Let’s get one thing straight, Pilates was originally designed by a man, for men. Joseph Pilates, a German Boxer (amongst other things) developed his method, originally called Contrology, to rehabilitate German Soldiers during the First World War.
Over the past 80 years Pilates has somehow come to be perceived as a flowery/girlie pass time where we all just lay around on mats and breathe for an hour. I imagine in many studios this may be the case and at times, perhaps this way of training even serves a purpose, but if you find yourself any quality Pilates instructor, whether mat or studio qualified, they will work you to your ‘core’.
If I look at the clients I have taught in the past, they range from 12-86 years of age and close to 80% of them would be female. Previously, men would often come to try Pilates as a last resort if they had a bad back and had tried everything else. These days I am happy to say the Pilates studio is often the first port of call for these male clients suffering back pain or disc pathologies. We also get the guys I like to call ‘smart athletes’, the ones that have realised there is more to training than lifting weights, hitting the golf ball or practicing their tennis serve. The results of cross training are wonderful if you are looking to truly improve your game – whatever that may be.
So how can Pilates help all the guys out there?
I am sure the thought of trying Pilates makes some men chock slightly on their protein shakes, but let’s consider the benefits for a moment. I think the best thing Pilates can offer most men is an increase in flexibility, giving that most guys are naturally tighter, especially if they do lift weights, balancing out and lengthening these tight, short muscles will only help prevent injury and keep the body supple. The balance of strength and flexibility is what we are after with Pilates training.
Like I mentioned above, cross training looks outside your sport at other movements and training methods that will in the end help to improve your chosen sport or activity. Because Pilates focuses on functional movements and balance within the body, it is applicable to many sports, for example:
– Improving spinal mobility, particularly rotation, will add your golf swing.
– Bridging the gap in strength between left and right sides helps for unilateral sports such as tennis.
– Swimmers can reduce the risk of shoulder injuries by staying not just strong, but mobile through a large range of motion.
– Cyclists that spend many hours hunched over handle bars need to open up their chest and lengthen hip flexors and hamstrings.
The list is endless…..
What sports professionals have discovered the benefits of Pilates on their game?
– Andy Murray: one of my favourites to mention.
– NRL teams such as South Sydney Rabbitohs
– Tiger Woods claims it helped his concentration and his golf swing.
– English footballers Steven Gerrard and Gareth Bale use Pilates regularly to keep in shape.
– Sydney Kings have been doing Pilates since 2010
– NFL teams including Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers
Again my list could go on…..
Having said all of the above, I sometimes get a little worried when I have a new guy coming in for a session in the studio. Will they ‘get it?’ Will they concentrate? Are they in tune with their body enough to make the micro-adjustments I need them to make? Most of the time I am really happy to see that, Yes, guys do ‘get’ Pilates and much to their surprise, most of the time they even ENJOY it. In the off season I often see male client sessions increase from once per week to three times per week. They feel and see a difference during their sporting season and want to maintain it during the off season. Smart boys!
Men that have come to me with back pain and disc pathologies have seen a decrease in pain and an improvement in how they move. They can return to work, lift heavy objects without pain, run after their kids and play sports again, they are mindful of how they move not just inside the Pilates studio, but outside as well. After all, what is the point of exercising if it is not applicable to what we do every day in the outside world?
So, going back to the roots of Pilates, let’s always remember it was designed by a man, for men. See you in the studio boys!
Over the past 8 years Tamara O’Reilly has worked closely with a number of sports professionals including the UK Women’s Tennis Team, NSW Soccer Federation and junior members of the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Programming for specific sports and determining how to improve sports performance is of great interest to Tamara, rather than just repeating mindless movements that have no functional benefit to a game.