Clinical or Rehab Pilates
Some kinds of pilates are aimed specifically at those looking for exercise to do after an injury. There are often mat classes where there is a very gentle type of stretching exercise and some core work. Sometimes these are run by physios for their patients, and are a great way for people to learn their physical therapy exercises (very often the exercises done in these classes owe as much, or more, to physiotherapy as they do to Joe Pilates).
Pilates is not the product of modern clinical physiotherapy. If you need physical therapy you should go to a physical therapist – some of them use pilates or pilates influenced techniques. But you should be clear that no pilates teacher who is not also trained as a physical therapist can give you therapy.
This type of exercise class is obviously very useful, but sometimes people go to and stay in “rehab” classes when there is nothing actually wrong with them. Being unfit and “having some back pain” (along with 80% of the population) does not mean you need rehab. It means you need to do some exercise.
If you are basically well and go to a class designed for people with more serious injury you may never come out of your comfort zone which means your body won’t change. A clinical group may be a good place to start, but if you stay in that setting when it’s not appropriate, you give yourself no room for improvement or progress.
At the other extreme some market their classes as “cardio” or “bootcamp” pilates, promising clients a mix of cardio and strengthening exercises in light airy studios. The main goal is to make people sweat and feel they have had a good workout. This kind of pilates is often found in gyms (mat classes) and there are also some studios which use this model, normally featuring group reformer classes as these are more prestigious than “just doing pilates mat” and can be priced more highly.
Doing vigorous exercise is a very good thing for many people to do – in the west we are generally far too sedentary and it is very bad for our bodies. However, when groups are large and the main goal is for people to “feel the burn” what often suffers is the precision and focus which makes pilates different from a circuit class. People have different bodies and some of us have old injuries or weaknesses and if these factors are not taken into account the result can do more harm than good.
Both clinical and “cardio” pilates are offshoots of the pilates that Joe Pilates taught (different sorts of clinical pilates are the result of his work being combined with differing theories on physiotherapy and “cardio pilates” is influenced by gym culture and circuit classes).
The Classical approach encompasses everything from rehab work with very injured people to the most demanding athletic forms of exercise that most people will experience. Like Joe Pilates we just teach people to use their bodies better, wherever they start from.
Despite bizarre claims to the contrary, classical pilates is not stuck in the 1950s. The method continued developing during his lifetime well into the 1960s and then his wife Clara continued teaching after his death alongside Romana Kryzanowska, his chosen successor.
Some of the exercises he taught have been retired or made “super advanced” in the decades since his death, but traditional pilates continues to work on the basis that if it ain´t broke, then there is little need to fix it. Pilates teachers are not physiotherapists and pilates is not physiotherapy, but the Pilates method of conditioning the body is still around because it has an undeniable track record of making people’s bodies move, feel and look better.