Pilates and Men, what’s the Big Controversy?

by pilates32 on May 14, 2011

[dropcap1]S[/dropcap1]omewhere along its journey of modern day endorsement the Pilates system has become stereotyped as a woman’s exercise programme. Such is the case that many men would laugh off the opportunity to attend a Pilates class, labelling it as easy and having no understanding or appreciation for what it could truly do to their gym experience as a whole. This problem is exacerbated further by media campaigns that target women. Don’t get me wrong, it is certainly effective to “genderise” advertising towards either women or men, but the extent of which now means many men follow a bodybuilding approach to fitness and many women attend classes and crush hours of cardio. The truth is: Men need to start training a little more like women and women need to start training a little more like men.

I am determined at Pilates 32 to completely reverse this way of thinking. It is my vision to see both men and women worldwide implementing Pilates and other degrees of corrective exercise into their weekly routine to protect themselves from serious injury. I also think both men and women should lift weights, I mean strength building weights. This would help many women worldwide lose that last bit of fat they have been trying to for ages, or shape up those arms that have been driving them crazy for the last 5 years. We need to be properly educated!

On the launch of a class recently, a lady attending asked me; “should I invite men?” This was the icing on the cake of my frustration, having been convincing men for some time that they need Pilates to help them achieve much more. Once attended, no worries. It only takes just one class for the average guy to realise that his conceptions of Pilates were far from true. Many of my male clients unfortunately come to Pilates after they have bent themselves into a horrible shape. Too much bench press, bicep curls and sit-ups, all in the pursuit of abs, pecs and guns have resulted in serious kyphosis, bad posture and a lot of lower back ache.

In an attempt to reach men before it’s too late; here are just a few reasons why men in particular need to do Pilates.

Bad Posture

Many men will struggle to maintain neutral spine both during exercise and in everyday life. Excessive training of the visual anterior, the abdominals and chest and all the parts they see in the mirror will result in excessive posterior tilt of the pelvis, a flat lower back and hunched upper back. Tight abdominals will place strain on the lower back and the thoracic spine and the pelvic alignment. Having Pilates would train the lower back (the erector spinae, gluteals and hamstrings) effectively to maintain good posture.

As Flexible as an iron bar

Many men are tight, very tight. Many of these men are also not concerned with how tight they are, especially in the hamstring, gluteals and lower back. Stretching and flexibility is never a priority when it comes to the average man who wants to build muscle and look better. Long term, this will result in major muscle imbalance and can lead strain on joints and ligaments. This is partly how I discovered Pilates, from over training my legs, not stretching, and having a weak lower back to abdominal ratio. The result was a torn anterior cruciate ligament in my knee some years later. A horrible experience I would like to help others avoid.

Strong abs, weak core

Many men will dedicate a lot of time to abdominal crunches and sit ups. So in many cases they have strong abs, but very weak cores. The muscles of the spine are designed for more than just flexion (bending in one direction). A lot of effective core training is concerned with stability as opposed to over bending. Pilates teaches how to hold the pelvis stable and maintain neutral spine. This is why it’s effective.

Shoulder issues

Many men suffer from shoulder and rotator cuff injuries. This is commonly caused by excessive bench press and shoulder exercises with no regard for correct shoulder mobility and strengthening the external and internal rotators. A good test for this is to stand against a wall, with elbow flexed at 90 degrees and the upper arm (triceps) against the wall. From here you should be able to rotate the shoulder clockwise so the back of the hand touches the wall and rotate in the other direction to approximately sixty degrees of internal rotation. For good information on these subjects, I enjoy reading writings from Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson.

If you are a man reading this, I hope this have provided some insight into why Pilates is effective and important. If you are a woman reading this and you know a man who needs this, feel free to copy and paste the link above on your facebook or in an email to that guy. Pilates has received some negative stick from men over the years; all it takes is one experience to change that. If athletes do it, then it must be good.

All the best

Author: Ian Harris

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