“Do you want to kill me, Woman?” – questioned my Pilates instructor’s sanity my husband after a 15-minute Pilates-inspired cardio workout one day… Oh, no, Honey, I certainly do not! I just did not realize that Pilates routine could be that challenging to you since you are extremely fit, go to the gym at least three times a week, and have a fancy Fitbit device to mind the quantity of hours needed for recovery after a workout.
So, how was it possible for him to find Pilates exercises challenging? After I had given this enough thought, I had to admit that I was biased. Shame on me. Despite being a Pilates instructor for more than 5 years, with 30 percent of my clients being men, a part of me believed that Pilates is, primarily, for tender ladies. And, as a consequence, I challenged my husband with the advanced Pilates exercises. Sorry))
The good news was that the logic part of me knew that the “Pilates is for women only” misconception is one of the most popular myths about Pilates. The truth is a closer look at the Pilates world reveals that Pilates benefits both women and men, but in different ways. After all, Joseph founded his program for firemen and policemen at first and practiced his Contrology till the end of life.
That’s why I proceeded as I always do: I have done a research on what the Pilates benefits for men are and found Twenty Reasons Why Every Man Should Do Pilates. While I do not dare to change the common perception of Pilates today, perhaps, it will be the first baby step to encouraging more men to obtain the Pilates benefits freely and without judgmental giggling from immature friends.
Twenty Reasons Why The Manliest Men Do Pilates
1. Pilates is an absolutely balanced workout routine. Pilates improves the overall functionality of your body and develops often neglected muscle groups. Some of your muscles, like those that dominate your daily movements, are stronger than others, and a big part of Pilates is focusing on those muscles that don’t typically get a lot of attention. Pilates is body and mind training where you consciously move in certain ways to build muscles that you don’t hit while lifting. Pilates classes sculpture your body, strengthen all muscle groups, and give you more flexibility and freedom of movement.
2. Pilates improves your flexibility. One of the most neglected aspects of gym workouts that many instructors have seen is flexibility. I believe flexibility work often requires relative stillness and time, and in our modern society, there is constant dynamism and desire to get things done quickly. People want to feel like they are ‘doing something’ and ‘being active.’ Still, it’s worth finding a balance between ‘doing’ and ‘not doing’ by setting some time for flexibility exercises.
For men, as a general rule, the more muscle mass you have, the less flexible you are. Do you really need to be flexible? If you keep thinking the answer is positive only if you are going to participate in a cast Circus de Soleil and keep neglecting all-around flexibility, you may not be able to touch your toes sometimes. Who is your friend enough to cut your toenails for you?
Believe it or not, there are obviously some areas of your body that need attention. Shoulders, lower back, hamstrings, neck, groin area, etc. You may also find that some specific stretch exercises may be a pretty welcome complement to your favorite practice whether it is tennis, swimming, golf, or running. So, Pilates is the rescue.
If you are inspired enough to take your flexibility to the next level, please, take it very gently. No leaping ahead to advanced Pilates routines; slowly and carefully are the ‘watchwords.’ Even when you are fortunate enough to be already flexible (due to your everyday classes or just thanks to nature), I always warn my students during Pilates classes to be careful and patient. Because you never know where your body is right now and what is its shape. So, start with the middle effort and then proceed to your maximum on your way to the end of the exercises. For example, if you have six repetitions of “The Neck Pull,” the range of motion should be increased little by little from the first to the last repetition. And I beg you not to neglect this issue because our muscles, once overstretched, will feel it for a very long time.
3. Pilates gets you six-pack abs and builds core strength. Well, men are more prone to developing body fat around the abdominals than women (despite what women think). And your body remembers every time you grabbed a beer. The good thing about Pilates is that every Pilates exercise focuses on using your deep abdominals (the Core) to power movement in your limbs. And because of its focus on the Core, your need to work with all muscle groups at the same time. Numerous planks and balance exercises that incorporate controlled moving core exercises require holding a pose for an extended period of time. Added to this, almost all exercises from the original Jo Pilates repertoire have modifications for intermediate and advanced students. All that makes Pilates the ab workout that will challenge your limits.
4. Pilates relieves your stress. Pilates focuses on breathing, concentration, and control over your every movement. After a Pilates class, you feel refreshed and relaxed, and ready for new daily challenges. Also, an hour-long distraction from your phone and emails will never hurt.
5. With Pilates, you will get better sleep. Regular Pilates exercises (as well as any exercise of moderate intensity) in the evening has a serious effect on improving sleep quality, increasing total sleep time and decreasing awake time. Researches show that a regular practice can relieve insomnia too. And you know that a good night sleep tonight means a good day tomorrow.
6. Pilates boosts your energy. Remember the time you spent a stressful day in your office and felt too tired in the evening to switch on TV? Did you want to go indoor cycling then? “You’ve got to be kidding me.” With Pilates, it is not all that bad. Nothing is too hard that you cannot handle. Quite the opposite: the more you exercise, the more energy you have. It takes only a few minutes to complete an easy Pilates exercise such as ‘The Roll Down,’ which stretches all your muscles, releases lower back, and elongates your spine. We promise, after it you will feel refreshed and energized enough to handle your evening plans even after all-day work.
7. Pilates makes you smarter. Here are five ways through which Pilates exercises increase your IQ level:
- You should know that your brain is designed to improve with use. Pilates exercises challenge your brain demanding to focus on many things at the same time: keeping your core muscles engaged, keeping your spinal column elongated, balancing on unstable surface, moving your legs and arms in opposite directions – and that entire staff with correct breathing technique;
- they recommend investing a minimum of 15 minutes each day in learning something new. In Pilates, you always learn something new about your body and its possibilities as well as fun new exercises;
- such exercises as ‘The Hundred’ oxygenate your brain (supply oxygen to it). And this makes it function better;
- with its strong body-mind connection, Pilates reduces your level of day-to-day stress, excessive amount of which compresses your brain;
- being treated with Pilates, your body is well-postured and relaxed, and you have more opportunities to absorb new information and produce splendid ideas!
8. Pilates is your secret to longevity. ‘It is not how old you are, it is how flexible your spine is and how well you are functioning.’ – These priceless words belong to Lolita San Miguel – 76 years old Pilates Elder. Frankly, all we want is to live longer, but nobody wants to live longer if we don’t have a quality of life. Pilates is an exceptionally functional movement, preventative of injury while building strength. When practiced properly, Pilates increases joint mobility, improves balance, and provides necessary stretching to stay healthy and active for many decades.
9. Pilates takes your martial arts practice to a new level. Whether your art is Kickboxing, Kung Fu, Karate, Judo, Wrestling, Tae Kwon Do, or Mixed martial arts), Pilates is for you. Joseph Pilates studied martial arts and boxing at the turn of the last century and later taught self-defense. Joseph was a pioneer in the teaching of self-defense, way before America embraced the martial arts. Later, Joseph Pilates created a system that uses the brain to control the muscles – Pilates itself. Many of the founders of various Martial Arts also had the desire to do the same and created practices born of their own locations and times.
With different vocabulary, these practices articulate many of the Pilates principles, such as concentration, control, center, fluidity, and imagination. These principles will help martial artists improve flexibility, increase core strength, reduce the chances of injury, and increase their longevity as active martial artists.
How Pilates principles and which Pilates exercises, in particular, could be useful for your martial art practice? To name a few:
- In both Pilates and Martial Arts, everything must flow with the breath. The muscles expand as the body fills with air and contracts into a relaxed power as we exhale. Try ‘The Hundred’: this Pilates exercise increases your breathing by expanding your rib cage and lungs, the important and often missed back part of your lungs in particular. By lengthening and strengthening the muscles that surround the ribcage, ‘The Hundred’ converts your lungs into a ventilator for pulling new air in and pushing old air out.
- There are remarkable exercises in Pilates that will improve your static and dynamic balance dramatically. Static balance gives you the ability to control your body’s center of gravity. A good example is balancing on one leg as in a Kung Fu crane stance or doing a Capoeira hand stance. An excellent example of dynamic balance is the agility movements such as in Tae Kwon Do’s and Capoeira’s aerial kicks. Try “Rolling back,” “The Boomerang,” “The Seal,” “The Crab,” as well as all Pilates exercises on BOSU/any other unstable surfaces.
- All styles of martial arts require flexibility. However, some styles require more flexibility in the hip and leg area and others might need more flexibility in the shoulder and neck area. Yet, we all can agree that flexibility is of the utmost importance in your martial arts training. Whether you are executing a kick to the head or attempting to escape from an arm bar, flexibility is an essential factor. Experience such Pilates exercises as “The Saw,” “The Swan Dive,” “The Spine Twist,” and “The Neck Pull” to take your flexibility to the next level.
- When teaching Pilates to martial artists, a great idea is to double the number of leg exercises than in a typical Pilates class. This is because martial artists need to strengthen their gluteus muscles (the buttocks) in order to make their legs feel lighter and make the act of kicking easier and more effortless. These exercises include practicing anchoring the pelvis by pulling the abdominal and torso-related muscles inward while reaching and extending through the legs in various movements. This not only strengthens the body but also helps to lengthen the torso and open the hip joints, making difficult kicks and kicking combinations easier. Practice “One-and Double – Leg Stretch,” “One-and Double – Leg Kick,” “The Scissors,” and “The Bicycle” as often as you can.
- And let me kindly remind you that a proper alignment and good posture have crucial importance in martial arts because they are about stress relief from your spinal column! You may also find “The Shoulder Bridge” to be pretty useful.
10. Pilates enhances your competitive runner’s results. Whether you are preparing for the Iron Man Marathon or jogging just for pleasure, you may find Pilates very useful to help you to achieve your running goals. Pilates develops a strong core by supporting and strengthening the muscles of the torso, hips, shoulders, and pelvis. These can eventually lead to a huge positive difference in your posture, technique, balance, and stability. It enables you as a runner to focus on where your head and neck are in relation to the spine and pelvis, on down through the legs and toes. This all adds up to a more efficient movement and less chance of injury.
The benefits runners get from Pilates:
- Assistance with breath control. Related to the intercostals, Pilates emphasizes terrific breathing skills. Flexible intercostals make breathing healthier and smoother, and can improve lung capacity
- Pilates offers progressive stretching routine: well-designed Pilates exercises stretch muscles that runners need to be stretched and that might, otherwise, slow them down or lead to serious injuries
- Reduction of muscle soreness in legs and knees
- Decrease in fatigue because of less strain on the body
- Increasing core strength and correcting postural imbalances.
In summary, if you include Pilates in your running training program, you will save seconds off your time because you will move more efficiently and reduce the risk of injury.
11. Pilates can increase your game in sports like golf and tennis. First and foremost, you can use your Pilates session after playing a game to stretch out the racquet side and strengthen the other side to try and combat any potential one-sided that could develop. While tennis and squash are great aerobic workouts and good muscle strengtheners, they require a high degree of general fitness and a good balance of strength in opposing muscle groups. It’s definitely worth getting a professional coach to check your serve, backhand, and forehand, as incorrect movements can cause some nasty injuries, both acute and chronic.
Secondly, Pilates will help you to increase the mobility of your spinal discs and joints. Why the mobility of all parts of the spinal column is important in tennis? Just because the lack of mobility of some discs and joints (restrictions) obviously causes compensation and compensations, in their turn, cause deformations, pathology, and pain. That’s why the lack of mobility in thoracic spine of tennis player causes hip pain and there can be pain also in the knees and ankles. Depending on where the deformation is happening, tennis/golf player could also suffer from “tennis elbow pain,” shoulder stiffness, hip tightness, lower back pain, protrusions, and hernias. And the method which you make a swing in tennis/squash/golf (with an arch in the lower back or with elongated spine and engaged core muscles) has a great impact on your back condition and your wellness as well.
If you used to do aerobic/power/none classes for 35 years and one fabulous day you decided to start playing tennis or squash, you should know that the Wolfe’s law says “Our body will adapt to stresses applied.” In your case, if we think about your facets and discs, some of them are weak – you haven’t challenged them for decades. And the fact they don’t have good mobility means they can’t provide good distribution of movement, and some joints are going to absorb the majority of movement, and they might have deformation. And that will lead to pathology, because the body is not prepared to the stress suddenly applied to it. Come and do Pilates for 2-6 months and we get you ready to tennis!
If you are a professional, you might be interested in the following information: you can add up to 20 yards to your drive within 2 Pilates sessions by adding 1 segment in rotation in the thoracic spine! Proposed mini workout is following: the saw, chest opening exercise, needle and thread, spine twist, etc. (ask your Pilates instructor for the correct technique and useful tips).
As you see, Pilates could be very helpful. And one more point: very important here is only to play against people who are more or less at the same level as you. Don’t take on the county champion if you‘re just used to friendly knockabouts on a Saturday morning, or you could find yourself overstretched.
12. Pilates beats your workout boredom. What are the three biggest problems for men when it comes to exercise? Motivation, inspiration, self-discipline. Pilates makes your body work in the ways you have not heard about, sometimes, with spooky machines. What’s not to love?
13. Pilates prevents knee injuries.With its gentle stretching exercises, Pilates lubricates your joints. Together with strengthening your glutes and the smaller muscle groups, and increasing hip stability, your knees will not ache so badly after running or walking the long distances. Special Pilates exercises help runners engage weak vastus mediali (inside of the quads) again working to prevent irritation where the kneecap (patella) rests on the thighbone.
14. Pilates fastens your recovery process. Pilates is popular as post-injury exercise routine because it works, and it works fast. Not only is it a good way to stay in shape while injured, but also Pilates exercises can cut in half the rehab term. Many doctors recommend Pilates for patients who undergo back, hip or knee surgery.
15. Reducing muscle soreness in legs. Pilates helps you treat sore legs after running, exercising and long distance walking. Its program contains easy exercises to stretch your muscles and overcome soreness after leg day. Check out this video to find the best remedy for aching feet and sore calves.
16. Pilates relieves lower back stiffness and manages chronic back pain. Considering that 90 percent of population suffer from back pain at least once up to 30 years old, there is a pretty good chance this feature of Pilates will benefit you too.
17. Pilates perfects your posture. Yes, we know that all talks about posture improvement are so boring. Except for our Posture Guide 🙂 For instance, do you know that according to recent medical research, the level of testosterone, a hormone responsible for confidence, rises by 25% in two minutes when you straighten your back? Furthermore, taking a high-power position (straightening the back and elongating the spine), increases your chances in job interviews and negotiations. This is directly related to the universal principle of the animal world, where straightening upright is a nonverbal expression of power, dominance, and success.
18. Pilates compliments your weights lifting routine. In fact, taking a Pilates class will enhance any other gym practice you engage in. Pilates is focused on anatomy, biomechanics, and functional movement. Lifting is not balanced functional movement, nor is it preventative of injury while building incredible strength. Weight lifting, however, when enriched with Pilates focus on the core and joints’ mobility, could be injury-free and safe.
19. Pilates can strengthen your marriage (or whatever relationships you are in). If your beloved one adores Pilates, be supportive, and go for a class with your lady. Investment in relationships are always worth it. Talk mind &body to her…
20. It’s fun. And sometimes bizarre. You’ll love it!