Which is better gym or Pilates?




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When it comes to improving your health and wellness, you may be wondering whether you should visit the gym or a Pilates studio. Like running on a treadmill, some exercises can be strenuous on your joints and muscles. And while some methods can be more beneficial than others, it can sometimes be challenging to know which one best suits your needs. 

If you want to lose weight faster, build muscular strength and endurance, gym is the way to go. However, if you’re looking to focus on core strength, stability, coordination, and mind-body balance, Pilates is the best option.

If you’re having trouble deciding which form of exercise is suitable for you, this article will help you find out what option is better when it comes to gym and Pilates. Read on for a deeper discussion on the differences between Pilates and Gym.

Gym vs. Pilates: The Differences

Below is a table summarizing the key differences between gym and Pilates.





  • Improved Flexibility

  • Improved Posture

  • Stamina

  • Improved balance

  • Coordination

  • Weight Loss

  • Muscular Strength

  • Muscular Endurance


  • Mat

  • Resistance bands

  • Small hand weights

  • Reformer

  • Ladder Barrel

  • Barbells

  • Dumbbells

  • Treadmills

  • Ellipticals


Low-intensity; you don’t lose weight fast, but it improves body flexibility and strengthens core muscles.

Ranges from medium to high-intensity; you burn calories at a faster rate, which helps in weight loss.


  • Centering

  • Alignment

  • Precision

  • Breath Flow

  • Weight Lifting

  • Bench Pressing

  • Crunches

  • Squats

Let’s explore each element a little further.

Pilates Overview

Pilates is a form of exercise that focuses on core strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. The exercises are performed in a series of movements that focus on strengthening the muscles of the back, abdomen, arms, legs, shoulders, neck, and spine.  You don’t need to be at a high fitness level, there are lots of exercise programs aimed at beginners just getting started on their fitness journey.

Let’s take a look at some of the key elements of Pilates.

Improved Flexibility 

Improving your flexibility is a hallmark of Pilates. Increased flexibility equals more freedom of movement, which can help you prevent injuries. Pilates focuses on strengthening and stretching the core muscles in your body, which gives you better overall strength, balance, and flexibility. 

It also makes it easier to perform daily tasks such as tying shoelaces, bending down to pick up a child, or playing your favorite sports. Pilates stretches all the major muscle groups and improves flexibility in the hips, back, hamstrings and shoulders.

Improved Posture

Through a series of carefully selected exercises, Pilates will work the postural muscles that support the spine and pelvis, including those in the abdomen and lower back. This enables you to stand taller and straighter. 

By focusing on proper alignment, breathing techniques, and concentration during movement, you’ll find that you become more aware of how you sit, stand, and move throughout the day.


Pilates helps you develop a more efficient breathing pattern with good posture and support. This allows you to increase your oxygen intake and prevent the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the body. Aerobic exercise uses oxygen to produce energy, so it is essential to breathe deeply and efficiently to provide sufficient oxygen for the muscles. 

Merely breathing better in everyday life will help increase your stamina and keep you energized throughout your day.

Improved Balance

Pilates focuses on improving your muscles’ elasticity and joint mobility through stretching and strengthening. These are important factors in maintaining your balance. 

Pilates is not just about building strength, though. It also requires you to focus on controlling your body and movements, which means that while working out, you must concentrate fully on what you are doing. This total control over your body helps improve your balance.


Pilates’ critical element in improving your coordination focuses on the mind-body connection. This connection must be strong for you to perform Pilates moves correctly and in everyday activities such as walking or sitting down. 

It is excellent for improving coordination and balance because it requires you to work both your mind and body simultaneously. Pilates requires constant concentration, so you must control each movement with precision and grace.

Gym Overview

The term gym describes a place where people go to exercise. There are many different types of gyms, such as fitness centers, health clubs, and personal training studios.

Fitness centers are usually large spaces with lots of equipment. They often offer group classes, personal trainers, and nutrition counselling. Health clubs are smaller than fitness centers, and they typically focus on one type of workout, such as cardio or strength training. Personal training studios are similar to health clubs, but they focus on individual workouts.

Here are the common elements of these establishments.

Weight Loss

Weight loss comes down to two things: burning more calories than you take in and building muscle mass, so you burn more calories even at rest. The gym is one of the best places for both things to happen because it has equipment that allows for resistance training and cardiovascular workouts.

Resistance training with weights works for major muscle groups; from your biceps and triceps (arms) to your calves and hamstrings (legs). Muscle is metabolically active tissue. That means it takes more energy to maintain than fat tissue does. 

The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn at rest and during exercise. Resistance training also burns calories during workouts, making it doubly effective for fat loss.

Cardio machines like treadmills and stationary bikes are great tools for burning calories quickly, which is helpful if you need to drop some weight fast.

Muscular Strength

The term muscular strength alludes to the optimal force a muscle can produce in one effort. To achieve muscular strength, you need to participate in some form of resistance training. This resistance can come from your body weight (as in push-ups or squats), elastic bands, or weights (such as dumbbells or barbells).

Muscular Endurance 

The benefits of using the gym are many, and muscular endurance is one of the major ones. You’ll also experience a greater range of motion, improved bone density, and better joint health. 

And as your strength increases, you’ll find daily activities become much easier. 

Increasing muscle mass improves muscular endurance because larger muscles have greater stamina than smaller ones. When you train with weights, you make your muscles work harder than usual by lifting relatively heavy loads. As a result, they grow more significant and robust to meet the increased demands.

Pilates Equipment

One of the things I love about Pilates is it gives you a full-body workout just using your own body weight, you don’t need to use any equipment.  However, introducing equipment can also introduce variety and challenge, here are some of the most common items I use with my clients.


The most basic Pilates equipment is the mat. The mat makes it easier to perform many exercises because it provides added support for your spine and helps you maintain proper form. 

It is effortless to start practicing Pilates with just the mat. You don’t have to worry about adjusting or setting up anything. Just spread out your mat on the floor and start doing the exercises. 

Resistance Bands

These simple looking bands may not look much, but they can increase the physical activity of your routine a lot.  The stretchy bands increase how hard you have to work and help strengthen muscles and tone up. They are one of the most popular fitness tools available.

Small Hand Weights

To give the upper body an additional challenge I’ll add in a set of small hand weights.  These are very light weight, you could just as easily used tinned food cans, but that additional load can help build muscle strength.


The reformer adds resistance to your movements so you can make them more challenging while still focusing on form. It develops strength evenly. Because the reformer features straps and handles on all sides, you can work different muscles from multiple angles and include rotational movements in your workout. 

This helps make sure you’re developing strength throughout your body evenly. The reformer also helps reduce strain on your joints by minimizing contact with hard surfaces, making it an ideal option for rehabbing injuries.

Ladder Barrel

A Ladder barrel allows you to perform many exercises on it, so it’s quite beneficial for improving posture, alignment, strength, and stability. These exercises are great for safely rehabilitating back injuries and other joint problems. It can also help with stretching out muscles and lengthening them. 

The ladder barrel can help improve the overall flexibility and mobility of specific areas. This can be particularly helpful if you have a desk job or spend long hours sitting in front of a computer.

Gym Equipment

One of the main benefits of going to a gym is gaining access to a wide range of equipment you wouldn’t otherwise be able to use.  Professional gym equipment tends to be large and expensive, making it impractical for the average person like you and me to have lots of different items at home.

Of course, it’s not just large items, what’s great about visiting a gym is gaining access to lots of small items, for example as you grow stronger you can use heavier weights at no additional cost.


Barbells are the most common type of free weights. They are used for strength training and muscle building. Barbells are an excellent choice for lifting weights and require more safety precautions than machines. You can use barbells to perform exercises, including bench presses, curls, squats, and deadlifts.


Dumbbells are great to use while doing gym activities. You can use dumbbells before or after a workout in a variety of ways. Also, you can strengthen specific small muscle groups with dumbbells by performing single-handed movements such as wrist curls and bicep curls.


Treadmills are among the most popular types of cardio fitness equipment for both gym and home use. They allow you to walk or run indoors regardless of the weather. Treadmills contain a moving belt. You can walk or run on the spot while still getting the benefits of outdoor walking or sprinting, minus the risk of slipping over ice or getting rained on. 

They are especially useful during winter, bad weather, and when it’s dark after work. Treadmills allow you to exercise in a controlled environment at your own pace, whether doing a slow jog or a full-on sprint. Most treadmills sport an electronics display that enables you to adjust to a speed that suits you.


Woman on an elliptical machine

Ellipticals simulate the motion of running or walking without resulting in excessive pressure to the joints, thus making for a low-impact workout with excellent cardiovascular benefits. The exercise session ranges from light to high intensity depending on the workout’s speed and the user’s resistance preference. 

The motion of the machine mimics that of the stair climber but is much smoother because the pedals are attached to flywheels and move in an oval shape.

Pilates vs Gym: Intensity

Pilates is low impact, meaning it does not pressure your joints when performing exercises. This allows you to work out at an intensity level that suits you without putting yourself at risk of injury.

Gym, on the other hand, varies in intensity, ranging from medium to high-intensity depending on your exercise. 

Woman lifting weights at a gym

Regardless of the intensity, if you’re looking at weight loss as your goal, the gym allows you to lose weight faster because most workouts burn many calories.

Pilates Techniques


Centering is the first step in the Pilates method of exercising. In this initial step, the focus is on preparing the mind and body for the Pilates exercises that follow. Centering allows you to fully engage your core muscles, thereby creating a solid foundation for the rest of the workout.


Alignment is a process of creating a balanced, harmonious, and proportionate body. The muscles are correctly arranged in the alignment technique to provide maximum power and ease of movement. 

Achieving alignment in Pilates means actively working to align every joint in your body perfectly, so you’re not overextending or compressing any part.


Precision is another vital technique in Pilates. As a general rule of thumb, precision refers to clean and controlled movements that are not rushed or sloppy. For example, moving an arm or leg in a specific direction at a particular speed. This helps you avoid accidents  and stay in control as you exercise.

Breath Flow

The Breath Flow, or diaphragmatic breathing, is an essential Pilates technique. It would help if you learned it before practicing the exercises. 

Breath flow allows you to oxygenate your muscles and concentrate. The basic principle of Pilates breathing is to breathe naturally, without forcing, by expanding the belly when inhaling and contracting it when exhaling.

Gym Techniques

Weight Lifting

The main benefit of weight lifting is that it helps you build muscles. Muscles are your body’s engine room and are responsible for many essential functions. They also play a crucial role in regulating metabolism. 

When you build muscles, your body burns more calories at rest since it needs more energy to sustain the increased muscle mass.

Bench Pressing

Bench pressing, like most other gym exercises, improves your strength. The workout helps you perform better in different workouts as well as the activities of daily living. The bench press primarily targets your chest muscles but it also works your shoulders and triceps.


A crunch is the most popular midsection exercise. Crunches are a great way to strengthen and tone your stomach muscles. These exercises typically target your lower muscles but they also work your entire core. You can perform crunches at home too since they don’t require any equipment.


Squats are a compound exercise, meaning they work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. The main muscles worked are the quadriceps in the front of the thigh and the glutes, hamstrings, and calves. They also engage muscles in the lower back and core. 

Squats help strengthen bones, improve joint health, increase mobility and reduce the risk of injury.


Which is Safer Between Gym and Pilates?

If you’re just getting started with exercise you might not realise there is an important safety element.

Pilates is considered to be one of the safest forms of exercise. It is a low-impact, non-competitive form of movement appropriate for people of all ages and fitness levels. And, because it works the mind and body, Pilates provides a safe way to exercise both mentally and physically.

Regular Pilates can reduce the risk of injury, making it an excellent companion exercise to other forms of physical activity.

Gym vs. Pilates: Which Is More Expensive for a Home Gym Owner?

This will depends if you’ve already made an investment in either activity.  If starting out from scratch then setting up a home gym is going to be a lot more expensive, you’ll need to purchase (or rent) equipment and have the space to store it.  With Pilates you just need a mat, some space and access to lessons, for example YouTube channels such as my channel: 

Pilates may be cheaper if you don’t have any equipment as the only equipment needed is a mat and possibly a ring. However, if you are looking to get an expensive piece of Pilates equipment like a reformer or chair, it may be cheaper to buy more gym equipment than getting Pilates-specific items.

As a Pilates instructor I invested in a reformed to use with my clients, I wouldn’t recommend to a client they invest in one until they’ve made Pilates part of their life and have gained a lot of experience with one.  You can read more about Reformers here: Pilates with Donna Finnie.

Gym vs. Pilates: Which Is More Effective for Weight Loss?

Both can be successful for weight loss, depending on the amount of weight loss you’re after. The gym can give you faster results than Pilates because you can do high-intensity workouts that burn lots of calories. Also the percentage of body fat lost in a month can be higher. 

However, Pilates could be just as effective as a gym if you aim to tone up and lose inches. Pilates focuses more on posture and muscle toning than building big muscles.

Whenever I’ve a new client I make sure they understand their goal shouldn’t be weight loss, it should be transitioning to a healthier life.  Weight loss is a short term goal, once people hit the desired number they often stop whatever they were doing and then end up putting weight on.

It’s better to have a goal focusing on creating a healthier lifestyle, be successful at that and you will naturally see changes in your body.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to stay fit and healthy, there is no single solution that fits everyone. You should tty out a range of different activities and figure out what works for you, be it a gym, Pilates, something else or a combination of different exercises.

Gyms are great for getting into shape and building muscle.  The equipment can be intimidating at first, but once you get used to it, it has a lot of positive benefits.

Pilates is a bit different from the gym in that it uses exercises like stretching and resistance bands to help strengthen your body.


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