Why Men Should Do Pilates

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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.
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.
Chris is a friend and fellow thirty-something guy who lives and breathes exercise. He comes to my weekly mat class pretty regularly, although he's been slacking this summer (and by slacking I mean "biking outside when the weather is nice"). A self-described "washed up soccer player-turned amateur triathlete pretending to be a pro," he bikes, runs and swims extra-long distances on a regular basis and plans to complete his first 50-mile trail run this September. He started Pilates two years ago when he was tired of doing the same old routine of crunches each week.  

How has Pilates benefited you?
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 happed 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."

Why do you think men are intimidated by or not interested in Pilates?
"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."

Why should men do Pilates?
Where do I start!? I've finally 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!"
Nico is my go-to Pilates guru. He's the master trainer I've trained with most often during my own instructor training. He's an amazing personal trainer and fitness instructor who specializes in Pilates, but also teaches Spinning, Tabata boot camp, kickboxing, and Zumba. He has even competed in a men's figure (body building) competition! Needless to say, this guy is strong and fit. He makes sure to include at least one hour of Pilates training into his fitness plan each week. "My body feels completely aligned after a great Pilates Mat session.  It's my 'go-to' exercise when I get off a long flight or been training all weekend long," says Gonzalez.
Why do you think men are intimidated by or not interested in Pilates?
"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. "
Why should men do Pilates?
"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!"
DAVID TOOLE (not pictured)
David, who served four years in the Air Force (F-15 Avionics) before switching to civilian work as a software engineer, became a regular in my mat Pilates classes at a local gym a few years ago. A consistent exerciser, his workouts also include a mix of Spinning, circuit training (weights), walking, and the elliptical. He's also worked with a personal trainer both to get stronger and help work through a shoulder injury. I recently moved to teach Pilates at a new gym, so I no longer see David each week…and that is where his story begins.

How has Pilates benefited you?
"Here's a short story for you. Since my favorite Pilates instructor left my gym (!), I hadn't done a Pilates class in a while. I recently took a trip to DC and probably walked upwards of 20+ miles in 5 days. When I got back, I suddenly started having hip pain and trouble putting weight on my leg. I immediately booked a physical therapy appointment, and guess what most of my strengthening exercises were? The Pilates leg series that I hadn't been doing for a few weeks! Needless to say, I'm back in Pilates class and I've incorporated more side leg exercises into my routine! I guess the point is that I didn't know how much it was helping me until I stopped doing it."

Why do you think men are intimidated by or not interested in Pilates?
"I'm sure it varies from guy to guy, but I think the #1 reason is probably just that it doesn't seem 'manly' enough. It's full of women in tight spandex lying on the floor and seemingly not doing much at all beyond stretching and flexing into 'girly' positions that often have 'girly names' (Mermaid stretch, anyone?)"

Why should men do Pilates?  
"What I would tell those guys is that Pilates can be VERY challenging, and while it doesn't burn as many calories as some other workouts, it IS a great workout and can benefit the other types of exercises that you do. Also, I would tell them that it is like any other exercise: You get out of it what you put in. I like the fact that several people of varying degrees of fitness can all be doing the same class, and still get a challenging workout, simply by modifying or advancing the exercises to their level."

So are you convinced? Even if a class doesn't feel like the right fit for you, you can still benefit from Pilates at home via these great SparkPeople videos:

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