Pilates and Men
by Myra Green Many people hear about Pilates and assume it is a regimen for women, especially for ballet dancers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Joseph Pilates developed this exercise regimen for veterans injured in combat, specifically targeting men.
Joseph Plates was born in Germany in the late 1800s. He arrived in England in 1914 and was later interned at the Isle of Man when WWI broke out. Here he developed his exercise regimen to assist in rehabilitation for combat injuries. In 1925, Joseph came to New York and opened a studio where most of his clients were men. They were boxers, skiers and wrestlers of every size and shape. When George Balanchine and Martha Graham learned of his work they brought dancers into the fold.
What is Pilates? A series of exercises designed to heighten coordination, balance and strength as well as sharpen your focus. It can be done on a mat or on machines. It builds core strength and flexibility. It can be done anywhere by anyone; regardless of age, gender or fitness level. Pilates can be done as a standalone regimen to help you get in shape and maintain a healthy fitness level. It can be done in conjunction with other forms of exercise and to reduce the risk of injury and to enhance performance in sports like golf, tennis and weight lifting.
The Complete Book of Pilates for Men by Daniel Lyon, Jr. very nicely describes how the principles of Pilates work in harmony with each exercise. “Moving with control from your center with concentration and precision using proper breathing to create a natural flow from one exercise to the next is Pilates in action.” These 6 basic principles inform every exercise and transition.
The benefit of Pilates for men is that it addresses the core, also known as the "powerhouse." Strength in your core enhances movement of your limbs to allow more fluid movement. A flexible, supple spine enhances movement and activities of daily living. Mr. Pilates believed a flexible spine and strong core make you young at any age. Women often have greater flexibility and range of motion. Historically, men have more body strength and are extremely tight in their back, shoulders, hamstrings, hips and thigh. This tightness can limit range of motion. Pilates addresses this.
Training for men is not actually different than for women. Strong men often push through exercises aggressively without attention to flow or awareness. Men are often unaccustomed to the attention to detail in Pilates and are sometimes surprised by how challenging it is. If you are distracted while performing an exercise, the essence of the movement is lost. Being more present enhances performance. Pilates dispels the old adage that "bigger is better," or "no pain, no gain." Smaller, deeper muscles are targeted and if there is discomfort either modifications are made or the exercise is inappropriate for a particular body. Exercises can specifically target muscle tightness. For example, elephant on the reformer can address tight hamstrings. Standing closer or further from the shoulder rests will afford better form and results. These modifications accommodate tightness in the hamstrings and low back. Another example is feet in the straps to increase hip mobility and flexibility. Moving from the core will enable greater stability.
In summary, Pilates is a great exercise regimen to maximize core strength, coordination and flexibility. It can help you get and stay in shape and maintain a healthy fitness level and maximum range of motion. It will even out your posture and reduce risk of injury. Joseph Pilates loved to say that “in 10 lessons you will feel a difference, in 20 sessions you will see a difference and in 30 you will have a whole new body.”
Other Resources: Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Check out "Pilates für Männer" by Matthias Opdenhövel, co-authored with German BASI Faculty, Mariam Younossi.