Fitness trends come and go, and everyone has an opinion on how best to look after their ‘inner temple’. Here, we ask two local fitness experts if it’s better to use your own body as a form of resistance or rely solely on fitness equipment…
Name: Daisy Whytock
Occupation: Pilates Instructor
Reformer Pilates is an effective and gentle way of exercising that is appropriate for everyone. The Reformer may look a little daunting at first with its pulleys and springs (some say it looks like a form of medieval torture), but it is precisely those things that help to stabilise the body and increase or decrease the resistance and intensity of the exercise.
If you are a complete beginner to Pilates, you will benefit from the way the Reformer supports body alignment. If you are a Pilates aficionado, there are 250 exercises that involve using the resistance of the springs to further aid your practice.
While the practice of Pilates generally focuses on lengthening and toning, encouraging good posture and strengthening the core, jump boards can be attached to the Reformer to pack an additional cardio punch. There really is nothing this machine can’t do!
Mat Pilates involving no equipment (apart from a mat) is also a very effective way of challenging the body, but it is exactly that. A challenge. If there are no props to support your body while your feet are in the air, or while you’re balancing on one hip and a forearm, or when you’re articulating through the spine, you are more prone to error and less likely to be precise.
Pilates is all about control and precision and the Reformer encourages this. When your instructor asks you to focus on a particular muscle group during a Reformer class, you will find that your body awareness is heightened because the muscular emphasis is obvious. Therefore, if you want to graduate to a Mat class you’ll be aware of how it feels to contract the muscles necessary to complete the exercises.
Furthermore, Reformer Pilates is the form of exercise that the Victoria’s Secret models use to get catwalk ready. If it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for the rest of us!
Name: Tris Bonner-Murphy
Occupation: Personal Trainer
Calisthenics means ‘body weight exercise’. This is when a person uses the weight of their body as resistance, such as pull ups, press ups and dips.
It is my preferred method of training for numerous reasons. When I’m training with a client, I find I achieve far superior results than using weights at the gym. It goes without saying that all methods of exercise have their pros and cons, but I’ll briefly discuss why I feel calisthenics is the most beneficial in my opinion.
First off, there is something great about training outdoors and breathing all that fresh air, whilst saving on a gym membership. Humans these days tend to spend too much time cooped up in buildings under artificial lights – nothing beats the great outdoors, no matter the weather. It has fantastic benefits both physically and mentally. But if it gets a little too chilly, calisthenics can still be performed in a gym or in the comfort of your own home.
Calisthenics builds a lean physique due to compound movements. These require having multiple muscles engaged at the same time. The client needs to control their whole body whilst completing the move. A lot of muscles need to work together. This additional intensity is why calisthenics builds such a lean physique, as your body is working harder, and more energy is being expended. Gymnasts are a great example of what can be achieved.
It also builds useful relative strength instead of absolute strength. All Calisthenic movements require you to lift your own bodyweight, so as you get stronger, you become stronger relative to your bodyweight. You find it easier to move your own body. So when it comes to moving quickly, being agile, being athletic and climbing obstacles, this is where calisthenics excels over simply moving a weight in the gym.
There are plenty of moves for beginners, and it’s easy to start increasing difficulty to push your body further. There is also an additional show off factor, which you simply don’t get pushing weights in a gym. Press ups with your feet off the ground turns heads wherever you go.