Busting the ‘Long and Lean’ Myth in Women’s Fitness

I remember looking in the mirror trying to figure out how to change the shape of my thighs. I didn’t necessarily want them small (I have thick Brazilian legs), but I wanted them longer and leaner.

Friends told me to try barre classes. Others suggested I run marathons. Popular magazines confirmed Pilates was the secret sauce. I had no idea who was right but I was all in, and tried every suggestion out there to no avail.

Has this happened to you?

Women’s fitness needs a good smack upside the head for misleading information like this. Everything from “women shouldn’t lift more than 3lbs” to “lifting weights will make you bulky” is a massive disservice to women and our health. But no lie irks me quite as much as the false promise of long and lean, particularly in the Pilates industry.

Long & Lean In Context

Whenever a studio or person promises that their Pilates session (or any fitness method) will deliver “long and lean” muscles what they’re really saying is:

Your appearance will change. You’ll shed body fat to reveal the long, supermodel limbs, and flat stomach you dream of! Sign up today to achieve your long and lean muscles without the bulk!

Ugh. I almost puked writing that.

This type of marketing lingo preys on women’s insecurities and hidden desires to look like Victoria Secret supermodels. It falsely claims that if you just stick with them, you’ll magically turn into a long and lean cover model fairy.

The promise of ‘long and lean’ magnifies women’s body image insecurities and leads us to obsessively seek out a way to fix our bodies with methods that don’t do as they advertise

As a Pilates instructor and trainer, I get why the fitness industry would use this type of language. It’s attractive to a lot of customers, it sells products and services, and there are a lot of women who seek out that physique.

If you’ve ever taken a Pilates class or done one of my workouts from Pilates FloWOD, a digital course for lifters that teaches Pilates in short, easy-to-follow training videos, then you have likely heard things like:

“Sit up tall.”

“Make your spine grow longer”

“Extend the back of your neck up while rooting your sit bones down”

These common Pilates cues are used to clean up form and technique, and help clients feel the exercise from the right place. The reason you may feel taller, longer, or leaner as a result of a consistent Pilates practice, however, is due to the fact that you are decompressing the spine, releasing muscle tightness and tension in your back and neck, improving posture, and stretching all at once.

Within this context, Pilates does help you feel longer and leaner, but it’s not a magic bullet for fat loss and muscle definition.

How To Get Long and Lean Muscles…For Real

Ladies, we can’t change our bone structure, our genetics, or spot reduce any area. If you want to lean out, you can still enjoy your Pilates and SoulCycle classes as long as you balance it out with:

  • Strength training 4-5x a week
  • Conditioning sessions  1-2x a week either in the form of HIIT, sprints, finishers, metabolic work, or steady-state…whatever floats your boat
  • Eating enough calories to sustain your level of activity, feed your muscles for growth, and help you lose body fat at the same time
  • Get enough quality sleep (8-9 hours) to aid your recovery so those muscles can repair and grow

Pilates is an incredible method for every body type, and I hate that the way it’s marketed to women excludes a lot of other people who may benefit from it.

We can’t change our bone structure, genetics, or spot reduce any area. If you want to lean out, balance out your Pilates or Spin classes with plenty of strength training and conditioning.

I aim to break the stigma that Pilates is best for one body type, which is why I created the free guide The Meathead Pilates Body. There are no false promises about what Pilates can do for your aesthetics, only real, helpful information to get you started on your Pilates path without the B.S. Download it here

Use Pilates to Serve Your Body and Fitness

In my course Pilates FloWOD, I help you gain control of your body and movement so you can get more out of your workouts and live a more active, injury-free life.

  • Each lesson focuses on a specific body part or goal to help you release tension, improve stability, mobility, and find more range of motion
  • You’ll learn the three foundational pieces that will enhance your practice, from 3D breathing, spinal movement, and hip mobility
  • Make the shift to one of the full workouts and enjoy 20-30 challenging minutes of Pilates exercises from home!

When you become a member of the Pilates FloWOD course, you’ll have lifetime access to all the training videos and get locked in for a VIP Founding Members rate for my monthly Pilates membership, due out later this year!

Click here to register for Pilates FloWOD!

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