Is Pilates hard?

Can I confess something to you?

One of my pet peeves is when people tell me a workout isn’t hard enough for them. I think most Pilates instructors would agree, that if you think a workout is too easy to be effective, you’re missing the point.


Pilates isn’t necessarily about the level or difficulty of a given exercise, it’s about what you’re doing with that exercise in your own body.

Any instructor will tell you that they focus on the basics in their own practice just as much, if not more than the advanced repertoire. Because it’s not about flash, it’s about working deeply in your own body.

Pilates is what you make it.
There is always room for improvement even in the most fundamental of exercises. What you find as you go deeper in your practice is that there is constantly more to learn and more to focus on when it comes to your unique body – even in basic exercises.
Pilates is not about “more pain more gain” or pushing yourself to extremes. It’s about working deeper in your own body, increasing your awareness, challenging yourself through alignment, breath, focus, and proper muscle activation.
What I see far too often is clients who want to move on to the more advanced exercises, yet when they do, they recruit all of the wrong muscles and ultimately miss out on the true value of the exercise.
It’s like watching someone hold a plank for 5 minutes but by the end of the 5 minutes their back is sagging, shoulder blades are winging and head is hanging. You’d be better off doing a 1 minute plank with proper form and posture!
Pilates is what you make it and what you put into each exercise. No matter what the instructor throws at you, you can always challenge yourself by focusing on the Pilates principles and working deeper in your own body. It’s a new way of thinking for many people, but when embraced, it pays off in incredible ways.
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6 thoughts on “Is Pilates hard?”

  1. YES!! As a barre instructor, I find this to be so true. We sound like a broken record so often, saying things like “find internal resistance” or “squeeze muscle tight to bone to help lengthen as you engage” (triceps work, or even during an active hamstring stretch) and, ultimately, it’s up to the student to decide how deeply to apply these cues to his/her own practice.

    I’ve been practicing for four years and am incredibly challenged every single class because I make my best effort to stay present, intentional, and truly listen to the cues for alignment, then engagement, then movement. Some days my mind-body connection just isn’t there (exhaustion is usually the culprit) and I find myself “phoning in” the workout. In these cases, it’s best to just take a rest day to allow my mind and body to rejuvenate and recover to bring more focus next time.

  2. Hallelujah!! I’ve been teaching Pilates for about a year now and find this to be oh so true. My biggest challenge is getting clients to understand the concept of “working in” instead of working out. When performed with focus, proper alignment and control, even the most basic exercises can be the most challenging! Thanks for sharing!

  3. YES YES and YES! Spot on!

    Honestly I have been struggling a bit the past months, flirting with some heavier weight lifting in addition to my pilates. You know, NOW was the time to build some muscles for real… What happened each time though was the same: My body went totally into stress-mode and set me back. Even further than when I was just sticking too my daily pilates practice. I felt sluggish, irritable and grumpy. Just like Cailin says about the “working in” instead of “working out” – my body needs it… and so do I! My ego just didn’t believe in the words I was constantly preaching to my own clients and people around me, when speaking about all those great benefits of Pilates. Now, I’m back in the game again. Thanks for this kind reminder, Robin. It was perfectly timed 🙂

    Hope you are doing amazing with baby bomb and all, and enjoying the summer <3

    XOXO Marie

  4. Robin- I loved your July workout!! Where did you get those cute blue leggings? 😉
    Have a wonderful day!

  5. I LOVE this post! Beautifully said. I find that this is one of the biggest challenges in Pilates, particularly when clients are fairly new to pilates. Clients are typically pretty used to feeling a ‘burn’ from the big muscles but learning to work the smaller supporting muscles is a whole new sensation. When I hear this phrase, I try to re-check their alignment and muscle patterning to see how they are recruiting and working through the movement to help them get re-focused.

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