How Pilates Can Help You Build Lean Body Mass Without Bulking Up

pilates workout

Pilates doesn’t really have a reputation as a strength-building workout, which is crazy, considering it’s actually a great way to build long, lean body mass.

At Studio SWEAT onDemand, we think it’s high time that Pilates got its due as an amazing workout that’s easy on joints and connective tissue. So, if you’re ready to join #TeamPilates, check out our awesome online Pilates Classes and take a look at some of our top Pilates picks below that’ll turn you into a lean, mean, Pilates machine.

What is Pilates?

Late to the Pilates party? Well, Pilates is a low-impact workout that emphasizes core strength, balance, dynamic movement, and flexibility. Pilates is typically divided into two groups: 1) mat Pilates, which are primarily body-weight exercises done on a yoga mat, and 2) reformer workouts, which are done on gliding, spring-guided machines.

While we usually think of Pilates classes today as a staple of the brunch-loving set, it was actually created by Joseph Pilates, an athlete and physical trainer born in 1883. During World War I, Pilates was interned in the Isle of Man, and it was there that he began refining the techniques he called “Contrology.” For the prisoners too weak to get out of bed, Joseph used the springs from the mattresses to create custom resistance workouts. In fact, a lot of the reformer workouts we know today are based on those mattress workouts!

Eventually, he moved to the U.S. where his workouts became famous among dancers and athletes.

Does Pilates Build Muscle?

Absolutely. Pilates’ range of movement may be more appropriate for lengthening and expanding the muscles instead of bulking up, but the thing is – bulk doesn’t necessarily translate to strength. So, if you’re looking to develop some long, lean muscle, Pilates is the way to go.

What Muscles Does Pilates Focus on?

Pilates is known for activating the muscle groups that are deeper in the body, known as stabilizer muscles. Most Pilates workouts hold your torso in place and engage your core, making them one of the most effective ab workouts out there. But, Pilates is mostly known for its focus on mindfulness, breath control, and improving the body’s ability to protect itself from exercise injuries.
And with that history lesson out of the way, let’s move onto 5 powerful Pilates exercises that’ll help you tone your body and build lean mass.

  1. Pilates Supine Twist
    supine twist
  • Lie on your back with legs up and knees bent 90°
  • Keep your knees together
  • Place your arms to the sides with your palms up
  • Engage your core while gently rotating legs to the right
  • At the same time, lift the hips off the mat
  • Gently return your legs to the center
  • Rotate your legs to the left
  • Repeat rotating from side to side for 30 seconds
  1. Scissor Kick
    scissor kicks
  • Lie on your back with your legs straight ahead of you
  • Curl your upper body up
  • Extend your right leg so that it’s perpendicular to the floor
  • Lift your left leg so it’s perpendicular to the floor
  • Switch your legs to a scissoring motion
  • Continue switching your legs for 30 seconds
  1. The Roll-Up
    Roll up
  • Lie back on the floor with your legs straight ahead of you
  • Relax your shoulders away from your ears
  • Place your hands straight above your head
  • While exhaling, curl up
  • Use your abs to fold your upper body up
  • Try not to bend your legs
  • Tuck your tailbone under
  • While inhaling, begin to unfurl, vertebrae by vertebrae
  • Slowly flatten out while being careful to keep your heels on the floor
  • Repeat 6 times
  1. Reformer Arm Workout
  • Sit upright on your heels on the reformer, facing the bar
  • Slip the long straps through each hand
  • Bring your arms out to the side
  • Slightly bend your elbows
  • Engage your core
  • While exhaling, hug your hands together in a smooth motion
  • While inhaling, slowly release your hands back out to the side
  • Repeat slowly 15 times
  1. Pike Push-Ups
    pike pushup
  • Get in a push-up position, hands in a diamond shape
  • Pull your hips up and lift your heels, so your body is at a 45° angle
  • While inhaling, lower your body while bending your elbows
  • While exhaling, straighten your elbows while pressing up
  • Repeat this motion smoothly 15 times

Pilates might seem prim and proper, but it’s still an absolutely FIRE workout. And if want to add even more workout techniques to your arsenal, check out our 7-Day Free Trial. Sign up to access hundreds of workouts ranging from Spin, TRX, Bootcamp, and more, so you can take your pick from bulk-adding strength classes to low-impact Barre workouts. Whatever you’re looking for, we got it!

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