Does Pilates Build Muscle?


Pilates was created by the physical trainer, Joseph Pilates, in the early 20th century. Although invented around 100 years ago, the popularity of Pilates workouts has grown exponentially over the last few decades. 

It has been shown and proven that individuals who regularly practise Pilates exercises enjoy an array of benefits. 

We both personally have experienced many! And it is our honour to see many of our MerryBody Members practice Pilates consistently and experience the same benefits. 

No matter the style of Pilates you choose, Mat Pilates, Reformer or Classical, you will experience these great benefits. 

Benefits include, increased range of motion, increased stamina, strengthened abdominal muscles, improved posture, weight loss, increased flexibility, increased muscle tone, and so many more.

However, a widespread question about this full body workout is whether Pilates is effective at increasing muscle mass and building stronger and bigger muscles.

Many people, especially women, wish to strictly tone their muscle groups and avoid the look of getting bulky muscles, while there are also many people who prefer to transform their bodies by building muscle. 

When it comes to building muscles, the truth about Pilates is that it falls somewhere in the middle. And there are also many other factors that contribute to the increase of muscle mass. Like diet, genes, health and how often you workout.


For us, we just want to move and feel great. We care more about feeling stronger than looking like we have big guns or perfectly toned arms. 

We’re not here to teach you how to be a bodybuilder! We’re also not here to inspire you to look like a supermodel. 

In fact, what we care about most, is how you FEEL. Let’s just say, we do things a little differently inside MerryBody. 

But we get it, we live in a world where muscle tone and biceps are important to some. Either way, keep reading and get ready to roll out your mat and start your first Pilates class! 

Pilates is a form of exercise that uses body weight, which means that you cannot expect to put on muscle mass like The Rock. You would need to lift a lot of heavyweights for that. 

However, Pilates sessions are no joke! Whether you choose Reformer or Mat Pilates, you will experience weight resistance training. Meaning that you will be using your muscles. When you create a consistent practice you will build strength and muscle mass.   

Which muscle groups are targeted through Pilates?

Pilates targets a range of muscles and provides a true full body workout. Some of the specific muscles Pilates is proven to affect include:

Core muscles

Oh yes, as you pratice pilates get ready for a strong core! Really, each and every movement engages the core. But the core goes so much deeper than just your 6 pack. 

Stabiliser muscles

Pilates movements prompt your body to engage your deep intrinsic muscles, such as multifidi and the transverse abdominis, which are the muscles that are used to stabilise your body. These muscles have the function of stabilising your spine, pelvis, and core muscles.

Booty/gluteus muscles 

Pilates will target the area responsible for giving you a round, lifted booty. Pilates is an excellent option for toning the backside of your legs and tightening and lifting the glute muscles, which will give your booty a rounded and lifted appearance. Once again there are a lot of variables, like genes, Carla seems to have been born with a round and lifted booty! 

Inner thighs

Finding a workout that will target and burn your inner thighs can be pretty tricky, but Pilates has this issue solved. Many Pilates sessions target your adductor muscles effectively.


Internal obliques

Your body has two different sets of oblique muscles, internal and external obliques. Doing Pilates exercises such as bicycle crunches will engage your external obliques, and then static side planks will engage your internal obliques. Both exercises contribute to working your midsection, creating stability and strength.

The above muscle groups are referred to as the powerhouse muscles within the Pilates world. You’ll notice they are within the centre of your body, this is where Pilates’ movements begin. But as we’ve already mentioned Pilates is truly a full body workout. 

How much muscle mass can I expect to gain?

Pilates is a physical activity geared more towards conditioning muscles and improving core strength and less towards increasing muscle mass. This means that following a general Pilates routine will tone your muscles without increasing bulk. 

You’ll experience increased core strength, improved posture, increased flexibility and more! 

If you’re looking to create larger muscles we’d recommend to also include regular weight sessions along with regular Pilates sessions. If you’re a member of a gym you’ll more than likely find a Pilates class on the regular group class schedule. 

If the time does not work, or if you’re not that keen to join in on the group class, sign up for an online Pilates class!

Within our MerryBody App, you’ll find hundreds of Pilates classes, along with Yoga and Meditation. 

All you need is some space, a Yoga mat (or just the ground) and an internet connection and you can begin today.

As you continue your Pilates pratice you will build muscle strength, create better posture and simply feel amazing!

Always merrymaking,

Emma + Carla

Ps. why not try a quick strength building Pilates class right now! Try this online Pilates class! 
Pps. Or, if you’re not ready to do the class right now. Sign up HERE and we’ll send you a class straight to your inbox for later! 


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