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. 

Male athletes get no pain, big gains from Pilates


(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.”