Why do you only do 1 set of each exercise in Pilates? And fewer reps than you'd do in a conditioning class? — Kate M. via email
Unlike other forms of strength training, most Pilates exercises are only done 3-5 times and never more than 10. Why? Well, simply put, there are only a few reps because when you do the exercises correctly that's all you need.
Joseph Pilates created an intricate system of exercises for the mat and for special equipment. According to Joseph, “Contrology [Pilates' original name] is not a fatiguing system of dull, boring, abhorred exercises repeated daily ad-nausem." Each exercise requires you to incorporate 6 principles: concentration, control, centering, precision, breath and flow. And when you do, you only need to do a few reps to reap the benefits.
Pilates sessions can have around 20-25 exercises for a beginner all the way up to 45 or even more than 50 for an advanced, with each exercise building on the one that came before it. Every session includes flexion, extension, rotation and side work and each one is working multiple body parts simultaneously.
So fewer repetitions does not mean you are exercising less. Give your best for a few reps and flow into the next exercise. As you progress in your practice, the repetitions will lessen, your pace will quicken and the number of exercises you complete in a session will increase.
-Lesley Logan, Equinox Pilates Instructor