What’s More Efficient for Weight Loss – Pilates or Circuit Weight Training?

I frequently get asked questions on the benefits of pilates vs. weight training. Since I am not an expert in this area, I turned to one of my colleagues.  The following article on  is from the fitness newsletter of Julia Derek, personal trainer.

Question: I’m a woman in my mid-thirties who’s looking to lose weight. I weigh 160 and my height is 5 feet 4 inches. My sister tells me that I should take up Pilates because this will make me longer and leaner. My best friend says, no, lifting weights and doing cardio is the way to go. Now I’m confused. Who is right?

Answer: If you’re looking to lose weight, a combination of cardio and circuit-weight training is definitely the way to go! Consider the following study: Pilates was put to the test by researchers at Auburn University-Montgomery. They found that it does deliver for toning your “abs,” outperforming “crunches.” Monitoring a small group of 10 Pilates veterans, the researchers found that a basic workout used only as many calories as a session of moderate stretching–276 calories an hour for a 165-pound person. Intermediate Pilates was comparable to basic step-exercising; advanced routines burned calories at a rate similar to speed-walking at 4.5 miles an hour. A medium intensity circuit-weight training session followed by cardio has the potential of burning at least double that amount of calories.
Unfortunately, many exercise programs targeting women, like Pilates, make false promises that a particular exercise routine will make them longer and leaner. Short of chopping away surgically at muscles, there’s not much you can do to lengthen or shrink your natural muscle shape. Some anorexics or severely underweight people who manage to lose so much weight that they lose lots of muscle tissue may be able to lean down and appear to change their shape. But as this is very dangerous, I certainly don’t recommend this!

It’s also almost impossible for women to develop “bulky” muscles as we have a lot less testosterone compared to men. Heck, even for men it’s hard to develop bigger muscles! The big bodybuilder-type guys you see at the gym are there for hours every day. They are also very likely to have taken a few steroids. The reason some people feel that weight-training makes them look bulky has to do with body fat remaining on top of the muscles. Yes, cardio and weights burn a lot more calories than Pilates, but not the equivalent of a bottle of wine with steak dinner every other night…

So your best friend is right, Pilates won’t exactly slim you down. Of course, Pilates does do an excellent job of improving core strength and postural awareness, which can make you look longer and leaner. In other words, if you stand taller and extend your arms farther, you will have the appearance of longer muscles…



I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.

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