By Mohamad Kadry / 11 January 2014
Women have long known the core-strengthening benefits of Pilates exercise, and it’s time that men hopped on board.
Take no offense, ladies, but I couldn’t possibly think of anything more girly than a Pilates class.
I’m hardly alone in this misconception. Most guys have been conditioned to believe that any time spent at the gym should be in the company of a stack of heavy weights. The idea of Pilates as a legitimate workout would have most body builders choking on their protein bars: Why would we ever spend precious pump time stretched out on a yoga mat?
Because it’s awesome, that’s why.
Consider me a new convert, because after years of lifting and running, boxing and crunching, one class of Pilates revealed the hard truth that I’m still coming to terms with: I’m not as fit as I thought.
While strength training and building mass have always been priorities in my fitness routine, Pilates always seemed like a “gentle” workout reserved for older women looking to get in touch with their inner spirit. Assumptions, I’ll admit, but given the amount of celebs endorsing the routine, I’ve always brushed it off as just another Hollywood trend.
But take note guys, Pilates is legit.
Not only is it one of the best core strengthening exercise routines out there, but its history should shed some light on why every guy needs to include it in his overall fitness regiment.
In the early 20th century, the practise was developed by Joseph Pilates, a boxing coach who also studied kung fu and mastered the art of body building. It’s not just ladies keeping fit with his routine; today it’s used by everyone from soldiers and swimmers to football players and everyone in between.
Like all new experiences, classes can understandably be intimidating at first. In a room full of thin, limber and flexible women, I manage to stand out like a sore thumb. These ladies are graceful, and I’m not. But I quickly realize that what’s been lacking in my weight lifting routine is intense core strengthening, the very heart of what Pilates offers.
Using your own body weight, many of the movements involved require a great deal of effort in stabilization, like raised-leg floor planks that tighten every inch of your torso .
It’s all about working smaller muscle groups, the kind of conditioning that involves repetitious movements over a longer period of time rather than lifting a dumbbell and targeting a specified area for a few seconds.
There’s a lot of emphasis on the spine and maintaining a centre balance, and for people suffering from bad backs or knees, Pilates offers a way to really stretch out your tendons and get them working effectively again.
Guys also fall into the myth that something like Pilates is “too easy”, but they couldn’t be more off because the moves involved are deceptively difficult, even for the fittest of athletes. If you’re looking to develop well-defined abs and lift heavier weights too, it all starts with a stronger core.
What Pilates ultimately offers is a way to work out muscles in a way that your body is not accustomed to, and that’s exactly how strength and flexibility is built. For guys who are used to reps on the flat bench, Pilates is the best way to work out all those little muscles that you’ve probably been ignoring all along.