Author: Nicole Nichols ( Pilates Instructor )
Why Pilates Works Well for Men
It’s no secret that I love Pilates. It’s one of my favorite workouts for a number of reasons. It has helped me develop greater core strength, increase my flexibility, manage my chronic back pain, improve my posture, and relieve stress. I truly believe that Pilates can benefit people of all ages and fitness levels. Yet many people think of Pilates as an “easy” mode of exercise or a “gentle” workout that’s more for old ladies than it is for fit young men, for example.
Core strength, flexibility, balance, uniform development, and efficient movement patterns – all are hallmarks of Pilates training and highly relevant to mens fitness. The integrative component of Pilates can be especially beneficial for men, whose workouts often emphasize a part-by-part approach to muscular development, such as what what finds in weightlifting. Pilates, by contrast, emphasizes moving from the center of the body, and developing core strength in the deep muscles of the center to stabilize the trunk and protect the back. This kind of core training makes Pilates an excellent technique for whole-body fitness, as well as a foundation for cross training with other kinds of sports and exercise. Increasing flexibility is a goal that Pilates addresses in a way that men often feel comfortable with. Pilates works toward functional fitness. That is, the ability to have the strength, balance, and flexibility that allows one to move through daily-life tasks with grace and ease. To this end, Pilates exercises do seek to increase flexibility and range of motion, but one won’t find the kind of pretzel stretches in Pilates that one might find in gymnastics or yoga.
As a Pilates instructor, I’ve taught a wide variety of clients, as young as 13 and as old as 75. I’ve worked with professional dancers, collegiate football players, stay-at-home moms, and triathletes. While women (young and old) dominate my classes, the occasional male finds his way into class. Some have become “regulars,” while others are never to be seen again. While I’ll never know what makes one guy pursue Pilates and another try it only once, one thing is true: Pilates does benefit men just as it does women.
In fact, what people might not know is that Pilates was not only created by a man, but originally intended as an exercise program for men as well. Nico Gonzalez, Cincinnati-based personal trainer, master Pilates instructor, and creator of the DVD “Pilates Playground” explains, “Joseph Pilates himself practiced his method and trained many males. The practice was very athletic in nature.” He worked with German soldiers and helped many of them recover and rehabilitate from injuries using his exercise method.
It wasn’t until many of the “Pilates elders” (people who studied directly under Joseph Pilates) started teaching that Pilates changed a bit. “Many of these elders were ex-dancers, so they infused the dancer language into the practice,” says Gonzalez.
While most Pilates practitioners and students these days are women, I wanted to share the experiences of three men I know (including Gonzalez, quoted above) who regularly practice Pilates. These guys all vary in their fitness goals, but all come back to Pilates regularly. Find out what they like about it from a male’s perspective.
“I suffered two knee injuries during a race in ’09 that kept me sidelined from running for about 6 months. Any time I’d run longer distances, my hips and knees would ache so bad I would have to walk home. I finally went to a physical therapist that immediately saw a connection between my weak glutes and my knee problems. I learned that I had very little hip stability (and yet I always assumed my butt was very strong). He gave me a bunch of exercises to do for the smaller muscle groups and it just so happened that it looked a lot like Pilates. I started attending classes and it’s made all the difference in keeping me running. I can finally bend over and touch my palms to the floor– so improved flexibility and control.”
“I think men probably feel like they have such limited time, so why work on muscles they haven’t heard of and can’t see when there are biceps and pecs to be pumping? It’s also probably intimidating when those Pilates girls make it looks so easy and smooth, yet men aren’t as flexible or graceful most of the time.”
I’ve learned that the best swimmers swim with their cores; the best runners have stable hips and can train harder without injury; and there is cycling power in a strong core, especially as the ride gets long and/or hilly. Pilates helps with all of that. Plus, my 7 p.m. Pilates class might be the first time I actually take a conscious breath in an entire day. Pilates keeps us humble, that’s for sure. Oh, and it usually has a great female-to-male ratio!”
“Men may be intimidated by Pilates due to the exercises that seem popular. Guys don’t want to lie on the floor and exercise with their body weight. When I get a potential male client, I tend to do athletic movements with them that are more relatable. ”
“Many of my male clients who love weight training, running, and biking have made Pilates a staple in their weekly routines. They incorporate Pilates because they feel the benefits. They can lift more weight with confidence because they know how to activate their core, thanks to Pilates. So many lifters compensate when lifting heavy and then injure themselves. I’m very happy that I train male lifters…I keep them injury free!”