April 29, 2024

The Science Behind Pilates & Lagree Fitness

What Is Pilates?

Put simply, Pilates is a form of exercise that involves both the body and the mind. Originally called “Contrology,” it was invented by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s as a system of gymnastic-type exercises to strengthen the body and the mind. As a child, Joseph was sickly and strove to improve his health through various activities, including gymnastics, boxing, and martial arts. He developed and refined his “Contrology” method while interned in a POW camp on the Isle of Man during World War I. The end result - now known as Pilates - is a set of simple, repetitive exercises aiming to build muscle endurance and improve flexibility. Many Pilates workouts utilize a specialized rolling platform known as a Pilates reformer, with springs used to provide varying resistance to movement. The exercises primarily focus on strengthening the smaller, internal muscles of the body (particularly the core), which are responsible for stability and mobility. 

Pilates had a relatively small following through the decades following its invention; however, its popularity exploded around the turn of the century when the benefits of Pilates became more apparent. According to the Pilates Foundation, more than 12 million people currently practice Pilates worldwide. 

What Is Lagree Fitness?

Lagree, also known by its older names of Pilates Plus or SPX Fitness, was developed in Los Angeles by personal trainer Sebastien Lagree. In 1998, Sebastien taught his clients to perform bodybuilding exercises atop a Pilates reformer. His Lagree fitness method focused on building core and muscular strength and endurance while ensuring low impact on joints and connective tissue. It quickly became apparent that this Pilates-inspired workout produced better and faster results than traditional Pilates, so he established the first Lagree fitness studio in 2001. Its success ultimately led to the release of the first piece of Lagree-specific equipment - the Proformer - in 2006. The popularity of Lagree has grown rapidly from its humble beginnings, with around 1 million enthusiasts around the world. 

Why Are People Moving From Pilates to Lagree Fitness?

Lagree is an exciting and energizing way to build and maintain fitness. The equipment and general principles are similar enough to be familiar to many Pilates enthusiasts; however, Lagree fitness is ultimately more than a variation of Pilates. Some of the movements can work out over 600 different muscles simultaneously! Furthermore, the faster pace of Lagree classes burns more energy compared to Pilates. Consequently, the fitness benefits of Lagree far outweigh the benefits of Pilates. 

There is no wonder that more and more people are turning to Lagree to achieve their fitness goals - including big-name celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Michelle Obama. 

The Science Behind Pilates and Its Effectiveness

So does Pilates work? What is the science behind Pilates workouts? 

In contrast to most other exercise methods, Pilates emphasizes efficiency and quality of muscle movement rather than performing exercises at maximum effort. Each exercise is repeated 3-5 times, allowing numerous muscle groups to be exercised in each workout. (1) The low load-bearing format provides the rehabilitation of injured muscles with a low risk of exacerbating the injury. A recent systematic review found that Pilates is significantly effective at reducing muscle/joint pain compared to no treatment or standard treatment methods as a rehabilitation method. (2) Furthermore, the emphasis on the mind (especially through focused breathing) provides a psychological side to Pilates. 

Scientific studies have identified numerous health benefits of Pilates, including: 

  • Developing core strength (3,4)
  • Reducing muscle pain and back pain (2,5)
  • Increasing flexibility/mobility (3)
  • Improving posture (5)
  • Improving brain function (6)
  • Preventing injuries (7)

The major drawback of Pilates is that it is not designed to strengthen larger muscle groups. Consequently, it is not suitable for rapidly increasing muscle strength and building cardiovascular fitness. 

What Are the Scientific Benefits of Lagree Fitness? 

So what does science say about Lagree? Does this pilates-inspired workout stand up to the hype? 

Due to the relative recency of its emergence, there have been few peer-reviewed trials published on Lagree. However, Lagree shares many of the benefits of Pilates - with the added advantage of rapidly increasing cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. Some of these benefits include: 

  • Improving cardiovascular fitness and endurance
  • Increasing muscle strength
  • Increasing muscle endurance
  • Helping build muscles while reducing fat levels
  • Improving flexibility and balance
  • Building core strength
  • Improving mental health and self-esteem

To ensure optimum results, the Lagree method is based on five principles: 

  1. Effective resistance - the variable spring resistance allows maximal muscle effort to be reached without stressing joints and risking injury. Such forms of variable resistance training have been shown to increase maximal muscle strength effectively. (8) 
  2. Effective range of motion - controlling the range of motion for each exercise allows specific muscle groups to be targeted. This increases the physiological cross-sectional area (i.e. size) of the muscles. (9) 
  3. Effective angle - the equipment is designed to target different muscle groups through varying the resistance angles.
  4. Effective tempo - Lagree exercises are slow and controlled but continuous. This activates slow-twitch muscle fibers responsible for burning fat. (10)
  5. Effective duration - the more extended period per exercise set than Pilates allows for stimulating both fast and slow-twitch muscles. This improves muscle strength while burning calories. 

Combined, these principles provide the Lagree workout with a significant edge over traditional Pilates. 

Interested in Taking Your First Lagree Fitness Class? 

If you are a first-timer, get your first class here or download our app for iOS (iPhone) or Android. We're excited to see you in the studio!

Resources:

  1. Kloubec J. (2011). Pilates: how does it work and who needs it?. Muscles, Ligaments and Tendons Journal, 1(2), 61-66.
  2. Byrnes, K., Wu, P. J., & Whillier, S. (2018). Is Pilates an effective rehabilitation tool? A systematic review. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 22(1), 192-202.
  3. Bernardo, L. M. (2007). The effectiveness of Pilates training in healthy adults: An appraisal of the research literature. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 11(2), 106-110.
  4. Kulkarni, M., Saini, S., Palekar, T., & Hamdulay, N. (2020). Effects of pilates on core muscle strength and endurance in post 6 months delivered women. Proteus J, 11(8), 136-151.
  5. Krawczky, B., Mainenti, M. R. M., & Pacheco, A. G. F. (2016). The impact of pilates exercises on the postural alignment of healthy adults. Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte, 22, 485-490.
  6. García-Garro, P. A., Hita-Contreras, F., Martínez-Amat, A., Achalandabaso-Ochoa, A., Jiménez-García, J. D., Cruz-Díaz, D., & Aibar-Almazán, A. (2020). Effectiveness of a pilates training program on cognitive and functional abilities in postmenopausal women. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(10), 3580.
  7. Cruz, J. C., Liberali, R., Cruz, T. M. F. D., & Netto, M. I. A. (2016). The Pilates method in the rehabilitation of musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review. Fisioterapia em Movimento, 29, 609-622.
  8. Soria-Gila, M. A., Chirosa, I. J., Bautista, I. J., Baena, S., & Chirosa, L. J. (2015). Effects of variable resistance training on maximal strength: a meta-analysis. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 29(11), 3260-3270.
  9. Valamatos, M. J., Tavares, F., Santos, R. M., Veloso, A. P., & Mil-Homens, P. (2018). Influence of full range of motion vs. equalized partial range of motion training on muscle architecture and mechanical properties. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 118(9), 1969-1983.
  10. Pendergast, D. R., Horvath, P. J., Leddy, J. J., & Venkatraman, J. T. (1996). The role of dietary fat on performance, metabolism, and health. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 24(6_suppl), S53-S58.