Pilates for Men: Getting Stronger

Before I launch into what will promise to be a compelling and persuasive argument for why Men should do Pilates, I want to state the obvious:  Pilates was designed by a man for other men during the war.  If you’re a man and that doesn’t already pique your curiousity, then let me volunteer some additional thoughts.

For some reason men assume that Pilates is just for women, but that isn’t the case.  Why are men so under represented in many of the Pilates classes I attend?  Is it because men know that many dancers are drawn to Pilates and end up teaching it as a second career?  In truth, this fanciful, girlie picture that men have assigned to Pilates culture is the opposite of what Pilates truly is.  In addition to strengthening your core, Pilates offers a full-body workout based on resistance training and can be quite intense.

I took a course called ‘Pilates for Men,’ which attempts to dissect the male psyche.  In it I learned to avoid using terms such as: pubic bone, corset and bra-line, when cueing parts of the body and most importantly: to never ask a man to “float” any part of his body.  These modern feminizations of the traditional Pilates repertoire have muddied the waters and taken the machismo out of the workout for many men who respond to a more militaristic teaching style.  After all, what man do you know who will back down from a challenge?  Picture Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon, or Rocky training to fight Apollo Creed.  My husband enjoys watching action movies while he works out.  The image of men throwing down and kicking butt motivates him.  Cue up “Getting Stronger” and picture Rocky running through the snow, doing pull ups on a tree branch.  Let’s face it, there’s a certain manly rush that goes along with pushing yourself.  I recently had a booth at a fitness fair where my neighbor tried to attract traffic by pressing and squatting a barbell with an obscene amount of weight — and terrible form.  His show-stopping performance made me chuckle inwardly and think hmm…

Pilates isn’t about flash, it’s about efficiency.  It speaks to the entire body — not just the big muscles, but the smaller ones that are often more neglected and essential to posture, balance and overall strength.  The goal is to have a better holistic strength than your neighbor who may look buff on the exterior, but may not be as strong as you think when you take them through a core challenge.  Cyclists, for example, have great front to back body strength, but get them doing inner thigh work and you’ll see them start to quiver like a bowl of Jello.  A good Pilates teacher will tackle every weakness and asymmetry in your body.

Pilates offers a fantastic complimentary workout for men who play sports.  Unlike traditional strength training, Pilates challenges the body’s stability and range of motion by working the lateral muscles.  These include your obliques (the deeper layer of abdominals that help stabilize and move your spine) and your gluteus medius (the side of your bum that stabilizes your hips), to name a few.  Instead of working your core with traditional crunches, try doing leg circles on the reformer with only 1 light yellow spring.  The light resistance you get on the machine challenges your core more than traditional calisthenics and increases your flexibility by mobilizing your hips.  This gives you double the bang for your buck and I’ve never met a man who doesn’t like to get added value from his workout.

Despite the stigma some people attach to Pilates, there are still many men who enjoy it regularly including my husband, my dad, my two uncles and my cousin. The best part about training men is the intense persistence and determination they possess.  I have never trained a man who says “I need to stop.”  They all want to be Rocky, and any attempt to deny it is a blatant lie.  As a Pilates teacher, I never tire of pushing my clients, both men and women, to their limits and the results are undeniable.

For more on Pilates for Men:

5 Reasons Mean Should Do Pilates — Men’s Fitness:

Rael Isacowitz, international expert and teacher of The Pilates Method, on the role men play in the Pilates world: