Busting Pilates Myths: Debunking 13 Pilates Misconceptions

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

Pilates is a significant part of my life. Often, when I tell people about the wonders of Pilates, the reactions I get are mixed. Some people feel the same as I do and simply cannot get enough of it, while others have gotten caught up in a few of the myths going around about Pilates. It’s understandable that the history and origin of Pilates are often misconstrued. Not many people know where it comes from, why it was created, and why it is so popular today. In recent times, I have made it my mission to debunk a few myths and misconceptions about Pilates. 

Debunking 13 myths and misconceptions about Pilates:

  1. You need to be flexible to do Pilates.
  2. Pilates is only a core workout.
  3. Only women do Pilates.
  4. Pilates is too easy and does not work.
  5. Yoga and Pilates are the same thing.
  6. Pilates is only for dancer-type people.
  7. Specialized equipment is needed for Pilates.
  8. Pilates equipment and accessories are quite expensive.
  9. You can’t do Pilates if you are injured.
  10. Pilates is too hard.
  11. You need to be strong to do Pilates.
  12. Pilates is an extremely slow workout.
  13. You must have great balance & coordination to do Pilates.

If you haven’t attended a Pilates class before, because you have bought into the myths and misconceptions out there, now is the time to debunk them. As someone who does Pilates several times per week, I can quite honestly say that all of the abovementioned points are merely myths and have little truth to them.

Myths and Misconceptions about Pilates Debunked

Sometimes it is hard to believe that the misconceptions aren’t true without being backed up with a good reason why. Let’s take a closer look at the various myths and misconceptions about Pilates to find out why there is no truth to them.

1. You need to be flexible to do Pilates.

Many people believe that you need to be flexible in order to do Pilates. This simply isn’t true, but I can understand how someone would come to that conclusion. I have thought the same in the past because most of the Pilates students and instructors that I know are quite flexible. I once watched a Pilates class in action and felt absolutely inferior to the women in attendance. They seemed to be able to stretch, twist, and bend in all manner of directions with ease. I, on the other hand, came nowhere close to their flexibility. 

The truth of the matter is that being flexible is not a requirement to do Pilates, it is a result of doing Pilates. Just like me, you can start Pilates being as inflexible and stiff as a plank of hardwood. After a few weeks of dedicated practice, all of that will change.

2. Pilates is only a core workout.

If you do Pilates, will you just be working out your abs? This is of concern to someone who is looking for a full-body workout. Pilates is punted as the ultimate core workout, and while it is an exceptional workout for the core muscles, it is actually a lot more than that. A good Pilates workout will be a full-body workout and exercise all major muscle groups. 

3. Only women do Pilates.

“Pilates is only for women” is one of the misconceptions that consistently baffle me. In my experience, men do Pilates too, but if you haven’t attended a class before, you might not know that. 

Pilates is an exercise system designed by a man and was initially practiced by men. Joseph Pilates created the exercise system in the 1920s, and it was first used as a form of physical rehabilitation for soldiers returning home from war. Dancers, such as George Balanchine and Martha Graham, were some of the first people exposed to Pilates. Pilates is an incredible workout for men as it drives intense muscle workouts, building form and strength at the same time.

4. Pilates is too easy and does not work.

You might look at Pilates and think that it is easy. This misconception comes from the fact that a Pilates workout looks like a series of seemingly gentle and low-impact stretches. Do not be fooled. Pilates is hard work, and it can be quite demanding. If you keep up consistent practice, you will notice an obvious change in your body.

5. Yoga and Pilates are the same thing.

If you think that Yoga and Pilates is the same thing or that one is a spin-off of the other, you are wrong. This is completely untrue. Yoga has religious and spiritual roots and dates back to ancient Hindu practices. The practice of Yoga is thought to be over 5000 years old. Pilates is only around 100 years old and has absolutely no link to religion or spirituality. It is a purely scientific approach to exercise. It was created by Joseph Pilates, a fitness instructor, in the 1920s. 

6. Pilates is only for dancer-type people.

I’ve heard many people say that Pilates is the exercise regime of ballet dancers or dancers in general. I can understand why people might think that; because Pilates pros look just like dancers, don’t they? Pilates might help you to build the beautiful physique of a dancer, but anyone can really do Pilates. 

When Joseph Pilates first created his exercise system, he did have a fair amount of dancers as students. This is mostly because his first fitness studio shared premises with the New York City Ballet company. With that being said, Pilates is still popular in the dancing community, because it is great for speeding up recovery from strains and injuries as well as strengthening the body.

7. Specialized equipment is needed for Pilates.

Someone once told me that they don’t do Pilates because they cannot afford the equipment required. This boggled my mind. When I first started Pilates, I didn’t use any equipment at all. All I took with me (and used) was my mat and my towel. Of course, my water bottle was used a lot in that first class too! 

To clarify things, let’s consider that there are two main types of Pilates. Mat Pilates is done on the mat and does not require any equipment. You can use equipment such as Pilates balls, but these are not essential. Reformer Pilates is different in that it needs a Reformer, which is, in fact, specialized Pilates equipment. If you do not want to work with equipment, simply choose a mat Pilates class. 

8. Pilates equipment and accessories are quite expensive.

If you do want to do Pilates with the special items of equipment, you do not need to spend a fortune on the items at all. If you shop wisely, you can save. Some small items of Pilates equipment that you would need include magic circles, resistance bands, and weights. Some bigger items of Pilates equipment include Reformer, barrels Pilates chairs, tower, and Cadillac. Most of these items can be bought on Amazon

9. You can’t do Pilates if you are injured.

This one is not true at all. Pilates was actually designed to help people rehabilitate from injury and build strong, durable muscles. In fact, Pilates is an excellent thing to do if you are injured or have aches, pains, and strains. 

10. Pilates is too hard.

Yes, Pilates is hard when you first start, but it is not too hard. The more you apply yourself and practice, the better you will get at it. 

11. You need to be strong to do Pilates.

You do not need to be strong to do Pilates. In fact, doing Pilates regularly will make you strong. As you progress through your Pilates classes, you will gain muscle strength and abilities. 

12. Pilates is an extremely slow workout.

This has some truth to it because Pilates exercises are quite focused and precise. If you try to complete Pilates movements quickly, in the beginning, you might lose specificity. Most beginner Pilates classes are very slow to help you perfect your form and to ensure that every movement is intense and highly effective. Once you have your form perfected and you know what you are doing, you can speed up your workout. 

13. You must have great balance & coordination to do Pilates.

There is a lot of balance and coordination involved in Pilates, which is the very reason why it is considered the ultimate core workout. However, beginner classes are designed to help you develop better balance and coordination, which you can then keep working at to ensure that your balance and coordination develop along with your Pilates abilities.

Myths Debunked! Now, Join Your First Pilates Class

I am happy to have been able to debunk some of the myths and misconceptions my family and friends have had regarding Pilates. If you have had similar misconceptions about Pilates, now is the time to change your mindset and book your first Pilates class. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He covers topics like spirituality, philosophy, finance, sports, games, and food. JC earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business with a Marketing Concentration at Mercyhurst University. He is a certified USPTA professional who teaches tennis in the New York City Metropolitan area. He has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.