pilates and cross fit – {real client case study}

November 10, 2013


This month we interview a dedicated client of ours – Faisal Lutfi – a 29 year old father of 2, a partner in 2 businesses, Sheburger and Allinque Personal Assistance and a Senior Manager of regional and international affairs in Dubai Customs, who is currently, cross-complementing his Cross Fit training regime with Pilates after being diagnosed with a few of spinal injuries. We are delighted to share his results with you.

But before that lets talk a bit about Crossfit and Pilates. Both have their origins in gymnastics. Pilates originated in the early twentieth century by Joseph Pilates, a former gymnast and boxer.The main goal of Pilates is to return our bodies to a functional level, strengthening the muscular system from the core to the periphery, focusing mostly on the small stabilizing and postural muscles.

Crossfit was founded in 1995 by Greg Glassman, a former high school gymnast. Crossfit focuses on the ten aspects of fitness: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy.

Both Crossfit and Pilates are based on functional movements and the ability to control your body under a large variety of demands leading to improved fitness and health. Both methods include many body weight moves such as squats, push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups, as well as more advanced gymnastic skills such as handstand pushups, ring dips, and back levers. The basic functional movements of pushing, pulling, squatting, lifting and rotating all require our bodies to work at optimal function, with ideal joint mobility and stability, something many of us have unlearned from years of being trapped behind desks, in cars and on couches. Both Crossfit and Pilates aim to return our bodies to that functional level, albeit by different modalities. Pilates is the perfect foundation and complement to Crossfit setting up the body with an optimal foundation, while also enabling the restoration of muscle balance and aiding in the recovery process. Spinal Stabilization, joint mobility and a strong back are principal guidelines for both Pilates and Crossfit. Both methods are based on the belief that the body works as a whole, with the entire kinetic chain functioning in an integrated manner, rather than in isolation (bodybuilding).

“I have always trained religiously ever since I was young and have done all kinds of different sports. Both my parents and my siblings are all sports addicts. This is why I was mostly affected when I was told I wouldn’t be able to be as agile and do challenging sports anymore. Thanks to Allah, I was put unto this path and adapted pilates happily into my lifestyle which has made me reach levels I never thought I could.”


Faisal was determined to avoid surgery and at his last resort, walked into our studio after reading that core strength is key to keeping his spine mobile, strong and fit for his life. He went under an assessment with Walid Tebarki, one of our Pilates teachers, and after a few sessions, his mobility has improved enormously to the point of being able to compete in a Cross Fit competition this month. Faisal has never felt more stronger than ever. We are delighted to hear so, and had to interview his progress for you:

Faisal, how did you discover Crossfit?
I always used to do weight training and cardio separately. Both kinds of trainings were just too repetitive and got boring after a while. I was always shifting between one sport to another, then going back to the traditional weight training plus cardio. When I started learning about crossfit more than a year ago by coming across videos on youtube, the dynamics of this kind of training really intrigued me, mixing Olympic Lifting, Plyometrics, sprints, and gymnastics all within maximum time of an hour.

What benefits of Crossfit have you felt and seen so far?
When I started doing crossfit more than a year ago, I was shocked at how fit I thought I was, but apparently not fit by crossfit measures. In terms of benefits I have friends who have come to try crossfit, being from different athletic backgrounds. Not a single one of them finished the workout! One of them didn’t even finish the warmup!! I have gained so much muscle from this sport. I lift heavier than I have ever lifted, my endurance has never reached this level as well. The beauty of the sport is that your competitor is yourself. You compete with your past self and not with others .

Why did you start practicing Pilates?
I have a history of back pain for about 5 years now. When weight training, I would get to a point where if I did lift more, I would end up with severe back pain that shoots to my leg. I recently had an MRI done, which revealed that I have disc degeneration, 2 bulging discs and a tilted hip. A doctor said I might need surgery and others told me I won’t be able to lift weights again or even run! I did my own research and all answers lead to core strengthening hence, started practicing pilates and avoiding surgery as recommended by the doctors.

What exercises in your Pilates training did you feel the most beneficial aiding your injury recovery?
When I started Pilates I was in so much pain, I didn’t even walk straight. I remember telling my trainer Waleed that I’m in so much pain and I really think I’m going to have a surgery. However, I’ll just try Pilates as a last resort before I take the decision. Surprisingly he reassured me on day one that he had similar back problems and the doctors told him the same about having surgery. At first he didn’t really convince me but within 2-3 weeks of training I could bend down again and perform the prayers comfortably. I mostly enjoy the exercises we perform on the Cadillac Pilates machine, since it is somewhat similar to the training we practice in crossfit.

How did Pilates help you regain mobility and get back on track with your fitness regime?
I stopped medications about a month through pilates and went back to crossfit very conservatively at that time, till about 2 months through pilates I kept all my training in crossfit at minimal weights even though it’s a lifting sport. No one would guess from the way I train now that I was diagnosed with all these back related problems.

Have you seen an improvement in your Crossfit training after starting Pilates training?
Ever since I started pilates, I have broken my own records of lifting weights ! Not only that, I am participating in my first crossfit competition! I honestly never ever thought of competing, let alone reaching this level of weight lifting.

Do you feel that both Crossfit and Pilates complement each other? How so if yes?
I think it’s the perfect formula, at least for me it worked like a miracle. I also didn’t mention that before pilates I was on pain killers, tried acupuncture, been to many chiropractors, I also did Chinese cupping and physiotherapy. I don’t say the pain doesn’t creep up on me every once in a while, but nothing near where it used to be. I used to be most comfortable lying down and that was the only position I used to spend most my time in. And now I gladly pick up my children every time I come back home from work, which is the most thing that affected me when I was in pain, not having the energy for my own kids.
The majority of crossfit workouts depend on the core, and some of them very heavily and intensely like squatting, deadlifts, overhead presses and snatches just to name a few.. Even though we do have core exercises in crossfit, they are not very targeted especially for someone who didn’t have a strong core to begin with like myself. I learned that working out doesn’t matter how it makes you look, but how you feel inside out.

What advice would you give our readers when cross training Pilates with Crossfit?
Pilates isn’t a sport for everyone, but I truly came to realise that sometimes all you need to do is listen to your own body and not let people tell you whether you can or can’t do crossfit or anything you have a passion for, in your life. Listen to your body.


Do you have an injury and you would like to work with one of our personal Pilates experts or looking to cross-train alongside your current athletic regime to balance out the body?
Book a Pilates assessment with us by calling: 04 – 429 8433 and visit: