Pilates vs. Strength Training: Do You Know Which is Better for Your Body?

Would you agree with me when I say it’s hard to know the best way to exercise for weight loss, improve core strength, or increase muscle growth?

The problem is, with all the different ways exercise can now be done, it can all become too confusing on which is the best for your health and fitness goals. There always seems to be a new exercise that is the next best thing. 

Pilates and strength training are two forms of exercise that are very popular within the fitness community. Both exercise forms have proven beneficial, but which one is better?

In this article, we’ll look at these two forms of exercise so that you can choose wisely which is better for your health and fitness goals. 

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a body weight low-impact exercise designed to strengthen, stretch and balance your body. It was developed in the early 20th century, around the 1920s, by Joseph Pilates. Typically, pilates is performed in two ways – studio or matwork. 

According to Pilates Foundation, the three original principles of pilates were “breath, whole-body health, and whole-body commitment.” It has now traditionally been further divided into six principles:

  1. Breath
  2. Concentration
  3. Centring
  4. Control
  5. Precision
  6. Flow

The aim is to perform full-body movements together in a flowing choreographed sequence to build muscle strength and endurance and improve balance and coordination. However, the aim is limited to developing physical strength and focusing the mind on balanced movement harmonious with breath control, relaxation, and coordination in each body part.

As pilates exercises are low-impact, they can be adapted for all fitness levels, from beginners to the more advanced, with various alternate progressions and regressions of the exercises.

Thus, pilates is universally appealing to all participants from all walks of life, from professional athletes (Instagram post below: Jimmy Butler, NBA Allstar playing for the Miami Heat) who want alternate training methods to help boost their sporting performance to everyday workers who may be looking to improve their fitness.

What is strength training?

Strength training, also known as resistance training, is a form of exercise that focuses on building muscle mass and strength. This type of exercise typically uses resistance such as:

  • Free weights, for e.g., dumbbells and barbells
  • Weight machines, for e.g., leg press machine, hack squat, plate-loaded machines
  • Pulleys, for e.g., cable machines
  • Resistance bands, for e.g., therabands and powerbands
  • Other specialty equipment, for e.g., sandbags, dead balls

The primary goal of strength training is to overload targeted muscles or functional movements of your body progressively. This gradual overloading increases your muscular strength and your muscular endurance.

Strength training is typically performed for many reasons, including:

  • Improving sports performance
  • Reducing injury risks
  • Increasing physical strength
  • Increasing skeletal muscle mass

Alike pilates, when it comes to strength training, it is widely used by people from all walks of life, from professional athletes to everyday people, from those as young as teenagers to older adults. 

Strength training exercises vary from compound-based movements to isolation exercises. Compound exercises are those that utilize multi-joint movements, such as squats and deadlifts, which work for multiple muscle groups at once. Isolation exercises are typically single-joint movements such as bicep curls, triceps extensions, or leg extensions.

What are the benefits of pilates?

As we already know, pilates is an excellent low-impact exercise that can provide many physical and mental health benefits; some of these include:

  • Improved core strength
  • Increased flexibility and range of motion
  • Improved posture and balance
  • Increased muscle tone and strength
  • Improved concentration and focus
  • Enhanced coordination and control
  • Helps with stress management
  • It helps to increase energy levels naturally
  • Improved cardiovascular fitness and overall wellness.

Pilates has been demonstrated to provide several benefits, including the ability to increase muscle strength without over-taxing your body. Pilates leads to little discomfort or injury, unlike other strenuous forms of exercise and challenging interval-style training.

Another critical benefit of pilates is its ability to build your core strength. Improving your core strength will improve posture and positively impact your performance in other physical activities such as running, swimming, and cycling.

Pilates can also help improve your breathing mechanics by emphasizing inhale/exhale dynamics throughout different exercises and movements. With all the stressors that life can throw at us, it can help reduce anxiety, manage stress, and improve concentration levels, leading to increased energy and overall well-being.

Increasing awareness and improving your breathing mechanics with pilates allows you to become more adept and relaxed during challenging moments or stressful periods.

Pilates offers many physical and mental health benefits, like improved core strength and posture and balance, better stress coping mechanisms, self-awareness, and breath control. Ultimately, pilates can help you create an overall atmosphere of relaxation that harmonizes your body and mind.

What are the benefits of strength training?

As we have discussed, strength training is a form of exercise that trains your muscles in a progressively overloading manner using resistance of different forms such as free weights, machines, and resistance bands. 

The benefits of strength training are numerous, including:

  • It improves muscular strength due to the loads placed on the muscles.
  • It increases metabolism and helps burn more calories, leading to increased fat loss.
  • It reduces injury risk by strengthening ligaments and tendons that support muscles and joint structures. 
  • It improves balance and coordination.
  • Helps increase bone density due to the stress placed on bones whilst lifting weights.
  • It improves postural strength due to stronger core muscles
  • Improves overall fitness level due to increased muscular power and endurance.
  • Assists in improving self-esteem and confidence in physical activities such as sports or other activities where strength may be tested or needed.

Overall, strength training has numerous benefits for anyone wanting to improve their overall health and fitness level. It can help build muscle mass, increase muscular endurance levels, and reduce the risk of injury in everyday activities. In addition, it can help boost morale through increased self-esteem and confidence. 

Now that we know what pilates and strength training are and their benefits let’s uncover some comparisons. 

Pilates vs. strength training: how are they different?

As we already know, pilates and strength training are two distinct types of exercise that promote health and fitness. Though they may have some similarities, it is essential to be aware of the differences when choosing to include them in your training. We will highlight three key differences.

Required Load

One of the critical differences between pilates and strength training is their approach to the required weight and load to attain their benefit.

Strength training emphasizes the progressive overload principle and uses traditional weight training or resistance training on specific muscle groups to promote muscle gain and improve muscle strength and endurance.

Strength training often requires lifting moderate to heavy weights whilst performing repetitions of a particular movement or series of movements to achieve its adaptation.

Pilates workouts, on the other hand, are low-impact exercises with a holistic approach that focuses on your breath, body, and mind to master forms of movement.

Unlike strength training, pilates requires you to use only your body or very light weights during workouts. 


Another difference between pilates and strength training is the typical setting and environment in which they are performed.

Strength training is usually done in a gym or fitness center, requiring access to special gym equipment such as a squat rack, bench press, free weights, and cable machines.

Whereas pilates can be done in a studio or in the comfort of your home with minimal equipment, just a pilates mat. Typically, pilates classes that are performed in the studio use expensive equipment such as the pilates reformer.

Targeted Muscles

The third difference between pilates and strength training is the targeted muscle groups.

Strength training can focus on isolating specific muscle groups, such as the chest, back, arms, and legs. Alternatively, it can also train the entire body through compound movements. 

Pilates, on the other hand, targets all major muscle groups in your body while emphasizing core strength and stability. It also improves posture, flexibility, and balance whilst building the mind-body connection. 

Pilates vs. strength training: which is better for weight loss?

Weight loss requires a multi-faceted approach to be successful and sustainable. Both pilates and strength training offers unique benefits when it comes to burning fat and losing weight, but the two modalities should be considered more complementary than competitive.

A critical difference between the two forms of exercise is how they affect your metabolic rate. Metabolic rate is one of the critical factors when trying to lose weight.

Strength training has been proven to increase your metabolic rate more than pilates, as it requires you to lift heavier weights and perform more intense movements. Strength training typically involves compound movements such as squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.

These exercises that work your entire body help you to build lean muscle mass, leading to an increase in metabolism during recovery. As a result, it helps you lose weight, burn fat faster, and step closer to your beach body. 

On the other hand, pilates is a low-impact workout that focuses on improving your body’s flexibility and coordination. It is not as intense as strength training, but it still helps you to burn calories.

Pilates training can also help you build lean muscle mass, however, at a slower rate than strength training due to the smaller amount of stress placed on your muscles. Although strength training significantly impacts your metabolism, promotes muscle gain, and better assists with weight loss, not everyone will find lifting weights enjoyable and sustainable. 

Therefore, when answering the question – which is better for weight loss? – both of these exercise types can help you lose weight. It all comes down to what you will be able to enjoy and sustain. 

Pilates vs. strength training: which is better for bone density?

As you should now know, pilates is a low-impact, mind-body exercise program, while strength training focuses on building muscle through resistance exercises.

Due to the differences in intensity and muscle stress, research has found that each method may have unique benefits regarding bone density.

When it comes to increasing bone density, strength training has been found to be more effective than pilates.

Strength training exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses place greater stress on your bones than on pilates. This increased stress helps to stimulate the production of new bone cells, leading to an increase in bone density.

Pilates can also help to improve your bone density from more of a preventative approach rather than enhancement. 

Unlike weight lifting, which typically shortens muscle fibers and increases tension in your skeletal system, pilates works with elongated (stretch) movements that help maintain healthy joint stability while focusing on overall balance within your body.

Therefore, pilates can also benefit people at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis by preventing or slowing down any loss or deterioration of bone density.

Overall, comparing pilates vs. strength training for improving bone density, strength training will generally produce better results due to its ability to target specific muscle groups with an overload stimulus versus the low impact of pilates.

However, pilates has been shown to help reduce bone density loss, which can help you if you’re not into lifting weights. 

Key Takeaways

When it comes down to the question – which is better for your body? – pilates and strength training have proven beneficial for your health and fitness.

Despite their differences, they both have a place in one’s lifestyle and should both be incorporated, if possible, to help complement each other. 

In summary, the key takeaways are:

  • Pilates is a low-impact exercise suitable for everyone looking to improve core strength, flexibility, breath control, and stress management.
  • Strength training focuses on utilizing the progressive overload principle to help build muscle strength and endurance.
  • Both offer unique benefits to your health and quality of life.
  • Regarding weight loss and reducing body fat, strength training is superior to pilates due to its influence on your metabolic rate.
  • Strength training significantly impacts increasing body density due to the stress on muscles and bones.
  • Pilates has a preventative role in the loss of bone density.
  • If possible, both should be included to complement and compound their benefits.
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