Are you man enough for Pilates?

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.

Mohamad Kadry  takes to the mat to discover that there’s more to the routine than guys give it credit for.

Mohamad Kadry takes to the mat to discover that there’s more to the routine than guys give it credit for.

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. 

Are Men Afraid of Pilates

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by: Ariel Hernandez

Most men love sports, which requires strength, flexibility, stability and balance—so why aren’t more men flocking to Pilates studios? It’s been 17 years since I begin teaching Pilates and 10 years since I opened my own studio, and during that time only one thing’s been missing: men. I’ve taught Pilates to men, including a few professional athletes, however, I think many studio owners will agree that women vastly outnumber men as clients.

Until recently, Pilates was a well-kept secret among professional athletes. I recently taught two high school kids who were enthusiastic about taking Pilates because they learned that many NFL players are required to use it (using the Reformer, which I believe makes the workout safer and more effective) as part of their workout routine.

So if macho men who are paid millions to play football can do Pilates, I wonder…Why aren’t more men taking advantage of this exercise? Do they acquaint Pilates with ballet or do they consider it too “feminine?” Do they hear that it strengthens their core and increases flexibility and think, I’ve got a six pack and who wants to be flexible? Has our industry done a poor job of communicating the significant benefits of the exercises created by Joseph Pilates?

I was once a skeptic as well. When I was in my early 20s, I lived in Miami where I taught kickboxing, weight training and gymnastics. Needless to say, I thought I was in great shape. A friend of mine who was a ballet dancer was taking Pilates classes. I watched a class and thought, that’s for girls—it’s a little stretching thing. My friend convinced me to take a class and you know the rest of the story: that class kicked my butt! I fell in love with the Pilates exercises that provided strength and flexibility, along with balance, joint stability and body awareness.

I began taking classes while still nursing a nagging back injury and little by little, the injury went away. I began studying for certifications and along the way got into the best shape of my life. Pilates has changed my body physically, and has changed my life mentally and spiritually, and I want to share that with everyone…from children to adults, to men and women, to professional athletes or office desk jockeys.

So how can a regular Pilates class benefit any man? Well, to begin with, it’s one of the best ways I know to improve your physique or your game, whether it’s hockey, basketball, baseball, running, golf or cycling. Among my former clients are an Olympic skier, two tennis playing sisters of international fame, and probably the world’s best-known golfer. He knew Pilates would increase his flexibility and range of motion and help prevent injuries during a long pro tour—and the results have made sports history time and again.

Like all Pilates instructors know, this golfer realized that most pain and injuries are the result of muscle imbalance and a lack of flexibility. For example, too often men train their upper bodies, and that creates muscle imbalance and misalignment, which can lead to injury. Pilates is one of the best methods I know of for preventing balancing muscles, aligning the body and preventing injury. For that reason alone, men should be running to their nearest Pilates studio. I’ve trained NBA players because they knew that stabilizing their hip and knee joints is critical to their performance on the court, not to mention the increased range of motion they experienced.

In our studio, we can train clients for a specific sport, however, by following the Pilates principles of moving with stability to engage the appropriate muscles, enhance body awareness, strengthen the core and increase balance and agility, we engage the entire body from the head to the tips of the toes.

The men I work with say Pilates is without exception the best exercise they’ve ever done. When they first experience it, they are surprised it is so challenging, and how good they feel after the workout. For example, one of my clients, a former baseball player, was so stiff he could not put on his shoes and socks without difficulty and discomfort. After just five sessions, he was able to bend over with no discomfort and slept without pain for the first time in 10 years.

In fact, many of the men I work with come to me as a last resort before surgery, but if they were coming in during their athletic years, they might be able to prevent the injuries that lead to pain and surgery. I’m glad to see that Pilates is finally being recognized in the rehabilitation field. For so long, most doctors trying to help people recover from their injuries didn’t have much body awareness themselves.

If you are a man who is looking for a full-body workout that’s going to build more muscle fiber and strength while increasing your flexibility, mobility, joint stability and the ability to move with ease in every range of motion, I encourage you to be open-minded and give Pilates a try. Try different studios and different styles until you find the right fit.

Go into it with no expectations and you might be pleasantly surprised. When you look for a Pilates instructor, check out their background and ask questions. Make sure they hold a national certification for Pilates, and find out how long they have been teaching. Once you give Pilates a try, I believe that like most of my clients, you might just find yourself hooked on this not-for-women-only exercise philosophy.


Male athletes get no pain, big gains from Pilates

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(Golfer Charles Nardiello, )
By Jill Lieber, USA TODAY

Celebrities Madonna, Julia Roberts and Sharon Stone have done it. So have golfer Tiger Woods, basketball star Jason Kidd, pitcher Curt Schilling and offensive lineman Ruben Brown. What they all have in common is Pilates, one of the fastest growing fitness activities in America, according to SGMA International, the trade association for sports equipment manufacturers.

Designed to increase flexibility and improve posture, balance and coordination, Pilates focuses on strengthening the body’s core or midsection.

Once favored by rock divas, actresses and supermodels, the stretching and strengthening exercise method developed by Joseph Pilates (pih-LAH-teez) has become the latest training rage for male professional athletes.

“Since I’ve done Pilates, I’m much better looking and 4 feet taller,” says Rich Beem, winner of the 2002 PGA Championship. “Seriously, I’m now so stretched out and have such great posture that I look and feel like a different person.”

Developed in the early 1900s, Pilates consists of 500 exercises, all initiating from the muscles in the abdomen, lower back, hips or buttocks. The cost of a private Pilates session with a properly licensed instructor is comparable to or slightly more expensive than a personal training session.

For athletes, the benefits include more efficient movement as well as better endurance, speed and quickness.

No longer just for women

As mainstream as the Pilates method of developing core muscle groups has become, male professional athletes interested in adding it to their training programs still must get past the stigma that this is largely a women’s exercise.

Kidd, the Nets superstar point guard, gave his wife, Joumana, a longtime Pilates devotee, a hard time when she told him it might help in his rehabilitation of a broken ankle a few years ago. After weeks of making fun of Pilates, Kidd finally tried it.

“I immediately discovered how tight I was,” Kidd recalls. “After one session I was energized. From that point on I was convinced it was a great workout.”

For Kidd, Pilates is all about finding the edge. He estimates 30% of his strength and flexibility training comes from Pilates. “Pilates has made me quicker, more explosive,” he says.

Rich Dalatri, the Nets strength coach, has been instrumental in introducing the exercise method to the entire team.

“Pilates is rejuvenating, restorative, invigorating,” he says, “maybe because it gets the blood flowing through every inch of the muscles. It’s so internal. It puts you in tune with your body. It puts you in a different state.”

The Nets have invested in Pilates equipment for their weight room. The players are so dependent that throughout the NBA playoffs in 2002, a leading Pilates company shipped special equipment to the team’s hotel on road trips.

Patience pays off

Pilates’ founding father always proclaimed, “In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference. In 20, you will see the difference. And in 30, you’ll have a whole new body.”

Schilling, the Arizona Diamondbacks star pitcher, agrees. “The first three weeks, I was really disappointed,” says Schilling, who incorporated Pilates into his offseason training program last winter. “I wasn’t sweating. I wasn’t winded, which is what I associate with true exercise.

“Then in the fourth week I started to understand the Pilates terminology, the idea of working from your center. By the third month I was more powerful and flexible than ever before. And I’d lost 15 pounds.”

Hannah Gallagher, Schilling’s Pilates instructor, says, “He’s a man. He’s used to hard-core workouts, where you throw up afterward. Pilates is not that. It is an equal balance of stretch and strength.”

After years of the no-pain, no-gain school of thought, male professional athletes say they appreciate the kinder, gentler, holistic aspect of Pilates.

For Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl offensive guard Ruben Brown, Pilates is all about preventing injury.

“I’m a big guy with a gut,” the 6-0, 300-pound Brown says. “I was always battling back strain. Plus, I’m 30 years old now. I’m tired of lifting weights, taking the pounding.”

The last two offseasons Brown has done Pilates three times a week.

“My first session, it shook me up,” Brown says. “It shook everything up. It still does.

“And man, those Pilates women are competitive. They want to see if they can get the big, strong football player to wimp out. I told myself, ‘Hey, ladies, I can do that, too.’ ”

How has his body responded to Pilates?

“I came out of the season injury-free,” he says. “I used to feel like crap after practice and games but not since Pilates.

“I learned how to breathe through my muscles. My posture is better. I can run more fluidly. And I increased my bench workouts.”

‘Profound impact’ on Mediate

For PGA Tour pro Rocco Mediate, Pilates is all about strengthening his back — and prolonging his career. After major back surgery in 1994, Mediate says he wasn’t the same. He couldn’t bend over for long periods of time to practice his putting, and his back always went out after lengthy plane trips.

Enter Pilates in November 2001.

“After a week I was turned around,” he says. “After two I felt like I’d never felt before.”

Mediate has since sold his weights and has completely outfitted the workout room in his Ponte Vedra, Fla., home with several pieces of Pilates equipment. “Pilates never compromises your back,” he says. “I’ve got more motion in my shoulders, midsection and legs. I can repeat my basic swing more often. Pilates is going to add five, six, seven … years to my career.”

Caroline Schmid, Mediate’s Pilates instructor, says, “The golf swing is a little one-sided, which can create imbalance in the body. Pilates helps to balance out the body against the forces of the swing. It helps to create less torque in the spine because you learn to swing from your center and not from your limbs.”

Mediate’s wife, Linda, also has had success with Pilates. She has overcome injuries suffered in three car accidents as well as giving birth to three children: “I couldn’t walk unless I put my hand on my back.”

She gives Pilates credit for major improvements in her husband’s game.

“He used to avoid putting, and now he’s a putting machine,” she says. “I want to hug Caroline because she has had such a profound impact on Rocco.”

 

Men and Pilates

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There are no women’s and men’s workouts. (by Adam Maielua)
There’s the body you want and the body you need. You want six-pack abs. You need a strong core. There are the exercises you like to do and the exercises you need to do. You like to do biceps curls. You need to do some squats.

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to achieve the body of the moment. The problem is that you only have it for a moment. Unless your lifestyle is directly dependent upon your physique, there is no long-term gain to looking good. Appearance is not correlated to health and wellness. Focus on feeling strong, feeling healthy, feeling happy, and the look will become a welcome consequence.

Do you keep falling back into the same routine? You start your program, obtain some measurable results, and then take a break. You miss what you had, so you start over again and again. Wouldn’t it be more enjoyable to settle into a routine that you love to maintain consistently? It’s time to try something different.

One of the greatest obstacles is how gender-specific physical disciplines can be. Pilates is for women. Powerlifting is for men. No, they’re for whoever loves to practice them. That’s the key. Do what you love. Who cares if you’re one of the few males or females in class? You’re not there for anyone else, so focus on you. This doesn’t mean you have to completely change your philosophy, just tweak it a little. Many disciplines complement one another and will extend years into your active lifestyle.

Ever read about NFL programs and the U.S. military incorporating yoga and Pilates into the conditioning regiments of their athletes and soldiers? There’s a good reason for that. A high-performance sports car doesn’t ride on three wheels. Everything must be in balance.

The same applies to recreational activities, such as golf, tennis and cycling. Benefits can extend beyond the physical by enhancing mental clarity and emotional understanding. We all have bad days, and a good session will bring levity to your mood.

However, before you begin, ensure that you are physically able to attempt something new. Ask yourself if you feel good. If so, are you happy? Yes. Are you hurt? No. Then keep going. Your body will tell you when it’s time to take a break. When you try something different give it an honest try — not a drive-by. Put full effort and enthusiasm into a session, maybe more than once. If you’re heart is not in it then you have certainty and can move on. It never hurts to know your body and yourself a little better.

 

How Pilates Benefits Men

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Over the past seven years, I have watched the stigma of Pilates being a “girl exercise” change. Nowadays it is more respected by the general population for what it is: a hard workout for everyone, of all ages. That being said, I do still find myself being asked if men do Pilates.

Yes, men do Pilates. Men LOVE Pilates because it is a great workout with many man-specific benefits when taught according to their personal needs and goals. Once men try it, just like women, they are hooked. However, it seems there is still an underlying fear of the unknown and disregard by those who haven’t tried it.

Well, here are some answers for you. Read on for some of the biggest benefits of Pilates for the manliest of men.

Pilates works all the little, intricate muscles that are either ignored at they gym, or just not possible to safely and effectively strengthen there, especially for those who aren’t sure how to use all the equipment safely and efficiently. When Pilates is included into the weekly workout regimen, it makes every exercise at the gym more effective. When the abdominals are trained and strengthened to activate at the level Pilates brings them to, they make your body work in proper alignment. This alignment will increase how hard the rest of your body is working and make those gym sessions more worth your time, with better results.

The intense and fine-tuned attention Pilates pays to the abdominal corset muscles helps the pelvis fall into its natural alignment. The spine is then able to lift up out of the pelvis and align into its natural curves. This can make people grow taller, as it alleviates compression within the spinal discs. It most definitely makes for better posture, which gives the appearance of being taller.

• Why is good posture important? Well, besides the obvious benefits of it reducing pain in the back, neck and shoulders and preventing future health issues, having good posture plays a key role in first impressions. Standing tall gives off an air of confidence. Confidence is SO downplayed in its key role in everyday life. Appearing confident, even if you don’t feel it, will make people perceive you as stronger, in control, and aware of what you want and how you will get it. This will reflect in a positive way in your workplace, on a date, you name it.

It can increase your game in sports like golf, tennis, swimming and running. The physical contribution Pilates plays in increasing the body’s form in these sports has brought many a manly man back to my Reformer.

Many Pilates exercises work and strengthen the abdominals by deepening them for maximum strength while twisting with control. The twisting action of these exercises is key in building a killer golf swing. Over the years, I have had a steady stream of men coming in to the studio because one of their friends was taking Pilates and suddenly his golf swing got better than theirs. Next thing you know, in they walk. Once they realize what it can do for their bodies, they are just as hooked as the girls. Pilates is not a girly form of exercise. It is a major butt-kicker. It is also a form of physical therapy and rehab. The combination of this increases the strength of every sport you play and makes it safer and you look better while playing. It’s a triple win!

Pilates is not an exercise that women do because they like to stretch. (This is seriously a comment I have heard many times). It is a very intelligent form of working out. It prevents injury. It alleviates pain. It is widely regarded as a top form of physical therapy around the world. It increases physical strength and stamina. As an added bonus, it makes you look fantastic. Pilates in no way, shape or form, is a workout for only women. Don’t be scared of the unknown, men! You will be very happy you tried it.

by Andrea Speir