Is Pilates good for Low Back Pain?

Often people ask me “Is Pilates good for Low Back Pain?”

YES, BUT there are many things to consider. Not ALL Pilates exercises are great for ALL back pain sufferers. And not all low back pain comes from the same structures. Much of what exercises to choose depends on a few variables. For example, How recent is the flare up of the low back pain? What is the extent of the injury? What is age of the person with low back pain? What is the health status of the person?

The origin of the low back pain
My first question would be…What is nature of the low back pain?
There are many structures in the low back that may cause pain (Muscle, ligament, disc, facet joint, facet capsule, articular cartilage). Some of these structures are very pain sensitive, some of them heal rapidly (muscle), and some take a long time to heal (disc, ligaments). This is because of the availability of blood supply to the area and loads placed on them on daily basis (long periods of sitting).
For a muscle strain, most Pilates exercises can be done after the client is pain free, which might be only a few days. But for other structures more time will be necessary.

Differences in who gets the Low Back Pain
There is a difference between a healthy 21 year old that pulled a muscle in the low back playing tennis and has a flare up, and a 48 year-old sedentary, desk bound, overweight individual that is diagnosed with an acute lumbar spine herniation accompanied with nerve root compression and severe radicular pain going down the leg.
While the 21 year old will be fine with loaded lumbar flexion Pilates exercises, the herniated spine will not be. Recovery time will vary with age. The health of the person will also play a major role on how the tissues will heal.

One Size Does not Fit All
Although Pilates exercises would be beneficial for both cases above, Not all injuries are the same, and Pilates exercises are “One size fits all” In the case above, different exercises would be suitable for each individual.
There are contraindications to many lumbar spine pathologies and there are recommendations to certain low back pain problems too.

Herniated discs
For example, for an acute lumbar spine herniation with referred pain and neurological symptoms present, (meaning numbness, loss of power, etc) lumbar flexion may not be the best indication, and many Pilates exercises would be contraindicated. However, in the subacute phase There are fantastic ‘flexion free’ Pilates exercises that are actually highly recommended. These exercises aim to retrain the deep local spinal stabilisers and should be introduced as soon as the individual is relatively pain free. Flexion should be gradually introduced after the person has been symptom free; first non-loaded (as in a cat stretch) and far along the line, loaded (as in a half roll back).

The general rule
Generally, for non-specific low back pain, Pilates exercises are highly recommended. However, considerations need to be made for certain types of low back pain. If in doubt, seek advise from a qualified Pilates professional. This can and often time should include manual therapy sessions, such as osteopathic treatment * see below NICE recommendations.

Pilates for prevention of Low back pain
This is where Pilates exercises are absolutely fantastic. Prevention is the key. Especially for those people who have had spinal injuries or chronic problems and wish to prevent recurrences.
Find knowledgable instruction, someone who knows their anatomy, physiology and that teaches contemporary Pilates.

The National Institute for care and Health Excellence guidelines recommend:
*Consider a group exercise programme (biomechanical, aerobic, mind–body or a combination of approaches) within the NHS for people with a specific episode or flare-up of low back pain with or without sciatica

Book an assessment now and find out how Pilates exercise can be good for your low back pain.


Pilates classes or Personal Training?

Are Pilates classes or Personal Training sessions best for you?
The most important issue to consider here is your budget and your time.
While personal training (one-on-one) can be expensive, each workout is tailored for your own needs, you can train on your own schedule without having to rely on when classes are offered and you can use all the equipment in the house. However, it is important to consider that not everyone can afford to pay for this type of training. Therefore, group classes are a great alternative to one-on-one sessions.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Pilates group classes on equipment use only the Pilates reformer, whereas during personal training sessions you get to use all the equipment (Reformer, Chair, Tower, Mat, barrels), but group classes are always fun, as you get to see others perform and gage what level you are in.
  • Choose smaller Pilates reformer group classes. Large group classes can be challenging for the instructor and the class participants as you may end up not getting the attention needed. Also, you may be doing an exercise wrong and the instructor may be busy with other participants and may not get to you on time.
  • One-on-one sessions can be expensive, but worth the money if you find the right instructor. Also, you can train on your own time and customise your training schedule.
  • Progression and exercises tailored made for you. If you need to work on something in particular, one-on-one sessions might be better for you.
  • Special needs can be better addressed on one-on-one sessions.Get More for your Money
  • If you are new to Pilates and have never stepped on a Pilates reformer, you might want to consider a one-on-one session before you join a class.  We definitely recommend this. You will get much more from your first class, as you will learn how to use the equipment and learn the technique in our classes. We teach you the basic principles which are used in our classical repertoire classes in all levels. This way when you go to your first class you are prepared and will get a lot more for your money.
  • Book the right level class for you. Avoid jumping into an advanced class if you have never done that type of training. This applies to Pilates classes too. Learn the proper technique correctly. Pilates, like many disciplines require time to master the technique, learn the repertoire and perform it correctly. No matter how fit and sporty you are. Pilates exercise is unique. Many new people book into an intermediate class even when they have never been on a reformer before. The problem with this is that they often don’t get the workout at all, they don’t understand that being unable to keep up with the choreography and technique means not getting a workout. It takes time to learn Karate, Tango, Ballet, Yoga and likewise Pilates.
  • Show up on time for your session. Arriving to a class 15 minutes late means that you miss the warm up and possibly the initial exercises. In a group class this is disrespectful to the other participants and instructor. Show up on time in mind and body and you will progress swiftly.

Now, if at the end of the day you are not able to buy personal training sessions, definitely book into group classes and every so often book a one-on-one session to assess your performance and address any issues you may have.

Book small Pilates reformer group classes on our website or download our app.

Pilates Classes appropriate level for me

People often ask when they book Pilates Classes, what is the appropriate level for me?
If you have never danced tango before, would you book into an intermediate class? NO, right? Same in Pilates. Pilates exercise was created by Joseph Pilates who was influenced by professional dancers, gymnasts and athletes. The repertoire is complex and requires mastering. Very few actually get to master the advanced repertoire. Continue reading Pilates Classes appropriate level for me

How to Choose Your Pilates Personal Trainer?

How can I choose the best Pilates Personal Trainer?
If you are looking for the best Pilates personal training experience here are a few tips that you need to know:
There are a number of styles of Pilates out there, and with more Pilates studios popping up ubiquitously, it is increasingly difficult to choose who to train with.
Although Pilates personal training is a very personal choice, you need to be informed on what you’re buying. Sure, one needs to click with the instructor at a personal level but at the same time quality of instruction needs to be a priority.
In order to understand how to chose, you need to know what Pilates is really all about!

Classical, Dynamic, Contemporary…What is the difference?
30 years ago there was just one style of Pilates and that was the Pilates classical repertoire. The classical Pilates repertoire was and still is, complex, choreographed, comprehensive; uses a variety of pieces of equipment (Mat, reformer, chair, Cadillac, barrels), and is based in a methodology set out by the late Joseph Pilates.
The advanced work was created for dancers, professional athletes, gymnasts, and  requires extreme flexibility and strength and control, and when you see it, you can see why almost only dancers and gymnasts can achieve it. It’s not for the faint hearted.

Then came STOTT PILATES in 1988 and revolutionised the Pilates world updating the original method by incorporating modern principles of sports science and new knowledge of body biomechanics. STOTT PILATES, anatomically based method, preserved the original Pilates exercises plus adding more levels for different abilities. Although still being classical Pilates, the method is better described as “Contemporary Pilates”.
The “Dynamic Age” of Pilates started about 10 years ago. Only a decade ago the strength and fitness world discovered that the Pilates reformer is a piece of equipment that provides a unique way of working out without adding muscle bulk. Studios in the USA and Australia started to emerge giving birth to the “Dynamic” reformer classes.
Generally, dynamic Pilates studios recruit gym trainers and teach them a few moves on the reformer and teach classes inspired on the classical repertoire and on strength training. The repetition takes you to muscle overload, makes you feel the burn, sweat and strengthen. Once again, these exercises are inspired in the classical repertoire, but do not follow the order of the original Pilates repertoire nor teach the classical methodology or principles. These classes only use the reformer, not the full Pilates equipment, nevertheless, the workout is challenging and thus very popular among newcomers to Pilates.

So nowadays there are various styles of Pilates, just as they are various styles of yoga, or dance.

What is the difference between choosing a personal trainer based on Pilates style?
Classical Pilates courses (Classical and contemporary) are usually rigorous courses that can take years to complete. These courses require learning the vast repertoire in all pieces of equipment and levels, hours and hours of self-practising, teaching others, observation and both a practical and theory examinations.
In contrast, dynamic Pilates courses are  usually in house reformer-only courses (taught by a studio in house), can be completed in a weekend or two. These trainings are usually provided by dynamic reformer studios. The original Pilates repertoire is not taught, nor any of the above requirements need to be met. Although these stand-alone courses are not usually recognised as level 3 by a body or accreditation, such as REPS in the UK, they provide the students with an accreditation of “Dynamic Reformer Instructor”

  • Choose the right Pilates Style for you
    Do you like to feel the burn right away, get toned quickly, but perhaps not need to focus so much on principles, methodology or precise technique, but still get an intense workout? Then Dynamic Pilates might be right for you. The movements are challenging, but not aimedAre you the type of person that likes a journey? The classical repertoire you focus on what you are doing.  You will learn a method, technique, philosophy and repertoire that will progress you to achieving  total control of your body. Focus on breath, concentration, control, precision, fluidity. The movement aims to increase your spinal mobility with the aim to move like a dancer.
    If you like all of the above, then the classical method might be your thing.
  • Always Choose Certified Pilates Instructors
    When choosing a Pilates personal trainer, you must look for someone that is fully certified. Having a certification by an accredited Pilates brand or a body recognises the qualifications and expertise of Pilates instructors in the UK is important. 
For example, REPs provides a system of regulation for instructors and trainers to ensure that they meet the health and fitness industry’s agreed National Occupational Standards. STOTT PILATES certified instructors are recognised by REPS in the UK after they have completed their certification. 
Interestingly, many Pilates instructors nowadays are REPS certified, but not for their Pilates education, but because they were gym instructors first. They might have done a quickie certification in house with a studio, but nonetheless, their Pilates certification is not recognised by REPS.
It’s worth to ask your prospect instructor about their level of certification and who they did their training with before you decide.
    Fully Certified Instructors 
For the icing on the cake, if your instructor has the full certification in all levels, meaning, training in all the pieces of equipment (Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, Barrels, Essential, Intermediate, and Advanced), you will be instructed by someone who has undergone a complete education in Pilates. This person is likely to understand the broader scope of the method and progress you to the more complicated advanced exercises. Choose wisely.
 Your instructor may have just qualified and may need some time to season. But don’t let this put you off. If he/she holds a full certification, you are in great hands. However, having experience teaching goes a long way in any discipline.
    Charisma and personality
 This is probably the easiest to find and you are probably the best judge of character.
    Core Kensington hires only STOTT PILATES® certified instructors for group classes and fully certified instructors for personal training sessions. Our instructors are highly qualified and some hold advanced qualifications.

Meet Our Team

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What is Pilates?

Pilates is a widely accepted and fantastic form of exercise pioneered by the late Joseph Pilates (1883-1967). Mr Pilates was a gymnast and bodybuilder and moved to England before World War I where he began developing his concept of an integrated and comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he later called “Contrology”.
Interestingly, Joseph Pilates studied yoga and is known for having studied the movements in animals. This is apparent in the beautiful movement of the classical Pilates repertoire and the principles he developed.
Pilates is a full body workout that focuses on working from the inside out, from the core out to the periphery. This is done by initiating all movements from engaging the abdominal musculature. The exercises emphasise postural muscles, more stabilising muscles that support the joints, including the spine and the repertoire works on multi-planes of movement for the spine and the whole body. As you get more advanced, more complex movements, more control, and more muscle groups are needed and recruited into a full body workout.

Mind and Body Exercise

Pilates is a mind/body type of exercise as you must use your mind through breath to accomplish control. Ahead of his time, Pilates’ original exercise “Contrology” correlated to the use of the mind to control the muscles of the body with the focus on the abdominal muscles and postural muscles in order to balance the body and maintain support for the spine.
Pilates exercise focuses on awareness of breath and uses breath to connect mind to body.
Joseph Pilates immigrated to the US around 1925 where he founded a studio in NYC with his wife Clara, and taught students well into the 1960’s.
Since his death new research on sports science and rehabilitation has emerged giving rise to what we call contemporary Pilates. New schools, such as STOTT PILATES®, have preserved the original Pilates exercises while incorporating the most up-to-date research in health and fitness, making it safer and more available to a wider audience.

Contemporary Pilates vs Dynamic Pilates

Contemporary Pilates is not the same as the recently popular dynamic Pilates.
As we moved into the 201st century, Pilates exercises have been revised and modern principles of sport science and rehabilitation have been integrated to the original method.
Pilates exercise is taught on the mat, reformer, and other pieces of equipment, such as the chair, barrels and Cadillac.
Dynamic Pilates in contrast, is only taught on the reformer and does not teach the exercises or principles pioneered by Joseph Pilates or contemporary STOTT PILATES®, but rather teach exercises on the reformer with the aim of providing you with a dynamic workout on the reformer equipment.

Rehabilitation Pilates

We at Core Kensington recognise the benefits of Pilates exercise for people of all ages and abilities, including special populations and those recovering from injuries.
We teach the Pilates repertoire on all pieces of equipment and progress through levels from essential to intermediate and advanced.
Whether you suffer from back pain or are recovering from an injury, our team of experts will help you with your rehabilitation process.

Book now and get your first class for only £15.

Pilates for Teens

Pilates can make a massive difference in your teenager’s development and performance. Introducing Pilates exercise at an early age can provide the younger populations with a solid core foundation, stronger spine and joints and better movement patterns. This in turn can enhance their musculoskeletal development and athletic performance. Whether your teenager is a runner, plays tennis, rowing

Why Pilates for Teens?


Improved Core Strength, Reduced risk of back Injuries.

Even at a young age nothing is worse than being out of the game when it comes to back pain. Training the smaller muscles that support your joints can reduce the chance of injury. Training tour deep core musculature can reduce the chance of back pain by stabilising your spine and back muscles, which in turn  will give you much more support when you’re practising sports.

There is evidence that contemporary Pilates, such as the style taught at Core Kensington can has a positive effect on abdominal and lower back muscular strength, abdominal muscular endurance and posterior trunk flexibility.(Sekendiz et al. 2007)

Increased Flexibility for athletic Performance

Poor flexibility may increase the risk of certain acute and chronic injuries among teenagers.

If your teenager is involved in any kind of sports activity Pilates exercise can help improve his/her flexibility safely and intelligently.

Low levels of flexibility are often observed among teenager populations and as a result, various authors now recommendthe inclusion of specific programmes to improve flexibility among teens. “Pilates can be used as an adjunctive exercise program to improve flexibility, enhance control-mobility of trunk and pelvic segments. It may also prevent and attenuate the predisposition to axial musculoskeletal injury (Phrompaet et al. 2011). A recent study also showed that “six-weeks of Pilates training in Physical Education classes has significantly improved the hamstrings flexibility among adolescents” (Gonzalez-Galvez et al. 2015).

Improved Body Awareness and Coordination

Watching gymnasts at the Olympics or a principal dancer executing complex choreography can make anyone appreciate the importance of body control, awareness and movement coordination. Complex coordination and body awareness are learned at an early age. Parts of the brain, such as the cortex, the premotor area, and neuromuscular connection development are strengthened at early ages. Pilates for teenagers promote this type of body awareness and coordination.

Mindful Movement

More and more people are realising the benefits of mindful forms of exercise. WE now understand that mind and body are interconnected and one affects the other directly.  “Mindful forms of exercise help to reduce stress, bring a calmer state of mind through precise, controlled forms of movement and focus on breath.Mindful Movement can be adapted to suit all ages, fitness backgrounds and abilities, helping professionals and clients lead healthier, more active and mindful lives”.(Content © Merrithew Corporation, used with permission)

Core Kensington offers weekly Pilates for Teens reformer classes. Contact us or sign in

online or via our app for Pilates for Teens classes.


Gonzalez-Galvez, N. et al., 2015. Effects of a Pilates School Program on Hamstrings Flexibility of Adolescents. Revista Brasileira De Medicina Do Esporte, 21(4), pp.302–307.

Phrompaet, S. et al., 2011. Effects of pilates training on lumbo-pelvic stability and flexibility. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, 2(1), pp.16–22.

Sekendiz, B. et al., 2007. Effects of Pilates exercise on trunk strength, endurance and flexibility in sedentary adult females. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 11(4), pp.318–326.

The Benefits of Pilates Classes

Pilates classes can make a difference in your quality of life whether you are a complete beginner, a sports enthusiast or suffer from injuries.

Some of the benefits you can expect with Pilates classes are:

Improved body mobility.

Get out of bed easier in the morning! As we age our joints lose mobility and our muscles lose flexibility, especially our spines and muscles that are held in shortened positions (E.g. while sitting for long periods). Pilates exercise aims to mobilise your spine from the neck to the base in many planes and directions and separate each bit into articulation. Pilates also aims to restore balance in your muscles. The benefits of improved mobility are to reduce pressure on restricted joints and therefore reduce wear and tear on the spine.
“You are only as old as your spine is” Joseph Pilates.
Pilates exercise will aim to move your spine through segmental articulation. This means that you will work in every spinal plane and learn to articulate your spine like a ripple sequentially in various exercises. If you are not doing this in your Pilates classes, you are likely not really practising Pilates.

Improve back pain

. Back pain as a result of joint stiffness, poor stability, muscular weakness and lack of movement can improve with Pilates exercises. (*NICE guidelines for low back pain, 2016).

Improved Core Strength

Strengthen from the inside out. Core strength is at the core of Pilates exercise. Pilates exercises aim to work from the core to the periphery, from the inside out. Joseph Pilates original name was “Contrology”. Thus, as the name suggests, you will need to concentrate in order to control every bit of your body.

Improved body awareness and Coordination

Get to know your body and move freely. You will discover that you can move in ways you never have and discover muscles you never thought you had. Complexity is at the core of the Pilates repertoire. Movement is mostly multi-planal. If you learn to move your body in combined planes of motion your quality of movement will be superior.

Mindful Movement

Discover an intelligent, mindful approach to exercise with Pilates. For years many disciplines have advocated the notion the mind and body are interconnected. Mindful exercise can help to reduce stress and through a focus on breath, bring a calmer state of mind through precise, controlled movement.
As our lives get busier and more complex, leaving us with scarce time to “unplug”, the demands on our busy lives is increasingly growing. More than ever people lack the time to reflect and be present and to be mindful. Learn mindful movement with our Pilates classes.

How long for results?

Many people ask how long will it take them to see results with Pilates. As with every discipline, depends on the individual, the times per week spent training, the person’s level of conditioning before starting, body awareness, injuries, restrictions and so forth. However, one can expect to see results almost immediately after starting. The most challenging obstacle I often see with people is making the decision to start. Most people start Pilates after it’s been prescribed for a joint problem, but once they start, they end up loving the workout.
Learning the Pilates technique correctly may take a bit of time, but along the way your body will feel great and you will see the changes surprisingly sooner than expected.

How advanced is advanced Pilates?

In Pilates you don’t progress by being able to lift more weights or adding more resistance or hold planks for longer periods. In fact, most Pilates exercises do not hold positions statically at all. Some exercises, in fact, become more difficult on the equipment by reducing the tension. The difficulty in the advanced Pilates repertoire lies in the complexity of the movement and your ability to control your body without restrictions. By this I mean, short muscles, joint restrictions, or weaknesses. E.g. tight hamstrings, poor spinal movement, limited arm movement, tight hip flexors etc. The advanced Pilates work flows dynamically and was originally created for athletes, dancers, boxers and gymnasts. So, if you think about a gymnast/dancer exercising on a Pilates reformer, that would be what the classical advanced Pilates repertoire looks like.
Pilates can make a true difference in your quality of life and can help you improve your whole body mobility, reduce back and neck pain, improve shoulder movement and reduce pain.

How much do I have to train?

If you put the time in and attend classes at least twice per week, you will see results soon. The best part of starting a Pilates programme is that the improvements you make will help you in your daily life and activities, such as playing golf, tennis, or simply playing with your kids.


The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends a mind-body group exercise programme within the NHS for people with a specific episode or flare-up of low back pain with or without sciatica as a first line treatment for low back pain.

Pilates Exercise For Back Pain

Is Reformer Pilates Exercise for Back Pain Beneficial?
Sure. Improved core strength, improved posture, increased flexibility. Pilates exercise is focused on your abdominal muscles, preferentially recruiting the deep ones. The goal is to retrain your muscles to fire when they are required, with the right amount of force at the right time in order to stabilise your spine. At the same time, keep your entire spine mobile. Remember, “You are only as old as your spine is” Joseph Pilates…

Intelligent Exercise. You have to think
If you are looking for someone to fix your back without having to think about what you are doing, Pilates is not for you. If you are willing to put the effort and voluntarily learn how to recruit your muscles by concentrating and focusing on precision and learning anatomically how your body needs to work, this is definitely for you.

Working from the Inside Out.
As with every rehabilitation programme, local stability means that the joints in your spine are preferentially recruited before calling on the big power producing ones. Deep stabilising muscles work close to the joint and need to work before targeting the big mobilising ones. Learn how to do this with our Pilates Exercise for Back Pain classes.

How Does the Spine Degenerate?
As we age and sometimes through injury, the spinal segments degenerate. Spinal Degeneration Happens when the spine is put through stresses that the discs are unable to withstand. Poor posture, sitting for prolonged periods slumping will speed up this process. A weak support system can cause also the spinal segments to shear, compress the discs and it’s contents. (annulus fibrosus and nucleus pulpous.
Compression of the discs cause small tears to appear on the outside portion of the disc (fibrillation). These tears heal with scar tissue. Scar tissue is weaker than the original architecture of the disc.
Overtime, the annulus and nucleus lose its water content, the disc loses height and the vertebral segments come closer to each other. This causes the facet joints in the back to overlap and twist into an unnatural position. In an attempt to stabilise the spine, the body creates bone spurs on the vertebral bodies and the facets. These spurs can cause pain, ache or discomfort as they lose their ability to move properly and may irritate the joint capsule as you move without support.

Pilates as Prevention For Further Damage
Pilates Exercise for Back Pain can help maintain your spinal segments mobile, strengthen your deep abdominal musculature in order to stabilise your spine as you move around in your daily activities.

Blog written by Carlo Yanez
Registered Osteopath B.A.(Hons.), B.Ost.(Hons)
Fully certified STOTT PILATES® Instructor

How To Improve Your Posture

How To Improve Your Posture
This photo is shocking! Yes, a head forward posture should give you a clue to whether you might need to improve your posture or not. With the ubiquitous use of mobile phones, tablets and computers, most of us nowadays spend hours at a time seated or with our heads forward looking over our very loved electronic devices. This results in poor posture, head forward, rounded shoulders, slumped back and believe it or not, this leads to faster degeneration of our spines. The worse part is… you will be degenerating your neck joints much sooner in life with this type of posture. The best part is…you can do something about this…NOW! Keep reading. Continue reading How To Improve Your Posture

Pilates Classical Repertoire

What is the Pilates Classical Repertoire?
I often get asked what the difference is between classical and dynamic Pilates. With the ever popular dynamic Pilates workout people are often confused unsure which Pilates method they should be doing. First, lets briefly look at what Pilates is and how it became what it is today. Then I will explain the different styles. Continue reading Pilates Classical Repertoire

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