With a growing number of elite and professional sportsmen making Pilates part of their training regimes, ‘Real Men Do Pilates’ is an increasingly common subject for articles in many Fitness and Men’s Lifestyle magazines.
Probably for that reason, more and more men are asking me about Pilates. Here are some of the most common questions – and my answers.
Q Should I try Pilates?
Absolutely. The benefits may vary, but most people – whether a sedentary office worker or an elite athlete – find that building Pilates into their training regimes delivers improvements in a number of areas, including muscle strength and control, balance, posture, flexibility and injury prevention.
Q Pilates is a bit, well, easy, isn’t it?
It’s technically difficult, requiring you to achieve and maintain good form and posture while moving through a range of exercises. It requires continual mental and physical effort as you focus on correct muscle engagement and activation, often across several muscle groups at the same time.
It’s physically hard, too. The Pilates Reformer creates both load and instability, requiring you to push your endurance and challenge your muscles in ways you never have before. Your muscles will burn, and your limbs will shake, and yes, you will sweat. (Just ask any of the members of the London Irish rugby squad who are regular visitors to Ten.)
Q Will Pilates help me ‘build muscle’?
Pilates exercises alone won’t necessarily help you ‘bulk up’. But the improvements in flexibility will help increase your range of movement through many compound lifts (squats, deadlifts etc), while the increase in core control will enable you to control more weight through this range – thus helping you build muscle mass in the gym. Pilates will also keep your body balanced and the muscles working correctly, helping you avoid injuries. If you can’t lift because you’re injured, you can’t improve your physique.
Q How does Pilates help with back pain?
Pilates is focussed on improving posture and muscle function. The aim is to lengthen tight muscles that pull the body out of ideal posture and to strengthen the muscles that hold the body in good posture. For example, to help alleviate lower back pain, the hamstrings and hip flexors need to be stretched and the lower abs and glutes will need to be activated. We then use more ‘functional exercises’ (eg squats) to train the body to maintain good posture whilst moving. The same principles apply to postural issues in the upper back and shoulder.
Q Will I see a difference in my body from Pilates?
Simply, yes. Dynamic Pilates on the reformer provides a number of benefits, both functional and aesthetic.
Firstly, the improvement in posture will make you look taller, broader and leaner.
Secondly, the Reformer provides a platform to give your abs and obliques an intense workout. The sliding platform can be used to isolate muscles in a way which is difficult to replicate elsewhere.
Thirdly, building a balanced body will help you avoid looking out of proportion. Pilates works muscles that are commonly forgotten in the gym (possibly because they’re the ones you can’t see in the mirror).
Lastly, a body that works looks a lot better than one that doesn’t!