Exercising Your Options

While it won’t sculpt a bodybuilder physique, Pilates does build muscles, especially when combined with weights, say experts at Pilates Plus.

Janice Kleinschmidt Current Digital, Health & Wellness


Pilates trainer Jesse Thomas works with client Jay Allen on a Reformer machine.

For overall fitness benefit and enjoyment, try a variety of exercise modalities, personal trainer Dan Donahue advises. “I suggest starting with a mix of cables, free weights, and machines. Try a group exercise class. And don’t forget cardio work. With all the options, how could you get bored?”

Donahue himself practices an option beyond the gym: Pilates. While it won’t sculpt a bodybuilder physique, Pilates does build muscles, especially when combined with weights, says trainer Jesse Thomas of Pilates Plus in Palm Springs.

“We work on lengthening muscles that people compress in weightlifting at the gym,” he says. “Pilates is an intellectual approach to sustaining functional movement; there’s a mind-body connection, similar to that of yoga.

“Classical Pilates generally focuses on core strength and balance,” he continues. “As time goes on, trainers have taken a more hybrid approach. At Pilates Plus, I integrate weights and standing work on the Reformer [the apparatus using springs and resistance for core exercises]. Pilates can be your primary workout or done in conjunction with going to a gym. You end up using more intrinsic muscles in Pilates.”


Thomas acquired personal trainer certification and then undertook the more intensive and comprehensive (500-hour) Pilates certification program. Over his eight years training Pilates, he also has taken continuing education courses. He advises seniors to seek instructors who not only know what they are doing but also understand how older bodies function. The Reformer adapts to a user’s current range of motion and strength, while the gliding motion encourages stretch.

“I think doing Pilates a day after a weightlifting session at the gym is optimal,” Thomas says. “Some people go to the gym in the morning and do Pilates later the same day, but most of my clients designate a day just for Pilates.”

Whereas gyms offer come-and-go exercise on your own, Pilates studios typically operate strictly with trainer guidance.

Also differentiating from the gym model are Fit in 42’s three Coachella Valley studios. Personal trainers lead classes in groups of up to 30. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday classes focus on cardio conditioning; Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday classes concentrate on building muscles with weights; and boxing is offered on Friday evenings. Those who desire more personalized attention from a trainer can book muscle-building sessions limited to six people. All Fit in 42 programs include a device-derived body composition analysis and personalized nutrition guidance.

“Pilates is an intellectual approach to sustaining functional movement.”
— Jesse Thomas