Balanced Body, a global leader in Pilates equipment and education, is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the modality’s rise to prominence
Pilates is having a moment, and it’s one that could last for some time. The mind-body fitness modality has long enjoyed a cult-like following at boutique studios, but recently, it’s begun to pervade popular culture as a powerful tool aiding in recovery and performance.
“I’ve been doing this since the mid to late 90s, and it really used to be this quiet, cultish thing that people were doing,” said Joy Puleo, director of education at Balanced Body, a global leader in Pilates equipment and instructor training. “The world finally seems to be discovering the wide swath of value that Pilates provides.”
For Balanced Body, it’s a welcomed shift. The 50-plus-year-old company is a mainstay in the Pilates industry, outfitting studios across the world with best-in-class equipment and helping to educate many of the modality’s instructors.
When asked to summarize Balanced Body’s mission and the overall impact of the mind-body modality her company has dedicated a half-century to improving, Puleo had an easy answer.
“Balanced Body is the place to go for all things Pilates,” she said. “And Pilates is the place to go to improve and recover mobility, and enhance performance.”
A potent recovery tool
Pilates is growing in popularity in large part because it’s a great recovery tool – for athletes and everyday people alike.
Pilates trains your entire body using repetitive, mind-body movements that focus on core stability, strength, flexibility, muscular control, posture and breathing. Importantly, those movements are low-impact, so they won’t break your body down, unlike other forms of exercise.
“It provides all the basic parameters of physical fitness,” Puleo says of Pilates. “It provides a platform to work on strength, balance and coordination, but it doesn’t overload to exhaustion.”
Essentially, Pilates packs a lot of bang for your workout buck without wearing you out too much. That means you can do the modality in addition to playing sports or doing a separate exercise routine. Those that prefer Pilates as their only form of fitness can do it multiple times a week without overtraining.
“Longevity was the word that came to mind when I was asked recently about the value of Pilates, especially from a fitness perspective,” Puleo says.
Some of the world’s top athletes have noticed the longevity benefits of Pilates. NBA superstar Kevin Durant has credited the modality with helping him rehab from an injured Achilles. Seven-time MLB All-Star Bryce Harper told GQ he’s been doing Pilates three times a week for the past six years because it helps him feel better during the season. LeBron James and David Beckham are other high-profile Pilates converts from the world of sports.
Pilates, specifically when performed on a reformer, offers some unique performance benefits for athletes, Puleo says.
“It helps them gain flexibility and strength at the end range of motion, as well as eccentric control around joints,” she explains. “One of the main reasons for hamstring strains are fast starts and stops, and working the eccentric control around the hip joints is shown to decrease that.”
Pilates has plenty of performance and recovery benefits for the non-athlete, too. For one, it provides a signal for your body to calm down.
“Our adrenals are always slightly turned on in this digital, high-activity, high-pressure world we live in,” Puleo notes. “When you walk into a Pilates studio, the first thing you do is take your shoes off. And then you lie on a reformer, you move and you breathe. And so the adrenals can relax.”
Industry leaders in equipment
While the benefits of Pilates are finally starting to be appreciated by the masses, Balanced Body has long been outfitting the industry and its devotees with top-quality equipment.
A manufacturing behemoth, Balanced Body holds 28 U.S. patents and numerous foreign ones related to Pilates equipment. A few decades ago, it created the Allegro(R) Reformer, which quickly became an industry standard, being widely used in facilities far and wide.
In 2012, the company unveiled the upgraded Allegro 2, which was designed to be not only beautiful but rugged and high-performing. The Allegro 2 reformer features a host of top-class features, including a footbar that slides horizontally across the entire length of the frame, an innovation that’s proprietary to Balanced Body and allows for increased customization.
“It allows for a lot of creativity, ingenuity and unique programming,” Puleo says “That’s one of the reasons it’s been hugely popular, especially in group fitness classes, because you can create programming that’s dynamic and specific to your club or organization.”
Among the many reformers it sells, Balanced Body makes a Clinical Reformer that’s designed specifically for rehabilitation professionals.
“It’s a segment of the marketplace that’s growing,” Puleo said of rehabilitation centers buying Pilates reformers. “It could be as an add-on, like a pay-per-visit arrangement inside a physical therapy facility to increase their ROI. But we’re also involved in helping fitness clubs integrate Pilates into their programming with Group Reformer classes, personal training and ‘duets,’ or pairs session training.”
Balanced Body also creates a host of complementary products designed to support people on their Pilates journeys. The company partnered with SISSEL to create the Spinefitter, a physical therapy and training device that uses 28 interconnected balls to relieve tension and improve joint mobility with deep pressure. Spinefitter is popular with fitness clubs as it’s low-cost, lightweight, easy to clean and store, and can be used in group classes, personal training and for self-guided myofascial release. Many Balanced Body customers are re-selling Spinefitter in their club’s retail section so members can continue their work at home in between club sessions.
“Everything we create is complementary to what we do on the Pilates side,” Puleo says.
Educating the industry
Balanced Body got its start as a manufacturer of Pilates equipment, and it still shines in that area, but the company has quickly become a trusted name in Pilates and Pilates-inspired education as well.
Today, its education network features over 400 Balanced Body Educators and more than 30,000 trained instructors spread across the world. Through the Balanced Body Instructor Training program, students can choose from four different professional programs, including mat, reformer and comprehensive options.
Puleo said Balanced Body decided to ramp up its education offerings a little over 15 years ago after recognizing a need in the industry for high-quality Pilates training that better meets the needs of fitness instructors.
“One of the issues with Pilates training is that it wasn’t always accessible and it wasn’t always affordable,” Puleo says. “You used to need to throw yourself down into someone’s studio, pay a fortune and just spend endless amounts of time there learning your craft.”
Today, Balanced Body Education(R) offers customized Pilates training solutions for fitness professionals and club operators.
Another way Balanced Body has helped to democratize access to the profession is through online classes, which it offers in conjunction with its core, in-person offerings.
“Students now have access to the highest-level teachers all over the world, pretty much at their disposal and as their schedule dictates,” Puleo said.
Puleo believes the true selling point of Balanced Body’s education is the breadth and depth of its educator network.
“We’ve brought together a very talented, experienced group of educators,” she says. “They bring their own unique teaching voice and style to Balanced Body Education, which gives students the license to find their own unique voice and style.”
A bright future
Looking ahead, Balanced Body is confident the current popularity of Pilates isn’t a flash in the pan.
Puleo said the pandemic has transformed the way people view fitness and wellness, as consumers increasingly seek options that focus on holistic health and wellbeing instead of just aesthetics. The many months of social distancing also led to an increased emphasis on community, a role which Pilates, like other boutique fitness modalities, is well-suited to fill.
And at the end of the day, Puleo believes Pilates will stay relevant because it offers something for everyone.
“I don’t think Pilates offers everything that everyone wants or needs,” she says. “But I do believe that everybody at all fitness levels benefits from doing Pilates.”