Clinical Pilates vs. Studio Pilates—Which Type of Pilates is Best For You?

clinical pilates vs. studio pilates

By: Cristi Eid, Sarton Physical Therapy Pilates Instructor

So, you have been told about the body-strengthening benefits of Pilates.

But, which type of Pilates should you choose?

Below we are going to break down the importance of considering two factors in order to determine the safest and most effective Pilates session for you: the condition that your body is currently in, and your skill level.

Clinical Pilates

In general, clinical pilates is mostly a one-on-one practice with the pilates instructor having specialized skills in movement for various (often medical) conditions.

For example, as a Pilates instructor at Sarton Physical Therapy, my teaching focus is on pelvic floor dysfunction. There are several contraindications for specific exercises that may exacerbate the dysfunction, rather than heal it. Not all Pilates is good Pilates, depending on your unique medical history.

For example, let’s say you have a pelvic prolapse. If this were the case, doing forward flexion in the 100's (a standard pilates exercise for the core) presses down on the diaphragm, thus pressing down on the organ that is prolapsing. This will continue the discomfort and effects of the prolapse, often times making it worse.

The same can be seen with urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence affects four out of every ten women, one out of every ten men, and 17 percent of children under the age of 15. Additionally, 28 percent of male and female athletes between 18 to 21 years old experience stress incontinence. Pregnant women are also at a higher risk for urinary incontinence because their pelvic floor muscles and the pudendal nerve are significantly stretched during pregnancy.

There are many types of pilates specialties. Pilates for Neurological Conditions is a big one that comes to mind. If a person has Essential Tremor, MS, Parkinson's, Stroke or TBI, then trying to keep up with the coordination required in a group class can be demotivating as the brain is not processing the movement the same way as a non effected brain would. This can then lead to other injuries, and can be frustrating on the morale.

It really becomes about ownership over your own body and knowing what is right for you.

Studio Pilates

A pilates instructor in certain studio settings may not have the knowledge base on how to best rehabilitate pelvic floor issues. In these settings, participants typically seek out Pilates for fitness goals, rather than rehab goals. Often in a studio setting, group classes are offered, in which case it can be more difficult to modify based on several individual needs.

Many of our patients will start with 1-on-1 pelvic floor pilates in one of our clinics, where he or she will learn foundational concepts tailored specifically to his or her own body. This can act as a springboard to transition into a studio setting, where they can participate in a variety of classes.


Want to learn more about our Pilates program?

We want to encourage you to get evaluated by one of our outstanding physical therapists, and regain control of your life. Pelvic pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, back pain, tailbone pain—you name it—these conditions do not have to control your life. There is hope. Call us today to book an appointment for 1 of our 3 Southern California locations, or inquire about a virtual, online treatment session.

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Sarton Physical Therapy and its affiliates recommend that you contact your physician before participating in any physical therapy, exercise or fitness related programs. Learn More.