Before we begin to talk about Strength and Endurance in Pilates, we need to define these two terms-
Strength is the maximum force you can apply onto an external object, at any one time.
Endurance is applying a sub maximal (less than your maximum) force for an extended period of time.
We always work them both in Pilates, however, it is often difficult to increase muscular strength in Pilates, as you need to have enough progressive overload to stimulate muscle growth. Activating muscles does not stimulate muscle growth - enough progressive overload on that muscle where it is fatigued (meaning a repetition or two away from failure) does. Gradually increasing the stress placed on a muscle will elicit a response - hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is the increase in size and number of muscle fibres within a muscle or group that causes muscle mass.
What Pilates does best is work on muscle endurance. Take for example, the 'Side Lying Series', when you can feel your hips and gluteals working for an extended period of time, and are usually able to make it to completion. Another example is holding a plank which is an endurance exercise and is measured with time.
One other valuable concept to understand is The Law of Specificity, which means if you want to get stronger and better at something, you need to continue to do it, "Practice what you want to be good at". For example, you will only get better at holding a side plank or a teaser, if you continue to practice holding a side plank or teaser. Certainly, the benefit of Pilates is that it offers us building blocks and modifications to help us achieve these exercises.
The bottom line is that we need to understand that Pilates has muscular benefits but they are primarily muscular endurance, coordination and flexibility. It also helps with our balance and posture. For a fully rounded approach to fitness, supplementing Pilates with strength training and cardio, or cross-training, will provide us with many benefits as we age - maintaining mobility, heart health and strength.
Here's to many happy summer adventures,