Pilates…………..not for Men!

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Why would a man choose Pilates? It’s too easy! It’s for dancers, flexible people, and young people!  Pilates was originally designed by Joseph Pilates for men. Most men understand the mechanics of a car and that it needs maintenance, the same goes for the human body. In a simplified way, it is made up of muscles, bones, and ligaments. If these are used incorrectly as in sitting or playing a sport that uses one side of the body only, we get out of balance. If we don’t put water into our body it can’t function properly just like not putting oil or gas in our car.

Men don’t get back pain.

Men suffer from back pain today because of the lifestyle we have where we aren’t moving enough daily or from playing a sport that utilizes one side of the body more than the other. Unfortunately when it comes to gardening or lifting and carrying something heavy, or a task that needs us to bend over, we feel pain. Often this is because our hamstrings are tight or our rotator muscles are weak.

There is a lot of focus on the six-pack. Having a six-pack looks aesthetically pleasing but does not mean a strong core or support the posture. In Pilates, the deepest abdominal muscle the transverse abdominis is focused on, along with the other abdominal muscles, as this muscle aids in trunk stabilization and keeps the spine protected. When these muscles are worked they all work with the muscles that extend the spine and improve the posture.

Men who go to the gym have great looking biceps, shoulders, and legs! So who would want to have the flexibility in their hamstrings to touch the floor or worry about ahead that juts forward due to tight muscles?

Many athletes today have added Pilates to their workouts as a form of,”pre-hab !”  I can’t speak for them personally but we see Le Bron James, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, David Beckham, and Sylvester Stallone in magazines quoted as using Pilates to improve their balance, agility and to recruit smaller muscles and ligaments that they don’t use in the gym.

It would make sense for an athlete to tale Pilates on their off day as a way to work on different areas and flexibility.

Unfortunately, I haven’t worked with as many men as I’d have liked to in the past 10 years. Most of them have either come to Pilates because their spouses have encouraged them to join a class, or they have had orthopedic surgeons recommend they start Pilates to strengthen after back surgery. All the men who have taken classes have stayed and expressed the improvements. Many have been golfers and cyclists and I had a polo player who spent many hours on his horse or riding his bike. If you can imagine the posture or movements of these men you can understand how it impacted their bodies.

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One of my clients in the UK was a dentist. He was 6’6” tall and had spent the last 30 years hunched over his patients. He suffered from severe headaches and a kyphotic (hunched) posture. One of his colleagues an oral surgeon had stopped working due to the pain from the repetitive posture. It was this guy who told my client to try Pilates when he was able to come out of retirement through improving his posture by taking Pilates. In the Pilates world, Dr’s posture is described as a question mark? as they spend a lot of time bending over patients.

For a man to walk into a mat class for the first time would probably feel daunting. If you want to try mat Pilates look for a small class or men-only classes. I think many men have been taught that if they aren’t feeling something, it’s not working. Pilates is a mind-body exercise. For many of us, it is not easy to switch off from outside interference. I have never been a person who could sit quietly and meditate but when I focus on breathing and movement I leave a class feeling very refreshed. It does a while to become familiar and comfortable with the terms and movements. Like learning to read or write, you have to be patient, do it regularly and you will benefit. This is why a small class and a beginner package work well. There is no competition in a Pilates class as our bodies can all do different movements at different times. A Pilates class should have people looking different to accommodate each person’s physical requirements. Eventually, we would all like to perform the same exercises but if we don’t, hopefully, we all look and feel better than when we started!