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
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