Pilates Exercise History: Who was Joseph Pilates?

Pilates exercise history is based on the man with the name, Joseph Pilates, who was born in Germany 1880-1967.

joseph pilates exercise history image

As a child he suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever and this early fierce reaction to illness encouraged him to dedicate his entire life to becoming physically stronger.

In his youth he studied and became proficient at numerous sports and at age 14 he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts.

You could say the Pilates exercise history began during WWI where Joseph rehabilitated numerous patients in a World War I internment camp with his corrective exercises using a system of springs and pulleys rigged right up to their beds.

Following the war in 1926 he immigrated to the United States.

Pilates exercise history in the United States started at an exercise studio in New York City where Joseph became quite popular within the dance community.

He rehabilitated many of the dancers who were suffering from injuries due to their intense training with his very controlled and exacting movements later to be called “Pilates”.


"Pilates develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit." Joseph Pilates


Find out how Pilates studied animals and used their balance and form to design some of his movements here is this Pilates and Animals article.

The Pilates Method is unique in that it systematically exercises all the muscle groups in the body, the weak as well as the strong.


The Pilates exercises make you stronger, more flexible, and less likely to injure yourself because they re-educate your body to use all of your muscles, not just the superficial ones.

By strengthening the deeper, smaller endurance muscles that are responsible for your inner strength, it takes much of the strain off the larger, more superficial muscles giving them added support.

Concentration and correct breathing are added to the exercises to teach you how to recruit the smaller, supportive muscles.


joseph pilates exercise image


Bottom line:

Less Pain,

Greater Range of Motion,

and Fewer Injuries!


Pilates exercise history actually started on specialized pieces of exercise equipment which Joseph developed himself. The matwork followed later with many similarities to the exercises performed on the equipment.

The Pilates Equipment and Matwork exercises are both very individualized in that all the students can adopt variations and modifications of the exercises to their own abilities.

Pilates combines the suppleness and flexibility you find in yoga as well as the strength building you find in weight training in the gym.

Pilates believed the center of your body, or core should be your focus. The core includes the whole center of your body or trunk from your shoulder blades and ribcage to the base of your pelvis at the gluteal fold.

The core is the place from which all motion originates and then proceeds to the extremities all working in unison not as separate parts.

Ultimately every movement should be initiated by first stabilizing the core of the body which involves contracting the deep abdominal muscles.

Strong abdominals are the key to your body working as a unit.

And so, the Pilates exercise history teaches us the concept of a man who had a vision for the future of controlled exercise that will change the way we move and live!

"Designed to give you suppleness, grace and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, the way you play, and in the way you work." Joseph Pilates


Leave Pilates exercise history and check out the new Pilates DVD for Healthy Back and Joints!




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