Pilates for Men
If there is one thing I have learnt about the Male species, it is that they cannot resist a challenge. Whether that is in the workplace, in relationships or smashing out reps in the gym. With the level of Testosterone spinning around the male body, there is a pumped up desire to do and be better.
This is where Pilates steps in. Yes, that traditional class you are imagining, favoured by new mums, over a certain age women or Jane Fonda-esque bimbo’s from an infomercial on the home network*. However, Reformer Pilates, is no walk in the park. Your muscles will be shaking, your mind engaged trying to figure out what on earth these tiny actions are doing, you'll be sweaty, out of breath and you will finally understand how your mind and body connects to work as a cohesive unit.
Pilates is suddenly stepping up for men as a method to help change and sculpt bodies, realign musculature, enhance strength workouts and provide a sense of balance and wellness for psychological health. In fact, Pilates for men has become such a “thing “ it now even has it own hashtag…”brolates”.
So, men, here's the 5 basic reasons why you need to take a moment to drop the barbell, and enter the“it looks like a torture machine” Reformer area.
*I’m not of these and I live by Pilates, just FYI.
Tell me how you squat, deadlift, bench press or pull up? Do you know what muscles are working? Do you know the specific chain of activation that occurs before you even lift that barbell off the rack? Chances are, you’ve never really thought, in depth, about the activation patterns within your typical strength workout.
In a Pilates session there’s a focus on developing the connection, and control, of the mind to the body, in order to be acutely aware of muscle activation, control and strength. We work in a “Set, Activate, Execute” pattern. That being: you establish a beginning posture, activate the correct muscle(s), then execute your movement – with an engaged focus throughout the exercise of exactly what muscles are firing, either as they lengthen or contract, ensuring you are aware of the full capacity and length of the movement.
Posture is a key element of the Pilates method. Often, poor posture is a result of overly tight and gripping muscles (hello hunched over desk workers!) which pull the skeletal system out of a neutral alignment into distorted positions, commonly leading to excess tension, pain, fatigue and even compromised health.
Pilates works by assessing your posture, recognizing how and why you have developed certain postural conditions, and then bringing you back to neutral. That will be lengthening out whatever is tight and strengthening whatever is weak, so you can stand tall, with a proud chest, length through the spine and a strong and stable centre.
3. Multi - Tasking
Perhaps not the biggest forte of the modern man, Pilates can help increase your mental capacity, recall and ability to multi-task. Pilates demands a high level of concentration, to ensure you are building and developing mind-body awareness and executing complex patterns of choreography.
At first, it can be overwhelming- you are trying to move newly found muscles, in strange orders AND trying to breathe in the correct manner. In theory, it is all logical, however in the moment it demands complete concentration in order to execute safely and efficiently! This means a large amount of brain power and with time, multi-tasking becomes easier, you may even (hopefully) be able to perform exercises whilst sharing a joke with me!
Confession: I do not care, at all, about your 6-pack goals. Those superficial muscles don’t enter my mindset when training you, rather I am interested in your journey to finding your true core muscles- the stabilizers of the spine and pelvis which are your Pelvic Floor, Transversus Abdominis (TA), Internal Oblique’s and the Multifidus along the length of your spine.
These are the deep layers of your core which stabilize and maintain alignment. This group of muscles are key in reducing back pain, supporting the body in movement ( i.e. Lifting heavy weights or during impact such as plyometric HIIT workouts) and maintaining your newly found ideal posture.
Finding, developing and strengthening these muscles, will help you build a sleeker torso, with a strong, steady center, allowing you to build more balance, agility and power in your workout. The integral added bonus here being that the majority of back pain can be eradicated by working in this manner with these muscles activating!
This is a big one for male clients. That never ending reach between the end of your fingers and your toes in a forward fold (Pilates term: Roll Down). Flexibility is a key area of fitness, health and recovery, that is often an afterthought or completely neglected. You may know you need to stretch, especially after working out, but did you realize that by lengthening out your muscles you can change the appearance and structure of the musculature. Muscles that are too tight and holding excess tension, will be unable to fire correctly, providing the necessary power you want and need when performing strength exercises.
The method works by focusing primarily on the eccentric contractions of the muscles, that is the lengthening phase, with an aim to make the muscles more pliable to increase the range of motion of major joints, length within the muscles and surrounding tissues, and importantly, the flexibility and strength of your spine. Rounded shoulders and lower back pain be gone, deep squats and mobility welcome!
So now, I challenge you, if you still think Pilates isn’t for you, come try a session with me and I’m confident I can change your mind.
Cover Image: Ted Lane – Deputy Digital Editor at Men's Health UK who completed an incredible 12 week transformation including regular Pilates practice with me!
Read his article with an interview from myself here!