Through the years teaching Pilates I have often heard men say, “Pilates – isn’t that for women?” When female clients ask their husbands or boyfriends, who they want to experience the benefits they know can happen with Pilates, they are met with the same question: “Pilates – isn’t that for women?”
Hopefully this blog post will help to debunk that myth.
Firstly, the Pilates system of exercise was created by Joseph Pilates. He was a man, who, in the early 1900’s earned a living as a boxer, a circus acrobat and a self-defense trainer. As a professional boxer, Pilates designed his rigorous system to meet the needs of professional athletes and men in other occupations where strength, stamina, flexibility and resistance to injury were of critical importance. He was a professional trainer and self-defense instructor for Germany’s police forces as well as England’s Scotland Yard.
Later on, after emigrating to the United States, he and his wife Clara founded their studio in New York. Their exercise system, which they called Contrology, quickly established a following with dancers, gymnasts and other athletes. Their students included the likes of dance greats Martha Graham & George Balanchine. Balanchine sent his dancers to Joseph Pilates for their rehabilitation and training needs.
Joseph Pilates was inspired by the Greek ideal of balance in both body and mind and of a beautiful body that was flexible and strong. Every Pilates exercise, therefore, is comprised of a balance of stretching and strengthening. This balance helps develop better posture, better alignment and creates more symmetry in the body. With better posture you stand straighter and look taller.
Gladly, in recent years Pilates has gained more recognition among men because of the many benefits. It is hard to say no to a leaner and more balanced physique; increased core strength and flexibility; living with more mind-body conscious attention and a strengthened pelvic floor which can lead to having better sex. And because Pilates doesn’t strain the joints, it is exercise that can be done for a lifetime.
One of my clients, 86 years young, started Pilates to gain flexibility, strength, and balance. An additional motivation revealed itself to be that he wanted to get in shape in order to get a girlfriend. So in addition to his regular Pilates exercises with the core and pelvic floor strengthening, a staple exercise on his menu was push-ups. Push ups… a very functional movement for… mmm … certain situations with a girl friend.
Many men have tight muscles, especially tight hamstrings and this can create a lack of mobility and back issues. Besides strengthening the core, Pilates improves flexibility, range of motion and agility.
I had another client a few years back who was a body builder. I was amazed to find that during the Pilates side kick series on the mat, he could hardly lift his leg up because it was so heavy and tight with bulked up muscles. He had difficulty moving effectively because his own muscles were getting in their own way. He needed that flexibility, range of motion and agility.
Two of the Pilates principles are breathing and concentration. The Pilates exercise system improves breathing, which sends more oxygen to the brain and body. Because there is a strong emphasis on focusing the mind on doing the exercises correctly, you gain more insight into your mind and body. This sharpens mental focus, creates a centering effect and helps to improve performance under pressure.
Yes! That alone can help make you smarter.
Pilates is known as “intelligent exercise”. It isn’t mindless repetitions or focusing on one part of the body or the other. The whole body is worked out in a Pilates session. You also work the smaller muscles, so Pilates creates a more balanced, leaner and longer look. Exercises are performed with full focus and control so that you get the most out of every exercise. It is exercise that is smart.
Although the general male population has been slower to embrace Pilates than women, increasingly more athletes are making Pilates a crucial part of their injury prevention and rehabilitation exercise regime. With the focus on stretching and strengthening and the benefits mentioned above, Pilates helps athletes achieve optimal performance.
Pilates is great for cross training because it builds stamina and endurance. It enhances your performance in whatever sport you are involved in, be it running; golf; basketball or tennis.
Some of the big-name athletes that have adopted Pilates as part of their workout and rehab routines include Tiger Woods, Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant, to name a few. During the 2012 Summer Olympics, LeBron James famously tweeted a photo of himself training on a Pilates reformer.
So men, forget that idea that Pilates is for women. The next time someone asks if you have ever tried Pilates, how about saying, “Pilates – I hear that’s a great workout, that’s what LeBron James does, right?”
The writer, Lucille Pratibha Noggle is owner and classical Pilates instructor at Studio Sol Pilates in Prescott, AZ