Clinical Pilates – what is it and what are the benefits?

Pilates is a type of low impact exercise which is suitable for all age groups and abilities and follows the original method of “Contrology” first introduced by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s and 30s, (see our separate blog for more information on the history of Joseph Pilates and how his exercise method was developed and is now one of the most popular forms of exercise in the world).
Pilates exercises can be performed on a mat on the floor or on a specialized machine called a reformer which uses resistance to give more support and adds more variation to the Pilates workout. Pilates can be taught differently depending on your instructors training and method that they teach, (e.g. traditional V clinical) but all methods usually focus on the same principles such as core stability and strength, hip and pelvic stability and strength, postural awareness, flexibility, spinal mobility, breathing and relaxation.
Clinical Pilates is a method of Pilates usually taught by Physiotherapists and Allied Health and Fitness Professionals who use modified versions of the traditional Pilates exercises, which are suitable for use for anyone who may not have the high level of strength and stability required to perform the traditional Pilates exercises straight away. This might be the case after an injury, postoperatively, ante or postnatally, those with chronic pain, those with neurological conditions or anyone who is totally new to exercise. Clinical Pilates has become one of the most popular forms of rehabilitation in healthcare settings across the world due to the step-by-step approach in teaching the movements, allowing clients to build strength gradually while not aggravating any painful conditions or allowing clients with medical conditions to exercise safely at a level that suits their needs.
One of the most popular methods of Clinical Pilates in the world at the moment is the APPI method – Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute – which was developed by 2 Australian Physiotherapists, Glenn and Elisa Withers (a husband and wife team) almost 20 years ago. Their method is now the most prevalent method of Pilates being used in Healthcare settings and the most popular with Physiotherapists, degree level Healthcare Professionals and Fitness professionals alike.
This method of clinical Pilates began from an initial study involving the Australian Physiotherapy Association and completed by Glenn and Elisa on the “Clinical Relevance of Pilates exercise for clients with back and pelvic pain”. Their study found that the benefits of Pilates exercises were not being optimized due to the high level of strength, control and body awareness needed by clients initially. This is something I can fully agree with as many times over the past number of years I have had clients come to me and say they started Pilates as they heard it would help with their back pain, however it ended up making their pain and symptoms worse. Most of the these clients were at a Pilates class which was at a level which was just way too challenging for them starting off and Pilates would still be of great benefit to them, it just needed to be modified and tailored to their needs. Glen and Eliza’s study found that if the traditional Pilates movements were modified, the length of the lever (arms or legs) reduced, the demands of the spine considered in more detail, and the findings of relevant research around how muscles work before and after pain, were all applied to the movements, then this new form of modified Pilates-based exercise could be a lot more successful in the rehabilitation field and thus the APPI method of Clinical Pilates was born.
The APPI clinical Pilates program consists of traditional Pilates exercises broken down into 5 levels (Level 1 being most easy and for beginners, up to level 5 being for the more advanced similar to the traditional Pilates exercises) and are taught based on the level of pain, pathology/injury/medical history of the client and goals of movement and function. This means that the APPI Pilates method is suitable and beneficial for all ages and abilities, all types of sportspeople and athletes and for the rehabilitation of most injuries. Clinical Pilates can also be used for exercise during Pregnancy, postnatal rehabilitation, postoperatively, for those with bone/joint conditions, neurological conditions and even for children.
At Athboy Physio, all our instructors have completed their Pilates training with the APPI Health Group and we are proud to be part of this amazing international community of Healthcare and Exercise Professionals. We continually update our skills with continued professional development courses delivered by APPI enjoying offering new and up to date services to all our Pilates clients. 
For those wanting to join our Pilates classes, for the vast majority a group class will work quite well and when screening before participation we will advise which level would suit you best to begin with. For anyone starting for the first time particularly after an injury or if you are struggling with chronic injury, surgery or with a new medical condition we advise a 1-1 session for a full assessment and discussion regarding your goals and to ensure safe teaching of the exercises for the most successful outcomes. Over time progression to group classes should then be appropriate.
For more information please do not hesitate to call us on (046) 9430521 or send us an e-mail on and our new Pilates dedicated website coming soon! 

Check out the APPI Website directly also for more information-


Written by Siobhán Delea BSc (Hons) Lead Clinical Pilates Instructor

Athboy Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic Jan 2018


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