Pilates (Pi-LAH-teez) is one of the fastest growing fitness trends in the world, however, a number of men seem to be intimidated to give it a try. This raises the question, why haven’t they jumped on board? Perhaps it is because classes are dominated by women (in both participation and instruction), maybe it’s that men don’t feel graceful or coordinated enough for certain movements, or possibly Pilates in Eden Prairie just doesn’t seem “manly” enough. I propose that sometimes the best workout for you is the one you’re not doing yet!
Pilates is a total body conditioning program that strengthens and stretches the body simultaneously. It also teaches body awareness, proper breathing, and good postural alignment. The physical therapy team members at Wellspring Health Center have attended courses through the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute (APPI), a unique program that has led the world for over 16 years in rehabilitation based Pilates. We incorporate many of Joseph Pilates’ original principles into our Therapeutic Exercise program for injury prevention, acute injury rehabilitation, and management of chronic pain conditions.
The Man Behind Pilates
Pilates was originally developed by a man, for men! Joseph Pilates was a frail child, suffering from rickets, rheumatic fever, and asthma. In his motivation to overcome these ailments, he began studying anatomy and various types of exercise, and by the age of 14, he had become the embodiment of health. As he grew older, he held many “manly” job titles including: body builder, gymnast, martial artist, boxer, circus performer, and self-defense trainer for Scotland Yard. Based on scientific knowledge of the human body, observation of animal movement in the wild and personal experience through numerous athletics, he developed “contrology” in the late 19th Century. He intended to address poor health due to “modern” lifestyle, bad posture, and inefficient breathing. A variation of this method is what we presently practice and know as Pilates.
Benefits of Pilates for Men (and Women)
- Reduces lower back pain
Approximately 80% of Americans will experience lower back pain at some point in their lifetime. Pilates is prescribed by physical therapists and many other health professionals around the world for the treatment and prevention of lower back pain. In addition, Pilates can assist in managing postural imbalances that lead to soreness in other body regions.
- Develops neglected muscle groups
Men often have imbalances within the body: strong chest and shoulder muscles, tight hip flexors, and weak lower extremities. Pilates focuses on deep, supportive muscles that help facilitate larger muscle groups. Pilates forces mindful movements, minimizing “cheating” your way through exercises.
- Improves flexibility
Many men tend to skip stretching as part of their workout routine. Poor flexibility and limited joint range of motion can often lead to injury. Increased flexibility also helps with handling daily activities with greater ease.
- Strengthens core muscles
Besides the physical benefits of core stability, Pilates is also great for toning the mid section, which is a trouble area for many men!
- Improves sports performance
- Increased coordination and balance
- Better functional strength and power
- Corrects postural imbalances
- Develops the mind-body connection, requiring you to think about what you are doing for maximum benefit and to activate certain muscle groups
Pilates in Athletics
Many men may perceive Pilates as “easy”, but that is not so. Once the essential exercises are mastered, modifications can be made to challenge even the strongest elite athlete. Repetitive movements in sports: throwing or hitting a baseball, swinging a golf club, or even casting a fishing pole are, almost always, one-sided. Pilates is ideal in correcting imbalances in the body caused by these activities. Pilates has undeniably developed a presence in professional athletics over recent years. It is based on six principles: breathing, centering, concentration, control, precision, and flow. What sport wouldn’t that apply to?!The Washington Redskins and the Pittsburgh Steelers have even incorporated Pilates into their team training programs. Martellus Bennett, a tight end for the Green Bay Packers, states, “I can lift 500 pounds, but in a Pilates session, there’s always some different type of motion that’s hard for me to do. That’s what is so great about it. To counteract the joint compression caused by weightlifting, I go straight from weights to Pilates as often as possible. [It] helps me work on rebalancing and activating my muscles . . . supporting muscles that hold up the bigger ones.” Martellus Bennett is not alone; many other professional athletes from the PGA, NBA, and MLB have also sung praises of Pilates and the competitive edge it has provided them.
You don’t have to be an elite athlete to reap the benefits of Pilates. Regardless of skill level or age, starting regular Pilates practice will help you work better, play better, and be better! Joseph Pilates famously stated, “In ten lessons you will feel a difference, in 20 lessons you’ll see a difference, and in 30 lessons you’ll have a whole new body.” So, what are you waiting for? Schedule a complimentary screening at Wellspring Health Center today, and prepare to begin your journey to a better YOU with our knowledgeable physical therapy team!