Can Pilates Build Muscle?

Pilates exercises were invented by physical trainer, Joseph Pilates, in the early 20th century, and the Pilates workout is getting more and more popular as each decade goes by. 

This form of exercise owes its popularity to its accessibility and adaptability, as well as the many health benefits that this full body workout provides. 

Many individuals who tick off their Pilates sessions experience a multitude of benefits, including increased core strength, improved range of motion, improved flexibility, increased mobility and better posture. 

Pilates is famous for being an amazing core strengthening workout but what about all the other muscle groups? 

You might wonder whether attending regular Pilates classes can actually improve muscle strength, grow muscle mass and increase muscle tone?

The answer is two-fold! Pilates can and will help you increase strength, but it won’t get you into a bodybuilding competition. 

Pilates, whether it is mat Pilates or on a Pilates reformer, will use your body weight to stretch and strengthen your muscle, but it won’t bulk you up, it won’t build massive biceps or a big round booty. 

If these are your goals, you will most likely need to add heavy weight training to your workout schedule. But if your goal is to feel fit, strong and confident we think Pilates is the perfect workout! 

For us, we like to focus on the feeling exercise creates. After years of being obsessed with physical transformation, weight loss, muscle toning and burning calories we realised this mindset did not create joy. In fact, it created suffering and simply was not healthy. 

Can Pilates Build Muscle?

Pilates has the ability to target many different muscle groups, it provides a real full body workout. It is an effective movement with many muscle groups being worked at the same time during the exercises.


Some of the specific muscle groups that Pilates targets are: 

Abdominal muscles 

We cannot talk about the amazing impacts of Pilates without talking about how much it activates, strengthens, and targets the abdominal muscles. And while a strong core with abs that you can flex around the pool might be all the rage, this really doesn’t get us excited.  

Knowing a strong core is essential for daily activities. That a strong core helps improve posture and decrease back pain. It assists in literally every single daily movement. The fact that it’s the foundation for most other exercises and movement patterns, yep, this all gets us excited! 

Check out this 8 minute Pilates class, core muscle activation is on!

Stabilizer muscles 

Pilates work the deep intrinsic muscles, such as multifidi and the transverse abdominis. These muscle groups are usually left out in other forms of exercise like running or heavy weight lifting. These muscles also known as stabilizer muscles and have the important role of stabilising your spine and pelvis.  

Gluteus and hamstring muscles 

It’s so important to work the booty and hamstrings because a strong booty and hamstring muscles allow you to function better during everyday activity. This strength also results in less lower back pain, lowers the risk of injuries and stabilises hips, knees and back.

We know the current obsession is to build a round booty. We’re grateful that we don’t buy into beauty ideals (anymore). Now we think all booties are just great! However, a strong booty, regardless of what it looks like, can be extremely beneficial. 

Inner thighs, adductors

Finding an exercise or movement that targets your inner thighs can be tricky but Pilates has you covered. Pilates exercises effectively target the adductor muscles, strengthening and toning them. Strong inner thighs help you keep balanced and stable. They stabilise your hips, knees and lower back. Boom. 

Checkout this tough mat based Pilates move below. This is one of our most favourite moves to really target inner thighs. But the cool thing, it also works your core, butt and back muscles.


As we’ve already mentioned, Pilates is truly a full body workout. If your goal is building muscle, Pilates is a great option. If your goal is to create strength alone you can absolutely use Pilates as your preferred workout. If you are looking to create that big bulky muscle look, then we’d recommend adding 2-3 weight sessions as well. 

For us, we stick to Pilates, Yoga and walking. Because these are the movements that help us feel good physically and mentally. They’re also workouts that are super accessible, you can do them in the comfort of your home! All you need is a great online class, some space and there you go.

If you’d like to try one of our Pilates classes right now, check out this Online Class. It’s just 20 minutes long, it focuses on strengthening and working your core, booty and thighs. It’s also fun! 


If you have any other questions, get in touch! We are here to help and if you haven’t noticed we love talking about Pilates!

Always merrymaking,
Emma + Carla

Ps. another blog post you might want to read is: Is Pilates Good For Weight Loss?

Scroll to Top