Despite its reputation as a feminine group fitness activity, Pilates offers just as many incredible health and wellness benefits for men, as it does women! Interestingly, Pilates was created by a man – Joseph Pilates – initially as a form of rehabilitation for detainees!
Since then, the way we practice Pilates has changed, with classes typically held in beautiful studios (distinctly differing to prison…) and routines informed by modern scientific research. One thing that remains the same however, is the practice’s host of benefits for all people.
So, if you’re questioning whether Pilates is suited to you, or what the benefits really are as a man, let me share five reasons you should roll out that mat.
There’s a reason we refer to strong foundations as the “backbone”.
The spine essentially supports our entire body’s functionality, and while it may not be as sexy as biceps and pecks, maintaining a healthy spine is crucial to long-term wellbeing.
This includes reducing our chances of pain and injury, as well as supporting our ability to remain active for many years to come.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, many of us spend most of our days sitting hunched over our phones or computers. This wreaks havoc on our muscular and skeletal systems, causing muscle imbalances such as:
- Long weak hamstrings
- Tight hips
- Forward shoulders
All of which can cause irreversible stress on the spine.
Pilates’ well-rounded variation of movements is of huge benefit here, addressing a lot of these imbalances while helping to improve spine health in the long-term! To quote Joseph Pilates himself “a man is as young as his spinal column”.
- Training the little muscles give you the big results
Pilates is amazing for targeting the key stabilising muscles that support and hold your body upright to enable proper posture and alignment. It’s these stabilising muscles that give you the necessary control needed to even perform increased squat loads or hold a handstand.
When you are training your squats most people will focus on strengthening their gluteus maximus – the main muscle. However, if the surrounding muscles aren’t strong enough to stabilise the main muscle as the squat load gets heavier you will either:
- Not be able to lift the weight.
- Be able to lift the weight but do it with poor form and get injured.
Long story short, make sure you do your clams!
It’s typical for these muscles to be under-trained in men (how often do you see other guys pumping out leg raises?) However, building up these muscles through Pilates will support the management of pain – particularly lower back – and decrease risk of injury.
- Improving athletic performance
You certainly don’t need to be an elite athlete to run a marathon or play a local game of tennis or golf, with many hobby sports popular amongst men of all ages and demographics. However, even in these recreational activities, a level of core strength and spinal mobility is still required to avoid injury.
So, whether you require mobility in the torso to swing a golf club or perfect your tennis serve, Pilates ideally builds strength in these movement patterns to improve performance and prevent injuries.
- Mindful movement
With the growing focus on mental health awareness amongst males, exercising is increasingly relied upon for its endorphin-boosting results that offer hugely positive mental health benefits.
In fact, a recent study by Beyond Blue found exercise ranked in the top five coping strategies used by men. If there’s one type of exercise that offers more than just an endorphin boost, it’s Pilates.
As a form of mindful movement, Pilates encourages an awareness of breath and a chance to focus on your mind-body connection, offering a host of benefits including stress relief.
Two of Joseph Pilates’ original teaching principles were concentration and connecting movement with breath, which is a continued focus and proven benefit of the practice today!
- Rest day rescue
If you’re a man who loves heavy resistance training and high impact cardio you will know the importance of rest days for recovery.
These allow time for the microscopic muscle tears to repair and rebuild, ultimately becoming stronger while helping to restore glycogen levels so you won’t feel as tender, post-pump. But rest days don’t need to be spent on the couch!
Mixing up your high-impact workout regime with low-impact training such as Pilates is perfect for accessing the rounded benefits of a healthy exercise regime, including rest days. Pilates offers the ultimate balance of low resistance strength work, core training and stretching which will help you return for your high-impact workout more ready than ever.
Don’t be afraid!
My main advice to men wanting to try Pilates for the first time is to not feel intimidated by the ratio of women to men in classes. Years of bad marketing is the only reason we are conditioned to think men should lift and only women do Pilates!
I’ve never had a man leave my class thinking it was too easy, so embrace it – it may just be the next fitness challenge you fall in love with.