With an increasing number of professional sportsmen incorporating pilates in to their fitness routine, we are seeing many articles in health magazines and websites covering the subject of men and pilates.
Whilst women tend to dominate pilates classes, few people know that pilates was actually developed by a man - Joseph Pilates - in the early part of the last century. Joseph initially named this discipline "Contrology" as his method uses the mind to control the muscles. Joseph's first clients were men; boxers, wrestlers and athletes.
There is also the misconception that pilates is too slow-paced and gentle. However, pilates can be just as challenging as pumping iron in the gym. Whether you are a desk worker with lower back issues, a powerlifter in the gym, a keen golfer or a marathon runner, pilates has a whole host of benefits:
1. Realigns Muscles
For most people the muscles that dominate your daily movements are stronger than other, more neglected muscles. For example, if you are in a desk based job your posterial (back) muscles will invariably be stronger than your core abdominal muscles. The structure of the male body is different to women and as a result many men have tight shoulders, tight backs, tight hips and hamstrings and weak glutes. A large part of pilates consists of focusing on muscles that don't normally get much of a workout.
2. Improve your Posture
Many aches and pains originate from poor postural habits. Every pilates exercise has a postural benefit as it challenges strength and flexibilty. Through practising pilates regularly, you will develop muscular balance in your joints and this will help improve posture and reduce potential injuries.
3. A Stronger Core
Your core is the group of muscles that support your spine and torso and are the foundation for all movements. If the core is weak, an imbalance in the muscular system occurs with stronger, dominant muscles taking over. As time progresses, this imbalance will reduce flexibilty, range of motion and can actually lead to injuries. Every pilates exercise engages and works the core and postural muscles, helping to prevent unjury.
4. Alleviate Back Pain
The aim with pilates is to lengthen tight muscles that pull the body out of alignment and to strengthen the muscles that contribute to good posture. Many lower back issues, especially in men, are related to tight hamstrings and hip flexors and weak glutes and lower abs.
5. Impoves Flexibilty
In general, the more muscle mass you have the less flexible you are! Hence many men having issues with flexibilty. With the focus on stretching and mobilising, pilates helps improve flexibility and encourages your joints to move through the greatest possible range of motion. Thus helping to reduce injuries.
If you are a keen sportsman or athlete you will find pilates has a real, positive impact on your performance.
Whilst injury prevention is a key benefit, there are many more ways in which pilates can help:
Balance and Co-ordination
Pilates improves your muscle control and core stability, thus enhancing your balance and co-ordination. Golfers, including Tiger Woods, practise pilates to develop their balance whilst transitioning their body weight through the golf swing.
Strength and Power
To generate maximum force with control, a strong core is essential. Andy Murray is now a keen pilates follower. Tennis players have to return the ball whilst moving and twisting their bodies.To generate the maximum force, they need some serious core strength.
All displines benefit from pilates: the best swimmers swim with their cores; the best runners have stable hips and can train harder without injury; and there is cycling power in a strong core, especially as the ride gets long or hilly. Weightlifters can lift more weight with confidence because they know how to activate their core.
In a nutshell, most men can benefit by adding an hour of pilates to their exercise programme per week. See it as an insurance policy; to enable you to carry on doing all those sports you love, year after year, whilst remaining injury free.