Anyone who has a) TikTok or b) the slightest interest in fitness will have come across wall Pilates. Much like the 12 3 30 workout, the 75 Hard and 75 Soft challenges, wall Pilates has gone viral, with a staggering 42.6 million views on TikTok.
Fans claim it brings about similar benefits to that of reformer Pilates classes without the price tag – one wrote, ‘Wall Pilates sculpted my abs, legs and glutes and gave me the strongest core of my life’, while another captioned her workout ‘transform your body in two weeks’ – but does it really work? And is it safe?
Anyone on social media can create a workout trend, whether they’re qualified or not, and I’m sceptical of anything that promises ‘fast’ results. But fads rarely make it to peak popularity like wall Pilates- not without some facts. It’s for this reason that I hit up founder of Power Pilates UK Korin Nolan for the intel, along with athlete Keltie O’Connor, who committed to doing wall Pilates daily for 14 days. Here’s what they have to say.
What is wall Pilates?
Wall Pilates involves performing traditional Pilates exercises with the ‘support of a wall’, says Nolan. The wall mimics the foot bar traditionally used in reformer Pilates classes, which adds resistance.
What are the benefits of wall Pilates?
1.It’s low impact
‘It’s kind to your joints and muscles since it doesn’t include any high-impact movement,’ Nolan explains. In fact, Pilates is often used as a form of injury rehab, and research shows it’s also an effective method for reducing the risk of injuries in sport.
2. The wall provides stability
‘If you’re a little wobbly with your balance, the wall will give you the support that you need,’ Nolan explains. The more stable you feel, the more likely you are to perform the exercises with proper form, and thus the more effective they’ll be. Winning.
3. The wall can help with alignment
‘For example, if you’re lying straight against the wall on your side, you can use the wall to determine whether you are fully straight or not,’ Nolan explains. ‘And the same if you’re standing. So it’s great if you’re practicing at home, without an instructor to correct you.’
4. The wall provides free resistance
Not feeling buying any Pilates equipment? No need. ‘As well as adding assistance, the wall can provide an extra challenge that you wouldn’t get on a mat alone,’ Nolan tells us. ‘For example, when doing a bridge with your feet up against the wall, your hips will lift higher and your hamstrings and glutes will have to work harder, making it a more advanced exercise than if you had your feet flat on the floor.’
5. It can be done at home
‘You don’t need anything other than a mat and yourself, and there are plenty of free online classes that you can follow,’ Nolan says.
It’s worth noting that science has shown plenty more benefits of Pilates in general– a review of nine studies showed that it can increase muscle mass and decrease body fat, for example. There is little research to support wall Pilates in particular, but experts are unanimous that there are wall-specific rewards to be reaped.
What are the drawbacks of wall Pilates?
‘The limitations of wall Pilates, like any Pilates done at home by yourself, is that you don’t get any feedback or correction from a teacher. It’s important to work in the correct alignment, move with precision, apply your breath correctly and engage the correct muscles to get the most benefits, and if you’re a beginner you may need a little more assistance,’ Nolan advises.
‘Sometimes, (especially when you are doing more intense exercises), if you’re not working in the correct alignment or engaging your core, you can potentially do more harm than good. However, this is rare, and I do think the good outweighs the bad.
‘Wall Pilates can be a little limiting and potentially get a bit dull if it’s the only form of exercise you practice. I love to use props such as weights to add extra resistance and challenges, and therefore would definitely recommend mixing up your workouts and also using the floor for some plank work, where you can use your bodyweight as resistance, which you can’t do against a wall.’
Will I see results with wall Pilates?
That depends what you mean by ‘results’. Do you want to build muscle? Lose weight? Improve your flexibility? If you’re a beginner that isn’t currently doing any regular exercise, then yes, adding regular wall Pilates into your routine will likely have an effect, since you'll inevitably be burning more calories than you were before, and a calorie deficit is a significant factor in body composition change.
‘If you’re new to Pilates, wall Pilates can ease you in, as it can aid with stability, alignment and help you modify certain exercises,’ Nolan says.
If you’re someone who already has some experience with training- Pilates or not, Nolan adds, ‘Wall Pilates can provide a small level of challenge, but it wouldn’t be my first choice of Pilates.
'If you are looking for changes in your body composition, I would choose a more intense version of Pilates, like dynamic Pilates, adding extra resistance with weights and resistance bands to really spice things up. Like anything, consistency is key, as is progressing your workouts as you become stronger, so that you are constantly giving your body new challenges.’
Remember that it takes your body time to adapt. As an example, research indicates that it takes around 6-10 weeks of persistent strength training for muscle growth to occur. And know that a change in body composition is multi-faceted; results are affected by sleep quality, hormones, genetics, stress levels, diet and activity levels, as well as a calorie deficit.
Get a two-week free trial with Nolan’s app Dynamic Pilates. Then get 20% off your first three months using the code: WHMDPTV
5 wall Pilates exercises
4.Side lying clam
7 things I learned doing wall Pilates for 14 days
Athlete Keltie O'Connor pledged to practice wall Pilates every day for two weeks after her social media feeds became flooded with it. ‘The algorithm caught on [with the wall Pilates trend],’ she says in her YouTube video. ‘The more I saw, the more I was intrigued. For the next 14 days, I will do the most popular workouts on Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest to see if they’re worth your time.’ Here’s what she found.
1.It's not as easy as it looks
On day one of her 14-day challenge, O'Connor punts for the top wall Pilates workouts on Google. She chooses a 20-minute wall Pilates workout for beginners, but apparently it’s not as simple as it seems.
‘I am now realising my ego had me believing this challenge would be a vacay,’ she admits. ’It looked so easy; I can barely do the first exercise.’
The reason lots of people find Pilates difficult is that it’s very different to other - what appear as higher intensity - forms of workouts. Running and weights sessions, for example, typically involve achieving a certain distance or number of reps. Pilates, meanwhile, requires control and concentration- you’re forced to slow down and have less to distract you, and it’s bloody hard.
Breathwork is another of Joseph Pilates’ key principles; it demands the engagement of the deep transverse abdominis muscles in your core, which may sometimes get the opportunity to kick back and relax mid weightlifting, for example.
What’s interesting, is that even as you get stronger, Pilates never gets easier; the more you practice, the better your form becomes, and therefore the more difficult it feels. Don’t let that put you off, though- the harder it feels, the more effective it will be.
2. Form is key
It’s not news that how you execute the exercise you do will determine how effective it is, and O'Connor found that there are repercussions to be felt when your wall Pilates form fails.
‘I know I’m not using the right form because my lower back is hurting,’ she explains. ‘I gotta get this better. There’s a lot of room for improvement.’
Later on in the challenge, she adds, ‘Pilates was originally used as a form of rehab, and to get the benefits you really have to concentrate on your form.
‘The problem with it being so trendy is that anyone can post exercises on the internet, and you don’t know if they’re qualified, so you won’t know if the form they’re showing you is right.’
Our advice? Always check the bios of the social media accounts you're taking inspo from – if they’re a certified trainer, chances are they’ll say so. Still unsure? Check out our complete Pilates guide.
3. It’s up to you to create resistance
On day three, O'Connor recognises the importance of ‘control’ – one of Joseph Pilates’ key principles. ‘It’s as hard as you want to make it,’ she explains. ‘You could go like this,’ as she swings her legs up and down, ‘or you can squeeze your glutes and core.’
The slower you take each exercise, the more time your muscles will spend under tension, which makes them feel more intense. Indeed, research in the Journal of Physiology showed that increased Time Under Tension (TUT) can make workouts more difficult and optimise muscle growth. Another study found that slowing exercises down makes them harder as it requires stability, coordination, balance, power and agility, as well as strength.
Swinging your arms and legs is a common mistake that gives you momentum, meaning your muscles won’t be pulling their weight.
4. Don’t wear socks
A more practical point: practice wall Pilates bare foot. ‘I have awful grip in these socks,’ O'Connor says as she attempts her third wall Pilates session. She then reiterates the importance of going bare foot later on in the challenge when she says, ‘This is really dangerous in socks.’
Grip socks are another option. Here is our edit of the best:
5. It might be more practical to do wall Pilates at home
One of the biggest benefits of Pilates is that it requires minimal equipment and can be done without a gym membership. O'Connor completed the majority of her challenge at home; on the one day she headed to her gym, there were ‘no bare walls’ and she had to use a pillar. Perhaps something to keep in mind, since most gyms tend to store equipment against the walls.
6. Wall Pilates can be adapted to suit every level
On day nine, O'Connor says, ‘My mum has been a Pilates instructor for over 30 years, so I asked if I could interview her on wall Pilates. She said, “For beginners, if a wall is used to perform basic exercises like the hundred, it can be a good stable environment to get confident as you progress.
‘”For more advanced people, if you’ve mastered the exercises, it can be a great way to add intensity to each move, as with wall sits. It can be a tool to make your workouts easier or more complex”.’
Time under tension and technique complexity are two key elements of Pilates progression.
7. Form is the best metric to track progress
Last month, I completed my own 30-day Pilates challenge. One of the few limitations that came to light was the ability to track progress which, according to strength and conditioning coach Andy Vincent, could be due to the absence of a measurable metric.
‘It can be hard to track progression with Pilates,’ he told me. ‘Weightlifting is easier- you go up a weight, or you do more reps.’
He advised that you could use time under tension as a progression factor but caveated that this wasn’t easy to track- it would mean stopping after every exercise in your workout to note down how long you spent performing it, and it’s almost impossible to tell which muscles are engaged and for how long. For O'Connor, she found that her form was the most effective metric to monitor.
She says: ‘With running, you can see yourself getting faster, with weights you can see yourself getting stronger, and with Pilates you can see yourself performing the moves with better form, less pain, and better mobility.’
She adds that while she didn’t see ‘much physical change within her body’, she noticed ‘improved form and that was really rewarding. I was like, “I wanna get better and better”.’
If you’re a beginner, consider filming short clips of exercises you’d like to improve on within each week, and look back at them over time. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
‘A wall is just a single tool, like a yoga block or a kettlebell. It can be good for modifications- for example, after I had my breast implants out, I would do push-up variations using a wall. It can also be good for progressions to increase your range of motion, like with sit ups. It’s also free, which I love,' she says.
Will she continue practicing wall Pilates? ‘I will be using some of the wall Pilates exercises as modifications, like the push ups I mentioned. For you, if you’re doing a 30-minute Pilates workout, I would suggest maybe doing one wall Pilates exercise per workout.’
Our two pence? If wall Pilates is something you enjoy, look forward to and will maintain, do that. If not, go for something else. Trends are trends, and if you’ve been forcing yourself to do it simply because you’ve seen someone else doing so on social media, stop. After all, as Nolan says, if it’s results you’re after, a workout makes up a very insignificant part of the puzzle. Enjoyment trumps all.
You Might Also Like