An Introduction to Clinical Pilates

Pilates were once the oft-forgotten, never-mentioned cousins of yoga. Now they have become a hugely popular, widely recognised method of improving and maintaining fitness in their own right. Developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, who rightly believed mental and physical health were closely connected. His method was developed out of longstanding, established sports like gymnastics, boxing and wrestling from Greek and Roman antiquity and was called Contrology.

Pilates is traditionally performed on a mat but specialist equipment can also be used including the Reformer, the Cadillac and Wunda Chair. It aims to strengthen the body evenly across a number of different areas whilst improving general fitness and wellbeing as well as increasing core strength. It is suitable for all ages and levels of ability from complete beginners going to their first class to elite, seasoned athletes looking to develop their technique. Prior to any Pilates exercise programme, it is generally advised to consult a GP or other health professional if you have, or believe you may have, any health conditions that could prevent you from effectively taking part or even cause further injury.

Clinical Pilates

Pilates is classed as a muscle-strengthening exercise which helps to maintain a healthy weight balance. As it is an exercise based activity suitable for a range of levels, classes also vary in difficulty and intensity from gentle to dynamic to suit the specific individual in question. Combined with a healthy diet as well as a selection of aerobic activities like swimming, cycling or walking, there is a significant opportunity to lose weight and improve overall fitness. There are other health benefits to Pilates including the potential to help ease injuries like back pain. Exercises need to be tailored to the individual for them to be effective and first checked by a medical professional.

There is very little chance of getting injured doing Pilates as it is a low-impact form of exercise. It is always important however to find a qualified teacher and a class suited to your level of fitness and ability. It is also important to consult a medical professional on the suitability of specific exercises and movements before starting a class. Only then can you be sure you can take full, unimpaired use of Pilates.

As opposed to traditional Pilates which don’t factor in a person’s injuries, pathologies and specific physical needs, Clinic Pilates does just that. As physiotherapists are solely dedicated to helping clients recover from injuries and improving the long term resilience of their joints and muscles, Clinic Pilates uses physiotherapy exercises and knowledge to effectively tailor Pilates exercises to an individual’s needs after a thorough clinical assessment. Like other physiotherapy treatments, Clinic Pilates is great for improving core stability and strength. The added benefit is you have a guaranteed tried and tested exercise method in Pilates combined with the effectiveness of physiotherapy techniques.

Young female doing lie down leg stretches.

Adding clinical knowledge to Pilates exercise enables physiotherapists to offer a service that works to improve fitness whilst maintaining an injury-free physical condition. In addition to a comprehensive treatment, physiotherapists are able to offer a personalised exercise experience by identifying an individual’s own personal needs and requirements. Clinic Pilates also opens up the opportunity for additional physiotherapy treatments to be added such as joint mobilisation and extension exercises. This is because it is based on physiotherapy training rather than pure Pilates exercises. Some of the most well-known, effective exercises include:

Pilates Curl

This involves lying face up looking at the ceiling with knees bent and feet flat on the floor with your arms at your side. To benefit, start off by exhaling then curl your chin down to your chest whilst bringing your shoulders completely off the mat. Hold this position for 1 minute then lower your back slowly back down. Finish off by lifting from breastbone to engage your abs whilst avoiding crunching your neck.

The Hundred

Lie on your back with your face up before bringing your knees in towards your chest. Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the mat and stretch your hands down at your sides with palms facing the floor. Proceed by extending your legs to a 45 degree angle with heels together but toes apart. This is called the ‘Pilates Stance’. Keeping your arms in the same pose, push them up and down and breathe in and out through your nose for 5 seconds each time. Repeat this 10 times.


As before, lie upwards facing the ceiling but this time also extend your arms towards the ceiling. Start by exhaling, curling your chin down to your chest before rolling up into a sitting positon with your arms reaching towards your feet. Exhale again and reverse the procedure to roll down one vertebrae at a time. When performing this routine do so slowly and smoothly with no forward lunging or jerking.

Rolling like a Ball

Begin by sitting on your mat with your knees up against your chest and your arms wrapped around your legs. Roll back onto your tailbone with your feet a few inches above the mat. Begin to inhale and roll back on to your shoulder blades before exhaling and rolling forward back to the balanced starting position. When performing this exercise, use your abs to control your speed and pause before your feet touch the mat.

These primary exercises all help with posture, core stability, balance, control, strength, flexibility and breathing. As physiotherapy is combined with Pilates, it also helps a lot with back and neck problems. At Healthsure Physiotherapy, our skilled, experienced physiotherapists are now offering Clinical Pilates appointments to anyone who wants to try an effective, innovative approach to physiotherapy.

Call us on 0800 612 7111 or email to book your appointment now.

Also published on Medium.