The Downside of Pilates: 12 Drawbacks and Limitations

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

As a Pilates enthusiast, I naturally balk at the idea of Pilates being anything but a wonderful exercise system that offers health benefits to young and old. However, that being said, Pilates presents some limitations to certain practitioners, that cannot be simply ignored. It must be noted that drawbacks and disadvantages aside, Pilates is still considered among the best available exercise regime by many. It is great for developing strong, healthy muscles and is even great for depression, but nothing in life is entirely good or entirely bad.

Let’s take a look at some of the limitations and drawbacks of Pilates in general.

12 disadvantages and drawbacks of Pilates:

  1. It skips out on cardio, so it’s not great for steady weight loss.
  2. It will not produce the same results as heavy weightlifting/bodybuilding.
  3. Modern Pilates includes exercises not originally created by Joseph Pilates.
  4. Specialized Pilates equipment is not as unique as it is proclaimed to be. 
  5. Pilates is not high-energy.
  6. For rehab purposes, a general Pilates class is not enough.
  7. Physical results from Pilates take longer than with other exercise forms.
  8. A high level of concentration is required for every Pilates exercise.
  9. It might not be a great frustration relief.
  10. If Pilates exercises are done incorrectly, injury can result.
  11. Classes can be expensive therefore making it “exclusive”.
  12. Practice can result in aches and pains (need recovery time).

I must agree that for some people, these drawbacks are very real, but does that mean that they make Pilates any less popular? No, they certainly do not. I have found that despite these disadvantages, I still simply cannot get enough of Pilates practice. And I know that it is much the same for many other people. If you want to learn a bit more about the abovementioned disadvantages and how they affect Pilates practitioners, read on.

The 12 Cons of Practicing Pilates

If you are an avid Pilates practitioner like I am, you might wonder how such a beneficial exercise regime can be considered limiting or disadvantaged. Pilates is an excellent workout, but it is not the ideal workout for everyone. For instance, people with osteoporosis or arthritis are often advised to seek out exercise other than Pilates. There are other limitations and drawbacks to consider, too. Below are 12 disadvantages and drawbacks of Pilates – check them out.

1. Pilates skips out on cardio, so it’s not great for steady weight loss.

What are your exercise goals, and will Pilates help you achieve them? It is important to think about this particular question and know the answer to it. If you are keen to lose weight steadily and want to see quick results, Pilates may not be the exercise regime for you. Pilates is considered an anaerobic exercise, which means it is not the ideal choice for weight loss. While Pilates definitely helps to strengthen and build muscles, it is not the ideal cardiovascular workout. In fact, running or swimming provides a more suitable cardiovascular workout for steady weight loss.

2. Pilates does not produce the same results as heavy weightlifting/bodybuilding.

Gym enthusiasts who are focused on building muscle mass for weight lifting or bodybuilding competitions will not be able to achieve the same results with Pilates as with bodybuilding and weight lifting. While Pilates is a great complement to these practices, it is not on par in terms of results. Pilates is better suited to toning and shaping muscles. To build extreme muscle mass, a more intense weighted workout is required. 

3. Modern Pilates includes exercises not originally created by Joseph Pilates.

When Pilates was first created by Joseph Pilates, it included a series of very precise and focused exercises. Over the years, additional exercises and stretches have been included in the workout format, making modern Pilates a far cry from what it used to be. It stands to reason that an exercise regime will change over the years; just be careful that your instructor does not incorporate exercises and stretches that could be averse to your workout goals.

4. Specialized Pilates equipment is not as unique as it is proclaimed to be. 

Many Pilates pros make use of specialized equipment that they claim is unique to Pilates. When Pilates was first created, Joseph Pilates made makeshift exercise equipment for rehabilitating soldiers to use. Over the years, Pilates equipment was specifically manufactured. With a bit of research into the background of the pieces of equipment currently used in Pilates, it is obvious that these pieces are based on pre-existing items of equipment.

Let’s take the Pilates low chair, for example. This is very similar to the staking pommel used in gymnastics. The Pilates ped-o-pull also looks extremely similar to a modified version of a pulley machine. This is not strictly disadvantageous to practitioners, but might be misleading.

5. Pilates is not high-energy.

If you are interested in a high-energy workout, Pilates is not going to provide that. Pilates is a very slow, focused form of exercise. If you are looking for a high-energy form of exercise that gets the heart racing and adrenaline flowing, you might want to look into aerobics, Zumba, or running. 

6. For rehab purposes, a general Pilates class is not enough.

Pilates is touted as a great form of physical rehab, and it can be if it is done correctly. However, if you have a physical injury and want to use Pilates to recover, you cannot just join any Pilates class and hope for great results. You need to have custom Pilates exercises designed to assist with your specific injury. Using Pilates for rehabilitation is very different to using Pilates for exercise and fitness.

7. Physical results from Pilates take longer than with other exercise forms.

Newbies to Pilates often experience frustration at one point or another. The frustration stems from not seeing results as quickly as they would if they attended a boot camp or aerobics class. If you are watching for quick physical results, you are not going to see them for a few weeks with Pilates. While Pilates will not show immediate or quick results, the results will be worth it.

8. A high level of concentration is required for every Pilates exercise.

Pilates is not a form of exercise that can be done on the go or quickly in your spare time while the kids run around you. If you want to slot in a bit of Pilates between work meetings or chores at home, it is going to be hard. If you have kids, it is going to be even harder. This is because each Pilates exercise is highly focused and requires a lot of concentration. If you have distractions and interruptions, you are not going to derive much from your practice. 

9. Pilates might not be a great frustration relief.

I have found that after a stressful or frustrating day, Pilates can calm me down and help me to reach an inner feeling of balance. It is quite a meditative exercise, although it is nothing like Yoga. What it does not do is provide me with an outlet for my anger and frustration. For frustration relief, I have found boxing, aerobics, and running to be far more beneficial. 

10. If Pilates exercises are done incorrectly, injury can result.

You might mistakenly believe that the slow movements used in Pilates mean that injury is almost impossible. Of course, that is not true. Pilates exercises require correct posture, slow and steady movements, and a great amount of concentration. If you rush through the exercises or go into them with the wrong posture, you could end up hurting yourself.  

11. Classes can be expensive therefore making it “exclusive”.

While Pilates is for everyone of every age, background, and physical condition, it has become quite exclusive due to the cost of classes. Many more people would love to do Pilates but simply cannot afford the regular classes. In short, Pilates can be expensive.

12. Pilates practice can result in aches and pains (need recovery time).

When you practice Pilates, you might not think that you can suffer aches, pains, and strains, but because the exercises are so focused and concentrated, that is exactly what can result. The next day, exercise pain is typical, and you need sufficient recovery time before you can start practicing again. One to two days of recovery is ideal, meaning you cannot practice Pilates every single day. If you are looking for a daily exercise, Pilates may not be the right choice. 

Will the Disadvantages & Drawbacks of Pilates Deter You?

Knowing all of the disadvantages and drawbacks of Pilates can be off-putting, but the general public seems to be unperturbed by them. What do the drawbacks and disadvantages mean for you? Do the abovementioned points put you off Pilates or not? It is important to decide if the pros outweigh the cons. For me, it is a big no – I am certainly not put off! Pilates offers so many wonderful health benefits that the possible drawbacks are all effectively mitigated (in my opinion, at least).

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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.