The Pilates method originated in the first quarter of the 20th century. Initially used for rehabilitation, it developed into a universal training approach.
Joseph Hubertus Pilates, born in 1880 in Mönchengladbach, suffered from rheumatism and asthma as a child. Due to the experience with his illnesses, he was looking for a training method that strengthens the body without overstraining it. In addition to the classic German gymnastics, he practiced boxing, yoga and Asian martial arts.
Working as a German citizen in England, he was interned during the First World War. As carer of wounded veterans he developed broader experience using his method. Using springs, which he screwed to beds, he created his first training equipment. The targeted movements in combination with intensive breathing led to fascinating successes.
In 1926 he emigrated to New York and later opened his own studio. His method was especially well received among actresses and dancers. For example, Martha Graham and George Balanchine were among his clientele. He consequently published two books in which he presented his method to a broad public.
Joseph Pilates’ objective was to offer a training method that can be practiced by all regardless of age and physical condition. He developed a series of exercises to be done on a mat, as well as his own training equipment. All his life, Pilates remained a handsome man who practiced numerous sports. In 1967 he died of pulmonary emphysema.
In the 1980s, the Pilates method was integrated into medical rehabilitation. The exercise apparatus developed by Pilates have been adapted. The apparatus – the classic is the “Universal Reformer” – differ from conventional training devices. At the beginning of the training, they facilitate movements that couldn’t be carried out independently without difficulty or pain. Only in later training phases is resistance built into the movements to further promote muscle development.