as yoga.

Strength training on the other hand won’t do this.

In fact, it will likely do the opposite unless you commit to a regular mobility, stretching session in addition to your weight training.


In much the same way as it could exacerbate poor posture, if you have tightness in your muscles and you add weight without addressing that tightness, it will just get worse.

Your other muscles will try and compensate. Areas of your body that shouldn’t be involved in a movement will become activated. And it could, in a worst case scenario, significantly increase your risk of injury.

Pilates vs Strength Training: Which one for you?

What are the benefits of Pilates and Strength Training

My number one piece of advice for anyone looking to start, or change, a workout program...do something you enjoy.

No workout, Pilates, traditional strength training, crossfit, yoga, HIIT, none of it will help you achieve greater strength, or lower your risk of osteoporosis if you don’t do it. And if you don’t enjoy it, you probably won’t do it.

So, if there is something you just don’t like about strength training, whatever that maybe, Pilates gives you enough of the benefits of resistance training to be a good alternative.

On the other hand, if you are interested in getting stronger, you will need to lift weights.

But, and here’s one for further thought….

Why choose?

Why can’t you do both?

Pilates would definitely be a good starting point for any mama. Strengthen those core muscles. Strengthen those pelvic floor muscles. Improve your posture.

Once that is tended to, hit the weights.

Include a structured, progressive strength program, and if you want to, keep up with Pilates.

Get that gym body you’ve been dreaming of.

Pilates vs Strength Training: What are you going to do?

So, which one are you going to do?

Which one do you fancy?

Let me know...

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