Pilates was originally designed in the 1920s by a man for men and, truth be told, I was introduced to Pilates by a man. My awesome personal trainer at the time, Si Carty, was helping me prepare for my first ever, and last ever half marathon (Sydney, September 2011). Having never run before he had his work cut out for him – from changing my running style after a gait analysis, to strength and speed training. When he said ‘you must add Pilates to your exercise programme’ this big muscly sporty man suffered a withering look as I said, out of sheer ignorance, that I wasn’t interested in getting bendy I just wanted to be strong and fit.
The point really is that it is not a question of whether Pilates is for men or for women. It is for everyone because it works. It is for everyone who would like to improve his or her balance, posture, flexibility and get stronger. Pilates is a full body workout and it remains a challenge, even after years of practise. Whether you are a runner, surfer, swimmer, weight-lifter or high intensity addict, the subtle and controlled movements of Pilates will help you tone, tune and transform your entire body. Yes it is about strengthening your core and pelvic floor, aided by breathing, however it is also about developing and then applying stamina and strength in your everyday movements.
However, as we are talking about men practising Pilates, look at the man himself, Joseph Pilates, who was a gymnast, skier, diver, body builder, and martial arts expert. As a child, Joe suffered from asthma and other ailments and he turned to exercise and athletics as a way of dealing with his ailments. He studied various exercise regimens to expand his knowledge base and became intrigued by the classical Greek ideal of a man balanced in body, mind, and spirit and over time he developed his own exercise system based on this concept. In 1912, Joe went to England and worked as a self-defense instructor at Scotland Yard. At the outbreak of World War I, Joe was interned as an “enemy alien” with other German nationals. During this time he refined his ideas and trained other internees in his system of exercise. He rigged springs to hospital beds, enabling bedridden patients to exercise against resistance, an innovation that led to his later equipment designs such as the Pilates reformer.
Or you could always ask football legend David Beckham, Rocky a.k.a Sylvester Stallone, Wolverine a.k.a. Hugh Jackman or undefeated boxer Andre Ward for their thoughts on this question.
Today, Pilates blends the best of functional and performance training, fitness and rehabilitation; incorporating the latest insights from research in sports science, recovery and training methods such as push-pull, bodyweight and cardiovascular training. This explains why so many male celebrities and sportsmen have become fans of Pilates.
Joseph Pilates says it best: “You will feel better in 10 sessions, look better in 20 sessions, and have a completely new body in 30 sessions.”
Photo credit: Florblanca images