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Is Yoga or Pilates Better for Your Body than Weights?


QnA weights_yoga

Reader Alissa Malden asks:

“Hi there. I’m looking to get back into exercise and I was wondering which is better yoga, pilates or weights for your body.”

Sigrid de Castella – ‘Half the Woman I Was’ Author, Speaker and Health and Business Coach

Having practiced yoga for several years, lately I’ve found it essential to do so more regularly. I’ve tried core-strengthening Pilates, preferring Reformer, but it’s just not my bag, baby. Instead my 35-minute Hatha yoga routine provides me with all I need – resistance training, stretching and meditation all-in-one-session. And having recently being diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, this complete mind-body discipline is now at the core of my recovery program.

So is yoga, or Pilates for that matter, more important than weights? Pumping iron, as it used to be called, has seen quite a revolution over the years. No longer an exclusive club for Arnie wannabe’s, resistance training (RT) is seen as a vital way to maintain a high quality of life, particularly in the elderly.

The truth is I also incorporate some RT into my exercise routine. Studies have shown that as we grow older our bodies become less efficient at building muscle mass and our muscles tend to shrink. Less muscle mass means not only a loss of strength, but it also dramatically increases the likelihood of injuries from falling. RT is the best way to prevent muscle waste and maintain life-long strength.

Remember that tight young butt or perky chest you had when you were young? Odds are unless you’ve been pushing weights they’ve become a little saggy over time. But the good news is that much of this sag is reversible with three 20-minute sessions a week. See your local personal trainer to develop a safe and tailored resistance training program for the best results.

But, if you could only choose one, which is more important?

For me it’s yoga – a physical, mental, and spiritual practice dating back thousands of years which incorporates the benefits of resistance training. But it’s not for the feint hearted. Anyone who’s done an intensive yoga session knows that you can generate a full-on sweat.

The benefits of yoga are well advertised – improves flexibility, builds muscle strength, corrects posture, maintains your nervous system, boosts your immune system, keeps sickness at bay, boosts sexual performance, improves sleep – and the long list goes on.

Resistance training is great, in fact, I’d recommend you include it in your weekly routine along with some high-intensity cardio or interval training. But if you can only choose one, then go with the flow and embrace yoga.

Sigrid de Castella is an internationally published author, speaker, and coach in the fields of health and business. Her book “Half The Woman I Was – How I lost 70kg naturally, reclaimed my life … and how you can too!” has received international acclaim and has been hailed as the most comprehensive weight loss book on the market. Sigrid has also studied Personal Training with the Fitness Institute Australia and has a keen interest in whole food nutrition, natural therapies and all aspects of physical and mental health. Sigrid and holds a BBA from RMIT University and is a member of both the Australian Institute of Managers and the Australian Society of Authors.

Sigrid logo

Nick Jack – CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Personal Trainer

This is a great question and if you are asking yourself this, then you are already halfway there.

Firstly, there is a multitude of exercises I could list here and many factors to consider, such as posture and prior injury before selecting the right type of exercise. But, without a doubt the biggest bang for your buck will come from weight training. This builds muscle faster and is the best way to increase your metabolic rate, resulting in higher daily energy expenditure.

This means you can burn more energy even at rest.

So, if this is true you want to use the exercises that target the biggest muscle groups  effectively. Bicep curls and tricep dips are just not the greatest choice. Here are my guidelines for selecting flab fighting exercises:

  1. Use free weights or cables.
  2. Complete exercises standing up.
  3. Focus on using leg movements more
  4. Vary your sets and reps.
  5. Do no more than 3 workouts per week.

And the ‘5 Best Flab Fighting Exercises’ that would cover everything you need, are as follows:

  1. Squats – If you are just beginning an exercise program begin with body weight squats and ensure you master the technique and skill of the movement. Then when you are ready to progress you will not get injured from faulty technique. I would recommend either purchasing some equipment or joining a gym so you can have access to some weights. This is important as you want to continually progress with this movement. The squat movement expends huge amounts of energy and gives great muscle gains due to the big muscle groups being involved and the relative timing of all different segments in the body.                                                                                                                                                        
  2. Lunges – Another key leg movement that expends huge energy. Again like the squat get your skill levels right first before progressing to harder more advanced movements. This would be my favourite exercise if I had to choose one as it can be completed in so many different variations.                                                            
  3. Wood-chop – This is a critical exercise to develop as this particular movement carries over into nearly every other movement. This is a full body integration exercise that is using upper body, torso and legs to move a load. Use of medicine balls, cables and barbells are all excellent tools to develop not only a strong core, but help build muscle to your whole body.                                                                                                   
  4. Push ups – To build some muscle into your upper body this is a great choice. Although it is not done standing up it still requires strength from your torso and legs. If you had access to a cable machine I would recommend the standing cable press. This allows you to vary the load making it easier or harder and as it is completed standing up you can mimic real movements to produce a more energy draining effect.                                                                                                                                                                                  
  5. Chin Ups – Usually a very tough exercise for most people, especially females, due to the power to weight ratio. Most gyms have an assisted chin up machine or I use some heavy duty straps to assist my clients. My female clients have a love hate relationship with this exercise. The love the results it gives them, they just hate it at the time. If you don’t have access to a gym visit your local sporting football ground and you will find there is a fence that goes around the outside of the field. Try lying horizontal on the ground and pulling yourself up to the rail. Tough, but more achievable than the vertical pull up.

Try to complete at least 3 sets of 8-12 reps to start with, and then progress accordingly. There are many more great exercises we could include. But, this would give anyone a great start into achieving long term weight loss. An important point to remember is that you must have your nutrition right for any of this to succeed.

Nick Jack is a qualified CHEK Exercise Coach, Level II Holistic Lifestyle Coach and personal trainer. He runs a personal training business called NO Regrets Personal Training.

Nick likes to lift weights, cycle, run and triathlon. He has played almost every sport at one time in his life. Now, he enjoys spending time walking his dog and relaxing with his wife and friends.

Cameron Corish – Personal Trainer, Holistic Lifestyle Coach, and Owner of Core Health Coaching

Firstly, congratulations on getting back into exercise as this will definitely have a positive effect on your health and improve your life. The right path to improved health and fitness is very individual, and I would not like to advise you on how you should go about increasing your level of fitness from a general perspective. This is due to the fact that we are all very different from each other.

For instance, the right exercise for one person to another is very much dependant on a number of key factors, such as:

  • Health background – any medical conditions or injuries to consider.
  • Exercise history – difference between a new starter and an athlete.
  • Reason for break – injury, child birth, long inactivity.
  • Exercise preference – prefer cardio vs strength training.
  • Exercise goal – losing weight, improving posture and function, increasing lean muscle mass and tone, injury rehabilitation or pain reduction.

Each one of your exercise options have some great benefits. These are as follows:

Yoga – the benefits of this ancient discipline are well documented. Although there are many different types of yoga, this form of exercise generally helps with strength, flexibility, balance, reduces stress and aids in body alignment. You do need to consider your exercise goal as some disciplines are excellent for injury rehabilitation and pain reduction like Restorative yoga, whearas Ashtanga Yoga or Bikram Yoga are better for a more physical demanding workout.

Pilates – very much focuses on your core and glute (bottom) function, and is especially excellent for reducing back pain, improving posture, post-partum (after having a baby), and core exercise. Generally, Pilates is considered a low impact exercise which may not result in significant weight loss results.

Weights – is great for toning and building lean muscle mass. Normally you will need a little experience in this area to get the best results, and much like yoga you will need to understand your exercise goal. Weights as a corrective exercise is great for injury rehabilitation, pain reduction and posture correction, whereas high intensity interval training will increase lean muscle mass and tone.

Ultimately, your final decision needs to match up with your exercise and health background, with your exercise preferences and exercise goal.

smIMG_5615Cameron Corish is an experienced and passionate Personal Trainer and Holistic Lifestyle Coach who is committed to making a significant difference in people’s fitness, wellness and happiness. Using a holistic approach to achieve great, long-lasting results, his award-winning team has transformed their clients’ lives.


Sara Colquhoun – Pilates Instructor

How exciting to hear that you are getting back into exercise! Already you’ve made the first step towards better health and a more fulfilling life.

These three forms of exercises are all quite different, but each has really great aspects to them. Before you select one type of exercise over another there are some questions you need to ask yourself, and being honest in this process is the key to your success. The questions are as follows:

  • Have you had or do you currently have any injuries or undiagnosed pain?
  • Do you feel comfortable in big group classes or in a gym environment?
  • What are you aiming to get out of your exercise regime?

Once you have answered these questions it will help you understand what direction is best for you.

My belief is that an exercise program should challenge you physically and mentally, keep you engaged, address the whole body with both strength and mobilization and assist you to get the most out of your everyday life. You also need to enjoy it!

If you are also looking to get all of the above elements out of your workout I think Pilates or yoga may be the way to go for you. Although these methods are very different, they both have a strong focus on Mind/Body connection and enhancing your everyday life through challenging the body and calming the mind.

Yoga classes are great as they challenge you by using your own body weight to create load, strength and flexibility. However, yoga classes are typically large and don’t provide the body with any resistance or a lot of support when needed.

On the other hand, Pilates (if done with a highly qualified instructor), should be in small group classes, privates or duets either on the Reformer beds or in a fully equipped studio that offers individualized programs that are completely tailored to your body and your goals. The great thing about a small group class and a program individually catered to you, is that you progress at your own pace. In addition, the unique Pilates equipment will support and challenge you in ways you never thought possible. This method has a strong focus on activating your deep stabilizing muscles, through movement, to help you move more efficiently and improve your posture.

In comparison to these two methods, weights are very counter-intuitive but for some people they love that sense of power and strength that comes from weight lifting. But, you need to ask yourself if weights are the most functional form of exercise for the body? The answer is, probably not.

The repetitive actions and lack of mobilizing work can cause long-term injuries on the body if they are not done correctly. By all means if this is something you really want to do than my advice would be to balance it out with a tailored Pilates session to help prevent injury and cross-train the body in different ranges of movement.

Overall, pretty much any movement is better than no movement. Hopefully this has helped to give you an insight into which form of exercise may be right for you. Most importantly always aim to seek out a qualified instructor and don’t be afraid to ask them about their training to gain a better understanding of what they do.

Enjoy exercising again.

Sara_3_FullOne of the most accomplished Pilates instructors for her age, Sara Colquhoun has been training in Pilates since the age of 14, and teaching since the age of 17. Her clients include elite AFL players and Australian Ballet dancers.

Sara’s background as a performing artist in dance – attending The Victorian College of the Arts after moving from Sydney at the age of 18 – led her to the natural progression of becoming an instructor. After completing her diploma in dance and performing arts, Sara pursued a career in Pilates under guidance of Pilates International. She is now a faculty educator at National Pilates Training and owns and manages her Aligned for Life studio located on Clarendon Street in South Melbourne.

Throughout her teaching career Sara has trained AFL players from the Western Bulldogs, Australian Ballet dancers, VCA students, Musical theatre performers (Jersey Boys, West Side Story), Cirque de Soleil artists, all the way to radio presenters. Sara’s highlight in her career to date is the recent accolade of winning the international
competition to become the next Pilates Anytime instructor. She is one of the youngest
instructors to join such an elite group of trainers on the site with direct lineage from
founder of the movement, Joseph Pilates. Pilates Anytime is a global platform that has viewers from all around the world who will be watching and performing Sara’s classes.

Instagram and Twitter: @Pilates_Sara | #Pilatesbysara
Website: http://www.saracolquhoun.com (Coming soon)

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Disclaimer: The information published in this column is based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.


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