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7 Things You Didn't Know About Pilates

Pilates Original Name: Contrology

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"Mr. Joe Pilates, the inventor, intended it to be about the art of control, an exercise method where you control your body, mind, and muscles," says Alycea Ungaro, personal trainer and founder of the Real Pilates studio in New York City. The moves he designed focus on core muscles in the "powerhouse" (abs, pelvic floor, lower back), proper alignment of the spine, and awareness of breath.

Mat Moves are Vintage Pilates

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Joe Pilates' original sequence of 34 mat exercises is still going strong in studios nationwide. The hundred, the roll-up, single-leg stretch, double-leg stretch…some of us can recite these in our sleep. "Trends like Yogalates and Piloxing (Pilates-boxing) tend to be short-lived," Ungaro says. "Now I see a return to authentic Pilates, the 34 original mat exercises from soup to nuts."

You Can Do Pilates on a Guillotine… If You Dare

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Besides his mat exercises, Joe Pilates also loved to tinker with gear to design a slew of equipment that goes way beyond the ubiquitous reformer. "He made the original 'magic circle' from the steel bands around beer kegs," Ungaro says. His other devices include the Wunda chair, the Guillotine, the Spine Corrector and the Ped-a-Pull, all found at Real Pilates and many other studios around the country. "If you haven't worked out on these," says Ungaro, "you simply haven't experienced all Pilates has to offer."

One Hour of Pilates Burns Calories All Day Long

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"Resistance training, the essence of Pilates, is scientifically proven to create lean muscle and rev up your metabolism to burn calories all day long," Ungaro explains. "Cardio is great; but the second you hop off the bike or the treadmill, you stop burning calories. With Pilates, the second you're done, you start burning calories."

Every Pilates Move Works the Entire Body

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"I ask my students to take a body scan, head to toe," Ungaro says. "While they do the Hundred, I ask: is your chest lifted? Are your abs pulled in? Are your legs engaged? Every part of your body is recruited into every single exercise." Seems as though Joe Pilates was the original multi-tasker. "Lately I've been asking my students to hold their last reps, to draw out their last movement for three more seconds and to make it their best," Ungaro adds. "This way I can be sure the full-body benefits are carried through to the end."

Visible Seams Can Enhance Your Workout

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"I tell people to wear exercise clothes that have visible seams along the sides or legs," Ungaro says. "The seams act as markers to help make sure your body is in alignment, to make sure you're not leaning forward or back." Active wear without buttons, snaps, or zippers will also help your instructor check your alignment. And if your class includes inversions or saddle stretches, leave the baggy shorts at home!

Celebrities Still Swear by Pilates

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Madonna, Uma Thurman, Kyra Sedgwick, Christy Turlington, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Claire Danes, Molly Sims and Russell Brand all rely on Ungaro for power Pilates. "Edie Falco loves the classic mat exercises," she says. "Christy likes the short spine massage on the Reformer."