Revealing the Mystery of Pilates: Pilates FAQs and Common Pilates Questions

Although Pilates has been around for 60+ years, many people still don’t really know what it is, or how it’s different from yoga. Most don’t know there is sophisticated equipment for Pilates, and if they do know this, they’re possibly a little terrified of it. So, I’m here to reveal the mystery of Pilates with some common FAQs. Keep reading to learn what you’d get from a Reformer class, or understand why this is the best exercise methodology for your body!

  • Can a beginner join a reformer class?  

The reformer classes at Fairfax Pilates are multi-level; however we recommend anyone who is new to fitness or to Pilates begin with a Welcome package (at minimum). The welcome package includes 3 private lessons so you have the opportunity to meet different teachers, familiarize yourself with the equipment, discuss your goals, learn modifications and more. These three short workouts will also enable you to experience Pilates over time so you know how your body responds to the movement.

While the teachers do a great job teaching to all students in every class, there’s a better chance of a positive experience if you know what you’re doing!  If you join a class and don’t feel a challenge, you’re probably not doing it correctly! In order to get the most from any reformer class, we recommend coming in with a little practice.

  • Are all pilates studios the same? 

The market is saturated with mediocre studios and unfortunately, most people don’t know the difference; especially if you’re new to Pilates. Here are a couple of tips to spot the good ones:

  • There are 6 or fewer machines in a group class setting. If they are packing people into a small room, it’s quantity over quality. Period.
  • They have all of the equipment; Cadillac, Reformer, Chair and Ladder Barrel. Look for a variety of professional props like cushions, flex-bands, rotational discs, small barrels, balls and rings.
  • The teachers are FULLY CERTIFIED by an accredited school.  Top schools like STOTT Pilates, Romana’s Pilates, Peak Pilates, BASI, Balanced Body, Polestar and Fletcher Pilates have complete curriculums and produce teachers who are knowledgeable and safe to work with (in most instances). If your teacher was certified online, or via some training institute that originated from their studio, I’d look elsewhere.
  • Your first session should involve a discussion about your goals and limitations, health history or injuries.
  • The equipment and studio should be in excellent condition. Look for tears on the upholstery and dirty machines! Cleaning is critical and shows that the teachers care about the studio, the safety of its staff and clients. If there are tears in the upholstery, it’s an indicator that they likely aren’t doing proper maintenance, or possibly even maintaining continuing education! Where one area slacks, it often carries over to other areas!

These are the basic requirements to ensure you’re in good hands, but you’ll also need to see the space, meet the teachers, meet the students and see where you fit in. Choose a studio that makes you feel comfortable and welcome.

  • Will pilates help me lose weight? 

Pilates alone will not serve in weight loss. That said, nothing “alone” will do this besides proper nutrition. Pilates supports weight loss goals by creating lean muscle that burns calories while the body is resting. There’s  no magic formula for weight loss – you’ve got to eat right and exercise smart. Contrary to popular belief, excessive cardio is NOT the best way to lose weight. You’ll need to build muscle to burn fat, and Pilates will certainly help with that!

  • Will I be sore after pilates?

It depends. Sometimes you’ll be sore in bizarre places – this is a good sign that you’re recruiting those tiny target muscles!! Other times you’ll be surprised that you’re NOT sore like you thought. During sessions, your body will fatigue and the burn will set in hard, but then you won’t be sore at all like you thought. Pilates doesn’t tear any muscles like traditional weight training, so often, there is minimal to no recovery time needed, and little soreness also!

  • Can men do pilates? 

If you think Pilates is only for beautiful women with ballerinas’ bodies, you’re probably not alone.

But you — and everyone else who buys into that narrow line of thinking — are wrong. Despite this common misconception, Pilates can be a great workout for everyone. The practice incorporates all the elements of healthy physical movement: breath, posture, strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility. Guys need to be able to move, too, so beards and chest hair are just as welcome and encouraged in the studio as yoga pants.

Let’s not forget that Pilates was created by a “manly man” who was experienced in martial arts and boxing. It was originally created for men, by a man. Not sure where that got lost in translation.


  • Why does Mat pilates hurt my back? 

Please accept my candid-ness, but you were probably doing it wrong. Mat Pilates is HARD! If it’s easy, you’re probably doing it wrong; and if it hurts your back, you’re definitely doing it wrong! Our bodies are super smart, and will use the strongest muscles that require the least exertion for all movement. Since Pilates specifically targets small, deep muscles, we often unknowingly use bigger muscles to get the job done. Unfortunately, those big muscles are often across our lower backs.

We recommend starting a Pilates routine on the Reformers, rather than the mat, so that your body can feel how to do movements properly, while triggering the target muscle groups safely. Once you’ve mastered the movements with support from the springs, you can hop over to the mat!

As a rule of thumb, Pilates should NEVER cause back pain. Make sure you work with a qualified teacher to ensure you’re in good hands and are learning proper techniques!