Often, Pilates and traditional weight training are compared to one another. Although some may try to compare, it is like comparing apples to oranges. The end goal is the same- to create strength, but the philosophies behind the two are so different.
For starters, traditional weight training relies on the use of equipment. Pilates, although can be done with apparatus, is available to you wherever you are. It can be done in a confined space without any equipment or it can be done in a fully equipped studio utilizing pieces such as the reformer, cadillac, and wunda chair.
In traditional weight training, the resistance is the equipment that one is using (barbells, weight machines, etc). In Pilates, the resistance is found within the body. During Pilates, the goal is to lengthen the muscles in two opposing directions. This is what ultimately creates the resistance.
In traditional weight training, isolation is key. In Pilates, it is about the flow of exercises from one to the next which creates a balance of muscles working together and in opposition.
For example, at the gym, you may pick up a set of dumbbells and crank out 12-18 bicep curls. The whole goal is to contract and release the bicep with with the dumbbell as resistance. In Pilates, when working the bicep (think the arm weight series), the core is tight, the inner thighs are contracted, upper back is relaxed and pressing away from the shoulders, and the biceps are engaged. Therefore, all the muscles that are being fired during the bicep exercise during the Pilates version are either working in opposition to stabilize the body or are working together to help the bicep perform the exercise.
Both Pilates and traditional weight training have tremendous benefits. They just aren’t the same.