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We’ve all seen the ads for Pilates training at the local fitness center, which is increasing the workout’s popularity. But at the same time, the raging debate of ‘Pilates vs. weight training’ is asking all the real questions.

Toned and beautiful women strengthening their core with intense Pilates exercises is enough to get you motivated and attend a Pilates class, but what about weight training?

We’re just as baffled by the discussions as you are, so we decided to find out which is better.

We’ll assess whether Pilates or weight training is good for developing strength, and which one will work for you.

women sitting on floor in gym

What’s in Strength Training?

Before we get into the complex discussion about whether Pilates or weight training is best, let’s cover the ‘strength training’ part.

You’ve heard of aerobic exercise, which is casually referred to as ‘cardio,’ to improve your heart rate and breathing levels. Strength training, on the other hand, involves using resistance to work muscles of various parts of the body.

This enhances skeletal muscles’ strength, endurance, and size.

How do People Strength Train?

So, the main core of strength training is ‘contracting’ different muscles to develop their size and endurance but how can this be achieved?

It’s a common misconception that you need weights for strength training when you can actually perform resistance exercises without any equipment.

Weight training with free weights, like dumbbells and barbells, is part of strength training. On the other hand, exercises, like squats, pushups, lunges, and abdominal crunches, help in developing your body’s resistance.

You can also opt to enhance your strength training workout by using resistance equipment, like tubes or bands with squats, kicks, or arm curls.

What’re the Benefits of Strength Training?

Completing a couple of high-intensity strength training workout session each week can do wonders to improve your health.

Get Low Fat Level and Higher Muscle Mass

Naturally, your body tends to lose muscle mass as it grows older. However, practicing different strength training exercises can help reverse this process to maintain a healthy muscle to fat ratio.

Achieve Better Balance

Although not all strengthening exercises improve balance equally, it’s true that they do so to a certain extent. This can reduce a person’s risk of sustaining injuries due to falling.

Practice Better Weight Control

Having more muscle as compared to fat allows your body to burn more calories naturally. So, when you strength train to get more muscle, it becomes easier to control your weight.

Achieve More Flexibility

Some variations of strength training help maintain and improve joint flexibility. In the long term, this prevents arthritis symptoms from getting severe.

Strengthens Bones

Increasing endurance and muscle strength develop your bone density. This reduces your risk of getting fractures due to falls and other reasons.

women strenght training

Keeping a Consistent Diet?

When we covered weight loss, a topic that’s always popular, we discussed how your diet matters greatly if you want to lose weight. It turns out that the same applies if you want to gain muscle.

Strength training is a lot about consuming a diet comprising nutrient-rich foods and eating the right portions of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.

While fats supply your body with energy during the resting process, carbohydrates are a necessary energy source for tough workouts, while protein helps repair damaged muscles and tissues after you work out.

Although weight loss diets often call for cutting out fats or carbohydrates from your diet, don’t leave these out from your strength training routine because of their role in building muscle.

What’s the Difference between Pilates and Weight Training for Strength?

So both workouts are uniquely developed for building strength, but what’s the difference, and which one is better?

For starters, Pilates workouts don’t need equipment, while weight training does. However, if you plan on using only Pilates exercises to develop strength, it’s important to use resistance equipment, like a magic circle.

Secondly, weight training is a much older method used to develop muscle mass as compared to Pilates. People in ancient Greece relied on heavyweights to create better bone density, while Joseph Pilates created his famous mat workout in the 1920s.

Which One Builds More Muscle?

Technically speaking, both Pilates and weight training work different muscles and build their endurance.

Weight training can help you maintain a better body fat to muscle ratio, i.e. build more muscle. This is due to the fact that you’re using the resistance of heavyweights, while Pilates develops your body weight’s resistance against the pull of gravity.

Having more muscle increases your resting metabolism, allowing you to burn calories even while sleeping.

This explains why weight trainers generally have low body fat levels, despite only working for about three days a week.

women training in gym

Comparatively, Pilates works to burn calories at a modest and slower rate since it’s a low impact exercise routine. However, a benefit for women who practice Pilates instead of weight training to build strength is that Pilates targets specific areas of the body.

Lifting weights work most of the muscles of your body together, which could mean bad news for women who don’t want to add more muscle to certain areas. Pilates workouts comprise a variety of different exercises, each of which can help you build muscle mass in specific parts of the body.

Which One is the Best for Me?

So we’ve determined that both weight training and Pilates are excellent ways to build muscle and strength. But how do we know which exercise is the best for us?

Want More Overall Muscle Mass

For women looking to increase overall muscle mass, weight training is the ideal option. Many women can’t seem to gain weight due to genetic reasons or a stressful lifestyle.

In this case, weight training is a steady way to gradually increase muscle mass in the arms, legs, and abdomen.

This gives their bodies a toned and strong look.

Want to Gain Muscle in Less Time

You could go to the gym and strength train regularly to meet your muscle building goals. However, it’s important to remember that your body needs at least 48 hours of rest before you head to the gym for a strength training session, no matter if you weight train or take a Pilates class.

Both exercises work your muscles intensely, so straining your body by training every day can be counterproductive.

Since there’s no strength training exercise you can do more times a week, it’s best to stick with weight training if you want to develop stronger muscles in less time.

Nonetheless, we think this is rarely the case with strength training, so stick with something and go at your own pace.

Want to Tone a Few Specific Muscles of My Body

For many women, having a completely muscular body isn’t the goal. Instead, they want toned arms, legs, and abdominal muscles. This choice is what makes Pilates such an exceptional workout routine – it comprises different exercises you can practice to target and contract muscles.

Remember that if you are only practicing Pilates for strength training, use resistance equipment, like a Pilates circle, to boost your strength training.

Want Better Flexibility and Balance

We mentioned how strength training of all types improves flexibility and balance to a certain extent, but when it comes to Pilates vs. weight training, Pilates will win. A Pilates class allows your body to take up several different positions, which improves balance and flexibility consistently.

Want to Strength Train at Home

Strength training is best done at a studio or gym, in the presence of a trainer, but if it comes down to necessity, you can practice weight training or Pilates at home. Dumbbells aren’t very difficult to buy, and it only takes a mat and magic circle to practice a Pilates workout.

However, Pilates exercise routes are safer to perform at home because of the predictability, as compared to weight training.

Plus, there are some great options for taking your Pilates training to the next level even at home. A look at our top choices for best pilates reformer machines will tell you how.

women doing pilates

Practicing Pilates and Weight Training Together

Some of us may have determined which strength training exercise best suits our situation, but others are interested in adding them both to their strength training routine. This leads us to the question:

Can I practice Pilates and weight training together?

The answer?

Yes, you can incorporate both workout routines into your weekly workout. In fact, there are multiple benefits that one exercise has on the other. It doesn’t matter if your main workout includes Pilates or weight training, one will benefit the other.

Not so fast, though, there’s a catch. You can’t practice both activities on the same day, because this will strain your body, prevent it from healing worn tissues and repairing worn muscles. Also, make sure to give your body a 48-hour rest period before strength training again.


Strength training is beneficial for your body, so it’s great that you’re finally getting around to adding it to your workout routine.

But if you’re confused by the whole Pilates vs. weight training debate, don’t be. Just evaluate your needs and convenience to find which is best for you.

If you can’t decide, how about trying both? It’ll be exciting to add variety.

emma lynn

Hi, I’m Emma Lynn

I’m a proud mother of two wonderful children and a wife to a loving, affectionate husband. I enjoy exercise – yoga (yes, I teach yoga as well), running, and going to different fitness classes from time to time.

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