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Who was Joseph Pilates?

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joseph pilates

Who was Joseph Pilates?

We know Pilates is a system of exercises using special apparatus, designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, posture, and enhance mental awareness.

We know we can do Pilates on Mat or using the classic apparatus.

We know that after each session we feel great.

But how much do we know about the man who developed it?

Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in Monchengladbach Germany in 1883. As a child, Joe had asthma and other ailments so he turned to exercise and athletics to battle them. He became enamored by the classical Greek ideal of a man balanced in body, mind, and spirit, and he began to develop his own exercise system based on this concept.

In 1912 Joe went to England, where he worked as a self-defense instructor for detectives at Scotland Yard. Starting World War I, Joe was interned as an “enemy alien” with other German nationals. During his internment, Joe refined his ideas and trained other internees in his system of exercise.

“He rigged springs to hospital beds, enabling bedridden patients to exercise against resistance, an innovation that led to his later equipment designs.”

After his release, Joe returned to Germany. His exercise method gained favor in the dance community when German officials asked Joe to teach his fitness system to the army, he decided to leave Germany for good.

In 1926, Joe emigrated to the United States. There, he and his wife Clara open an exercise studio and by 1940 he had achieved notoriety in the dance community. A dance magazine in 1956 reported ‘virtually every dancer in New York between 1939 and 1951 has meekly submitted to the spirited instruction of Joe Pilates’.

After his death in 1967, his students started to teach and open studios in different parts of the country. In the 1980’s Pilates entered the fitness mainstream. Today more than 10 million people in the USA alone practice the Pilates method.

So, what are you waiting for? Come on into Pilates in the Grove and let us show you why 10 million people can’t be wrong.


Little known facts about Pilates:

  • Pilates original name was CONTROLOGY, Joseph intended it to be about the art of control, an exercise method where you control your body, mind, and muscles.
  • Joseph wrote two books to explain his philosophies and illustrate his exercises, “Return to Life Through Contrology,” and ”Your Health.”
  • Joseph made the original ‘magic circle’ from the steel bands around beer kegs”.


Claudia Villarreal, PMA®-CPT



  • Jolene
    11/14/2018 at 10:26 am


    Hi Christa. This is Jolene from Pilates Pal. Thank you for this blog post. Were you at the 2015 Pilates Method Alliance Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona where they gave a sneak preview of the movie, Tribute to Joseph Pilates? I absolutely loved it. If you’re interested, I wrote my thoughts about it in an article on our site, I watched the attendees as they all sat there with such great interest and eagerness to learn more about the man who gave them the method that they are now using and teaching others to help bring them health and healing, just as you are. Here is to the continuation of passing on the legend of Pilates.

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