Can Pilates Build Muscle? [Here is the Truth!]

Can Pilates Build Muscle
Can Pilates Build Muscle

Pilates is an excellent type of exercise, suitable for almost anyone, but how effective is it and can Pilates build muscle like some other popular activities?

This is actually a common question frequently asked by many beginners who have different reasons to start practicing.

Pilates can build muscles up to a certain point, and by regularly practicing, you can have a healthy and toned body. Strong muscles will also make you stand upright and improve your posture. Even better, Pilates can safely and slowly strengthen your muscles after injuries.

Of course, it all depends on how often you practice it and how your practice looks. This is one of the best things about Pilates, as it can be personalized to meet your needs.

You can activate various muscle groups, and by including some exercises more or less you can influence the final result.

Here I will tell you more about muscle building with Pilates and what can you expect from it.

What Muscle Groups Do Pilates Work?

What muscles do Pilates work depends on you. There are dozens of various exercises for all muscle groups including core, upper and lower legs, upper body like back and shoulders, and your arms too.

Exercises will also activate deep abdominal and pelvic muscles which are often ignored by many other forms of exercise.

Practice can be done on a mat without props, or with simple props like Pilates ring, stability ball, elastic bands, bars and similar. Those who are up for a challenge and want to increase muscle activation can always join a reformer class.

Pilates muscles worked during specific practice can be chosen by you or your Pilates instructor. Mainly, focus is on core muscles as those groups are most important for posture.

Many clients go to classes because of upper back pain and similar problems. If that is the case, those muscles are going to be worked more to resolve this specific issue.

The beauty of Pilates lies in the fact that exercises are low impact, highly effective, and can target any muscle group in your body.

Can You Build Muscles With Pilates?

Can you build muscle with Pilates is a common question because the activity looks very slow and easy. But, that is far from truth.

Pilates focuses on breathing and doing every motion in controlled way. That may look easy, but it is actually harder than you would imagine. Those motions will activate your muscles a lot, and that activation will result in muscle building.

If you want to speed up this process, you can use props to add more resistance and make your workout more challenging.

But, of course, you will not have a body like someone who is professional weightlifter. Pilates will create lean and toned muscles, but will not add a lot of mass and bulk. Because of this, it is ideal for athletes like runners who want to activate muscle groups that they are not activating when performing other activities.

Besides, with increasing strength and improving posture, you are actually stabilizing your joints and reducing the possibility of all kinds of injuries.

Can Pilates Build Muscle - Ball
Can Pilates Build Muscle – Ball

Will Reformer Pilates Build Muscles?

Pilates muscles worked while doing various types of Pilates are the same although the process may look different. Reformers, chairs, towers, and all other classes will help you build muscles.

The difference between mat class and reformer class is that reformer will help you build muscles faster. It adds resistance to your motion and requires more balance. While doing balance exercises you are activating deep muscle groups which help you hold a certain pose.

All of this together has beneficial effect on muscle growth and even weight loss. Of course, being healthy is the main advantage of exercising, but looking good and seeing some positive changes is also great!

If you wish to build muscles with Pilates, find a local studio that has reformer classes and talk to your instructor about your goals. If there are specific groups of muscles you want to build, personalized exercise plans can be done. Also, your instructor will estimate your fitness level and plan accordingly.

Reformer is mostly oriented towards core muscles and deep abdominal muscles, but there are plenty of exercises for other muscle groups too.

How Much Muscle Can I Build With Pilates?

Can you build muscle with Pilates is answered, so now I have to tell you how much muscles will you build with Pilates? As already mentioned, Pilates will not transform you into a body builder.

If you are interested in looks improvement, the good news is that Pilates, with regular practice, will visibly transform and build your muscles. They will look toned and elongated, and your appearance will be very athletic.

If you are wondering will your muscles build enough to change your health, the answer is also YES. Pilates will build your muscles enough to change your posture and add stability to your joints. This is an excellent long-term effect and as you are getting older, this is very important.

First results can be felt and seen after a few weeks, but after a few months you will have a different body.

Of course, your lifestyle and diet have a great influence on this, and it is important to eat healthy. And of course, the exercises you perform will determine muscle gain. Intense training with props or on a reformer will build more muscles than a beginner’s mat class.

What Type of Pilates is Best for Muscle Gain?

So, will Pilates build muscle differently depending on a type of Pilates? As already mentioned …

YES, it will! If you wish to gain muscle, and that is the main goal of your practice, you should exercise on a reformer. By adding resistance, you are making your muscles work harder and grow faster.

Second-best option is mat workout with props. Elastic bands, rings, and similar items can be extremely helpful here.

Those who wish to practice solely on a mat or at home can also build muscles, but not that fast. Exercising with your own weight has numerous benefits and shouldn’t be underestimated. Besides, you can always include various exercises into your training that will target a specific muscle group you want to build.

Pilates is a full body workout, and the results will show if you are persistent!

Is Pilates Good for Body builders?

Body builders are lifting heavy weights and gaining large muscles while reducing their fat content. Professional body builders have extremely developed and visible muscles, so should they practice Pilates?

YES, they should! But not for building muscles!

Pilates can help the appearance by trimming the waistline and elongating the muscles. Also, some smaller and deeper muscles are not activated by regular weightlifting exercises. Pilates can change that so that you do not skip any muscle group. It helps you develop your strength evenly.

Large muscle mass can also reduce flexibility, and body builders can benefit from stretching, which is an important part of Pilates practice.

Body builders will gain the most benefits from reformer classes. Although it may not be as challenging as lifting heavy weights it can even be seen as a form of “active rest” where your muscles are working but are not under huge loads. It is also great for recovery between hard practices, and it will increase range of motion, which is something that body builders shouldn’t ignore.

Can Pilates Build Muscle - Athlete
Can Pilates Build Muscle – Athlete


Now you know can Pilates build muscle. This versatile exercise has many benefits besides muscle building, and those are healthy posture, improvement in your cardiovascular system, stronger joints, and increased stamina. If you are recovering from any kind of injuries, Pilates can help you, but make sure to consult your doctor first.

However, you shouldn’t ignore psychological benefits that come with physical activity. Pilates is equally important for both body and mind.

Now when you finished reading it is time to start practicing!

By Sina

My name is Sina, and since young age, I have been passionate about sports. This website is a result of it, and my goal is to share my experience with all of you. Read more about me ....