Updated: Aug 4
Pilates is often thought of “incorrectly” as just a bit of gentle stretching a bit like yoga and only for women.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Pilates is an invaluable form of exercise that helps strengthen the body and work core muscles that are often overlooked.
For men, Pilates is hugely beneficial.
If you are regularly doing weight training, sit at desks a lot or just have back issues then Pilates is an exercise that could transform how you feel, move and perform.
Pilates exercises focus on strength, flexibility and balance which can rectify any poor posture, and muscular imbalances. Exercises are designed to develop strong core muscles that will support all intensive training, sport or just daily activities.
Still not convinced? In this article, I bust a few common myths about Pilates and share the key benefits Pilates offers men.
Do athletes do pilates?
Pro athletes like Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane and Andy Murray are all Pilates fans and have shared how Pilates has helped them improve strength and flexibility.
Even Daniel Craig took up Pilates prepping for his James Bond role.
"These [Pilates] exercises are really very necessary when you do a lot of sitting… They keep you flexible enough to pull on your socks as you get older… When I get out of the car now, I don’t go arrggghhh." Martin Amis
Even if you are not a pro athlete and are slightly older, Pilates is hugely beneficial.
Wasn’t Pilates designed for women?
The origins of Pilates are actually rooted in a tale of survival and endurance and invented - by a MAN!
“Pilates was developed by a badass circus performer who perfected his methods and MacGyvered equipment while he was being held in an internment camp during wartime.” (Men’s Health)
Pilates was designed and developed by Joseph Pilates, a German self-defence instructor, body-builder, martial artist and professional boxer!
He was incarcerated in Kockaloe, a British camp on the Isle of Man during World War 1 under the Aliens Restriction Act. While there, he developed this form of training to help his fellow inmates.
His exercise regime stemmed from his admiration of how the starving cats were still able to catch prey and were so flexible and springy. He put it down to their stretching so he devised a series of exercises that stretched and strengthened the muscles - a system he initially called Contrology.
"He began demonstrating these exercises to the dejected figures around him, and since they had nothing else to do, they began to do the exercises too. Awkwardly and timorously at first, but under his firm supervision they became more and more confident, more and more bouncy, like cats." Sports Illustrated, 1962
Rumour has it, that his exercise regime helped keep inmates healthy during the Spanish flu pandemic.
Over the years it became more and more popular as he brought his system to America.
What is Pilates?
Pilates centres on breathing and mobility while creating core stability. It is a low-impact form of exercise which will build your flexibility, and strength as well as helping you to develop endurance.
With Reformer Pilates, you use a flat bed on a movable carriage. It has a series of springs and pulleys that are used to build up your range of motion and strength.
Isn’t Pilates easy to do?
On a mat, you need to control your own body weight to form the exercises which can be challenging. That combination of load and instability will make your muscles shake as you do multiple repetitions. Your endurance will be pushed and you will be challenged to hold technically difficult moves.
Similarly with Reformer Pilates, the moveable bed will challenge your centre of balance and the pulley and springs add a weight dimension.
Although the movements may appear slow, it doesn’t mean that you don’t get an intense workout...and SWEAT!
Why is Pilates so beneficial for men?
Pilates not only helps with posture but has far-ranging benefits from correcting muscle imbalances in weight lifting to reducing stress.
There have also been many scientific studies that confirm the benefits of Pilates for improving cardiovascular fitness, reducing stress and anxiety symptoms and blood pressure, managing back pain and improving athletic performance.
“These days Pilates is favoured by some of the most resilient and physically elite individuals. For professional athletes, powerlifters and dancers it is a perfect workout to keep their body balanced and future proofed…it helps to strengthen, stretch and mobilise the body leaving it feeling stronger, more flexible and lighter.” GQ Magazine, Dmitri Tkatchev, Epoch Fitness
1. Loosens tight muscles
Has lifting or cycling left you with tight glutes and hamstrings or a tight lower back?
Pilates can also help ease stiffness in your muscles. Pilates exercises will help to lengthen muscles and improve your flexibility.
2. Improve posture
Pilates improves the core muscles around your spine as well as stretching your hip flexors, hamstrings and glutes which will help you feel taller. Pilates targets the hidden supporting muscles that will benefit you much more in the long run as opposed to spot targeting abs or biceps.
3. Improve flexibility
If you want better control for lifting (e.g. squats and deadlifts) then you need better flexibility. Pilates will support this range of movement and keep your muscles balanced to protect you from injuries.
The London Irish Rugby team benefitted from general Pilates but also exercises that were specific to their field positions. For example, oblique sling movements were used to “improve their rotation through the pelvis and hips to promote quick offloading of the ball.”
4. Correct lifting weaknesses
If you are working on compound lifts pilates can help you with better movement patterns and address any lifting weaknesses.
5. Releases contracted short muscles
If your workouts are focused on making you strong then you’ve probably also developed contracted and short muscles and a reduced range of motion. Pilates works to lengthen these muscles and improve your overall flexibility.
6. Corrects muscle imbalances
You aren’t going to bulk up with Pilates but you are going to strengthen those small muscle groups that will prevent injury.
Pilates works on your core stabiliser muscles like the transverse abdomis and glute medius which will support your lower spine and pelvis. If you are overtraining your chest, biceps or rectus abdomis (i.e. six-pack) then you may find you actually have more pain in your spine and joints and are more susceptible to injury.
Pilates will help bring you back into balance by building up strength in your supporting muscles.
7. Builds better abdominals
Pilates focuses on building your deep core muscles, not just the front abdominals. The benefits are you’ll get a much flatter stomach and better defined “3D abs.” This core work will also support your spine.
8. Injury prevention
Pilates training will activate muscles across your body and the ones that support your spine. They target the transverse abdomis, multifidus and internal and external obliques that will support your balance and alignment all helpful in preventing injury.
“A lot of training elite athletes revolves around injury prevention and ensuring their body is as healthy as it can be. This means lots of stretching and joint preparation, strengthening the supporting muscle groups, identification and strengthening of weak areas, and taking measures to ensure the body is supple and flexible.
Pilates is one of the best tools to combine body control, strength and flexibility quickly and efficiently, and that’s why it is used so frequently in elite sport.” (Sustain Health)
England rugby player. Nick Easter has also been quoted saying something similar about Pilates and injury prevention.
“Pilates has been a big help. It improves stability and gets everything in sync, which is important because when you’re fatigued your running technique disintegrates and you’re most vulnerable to injuries.” (Nick Easter)
9. Builds strength
Pilates isn’t going to bulk you up, but it will give you strength in the areas that it matters, like around your core and in your back. These are muscles that are going to pay dividends in the long run and allow you to move better and feel better.
Unfortunately, most men don’t discover the benefits of Pilates until they need some form of physical therapy or rehabilitation. But you are missing out.
10. Reduced stress and tension
Pilates incorporates breathing techniques and paying attention to form. This concentration and breathing will help bring you calm.
You also need a degree of concentration when doing Pilates which focuses your mind on the present.
What Pilates exercises are good for men?
Pilates takes a much more holistic approach to training than you may have experienced before.
For example, that outdated sit-up is replaced by the Pilates Hundred exercise. This involves lying on a mat and lifting your head and shoulders up, bending your knees to your chest before extending them up in a diagonal. Then you hold your arms along your sides, palms down and pump your arms while breathing 100 times.
The shoulder bridge, swan, and side bend are also great Pilates exercises that will help build up core strength and lengthen those muscles.
Pilates classes for men in Lisburn, Hillsborough and Dromore
Don’t wait until you are injured to find out the benefits of Pilates. Start your session today.
At All Active Pilates & Physio, we offer Pilates, and Reformer Pilates in Lisburn, Hillsborough and Dromore - as well as online.
For men, we have both mat and reformer sessions for core strength and stretch classes.
To find out more, just get in contact with us or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or if you’re ready to get started you can book your Pilates class now!