Updated: Sep 11, 2022
While the current misconception is that Pilates is mostly for women, Pilates is a great exercise for everyone. In fact, Joseph Pilates, the founder of Pilates, first developed his Pilates method for rehabilitating soldiers. The controlled movements that target the whole body became popular among dancers as well, and the practice grew.
Pilates is an amazing form of exercise. The movement patterns target multiple hard-to-reach muscle groups all at once. Although Pilates classes are often dominated by women, there are many great benefits for men. Unlike many typical male-focused exercises that focus on building muscles, Pilates incorporates other important types of physical fitness.
Some of the most talented male athletes recognize the importance of a variety of physical activities. They do Pilates to prevent injuries and stay both flexible and strong. I’m dedicating this post to sharing how Pilates can be beneficial for men, too.
Is Pilates for Men?
At Empowerhouse Pilates, we believe that everyone can benefit from Pilates, including men! Here’s what one of our clients had to say about his experience with Pilates:
“Is Pilates for men? I asked myself that question approximately 18 years ago when I began Pilates. Eighteen years later of 1-2 sessions per week, I believe the answer is a resounding “yes.”
I am currently 72 yrs old and have played college football, played competitive tennis, run marathons, and enjoy golf, skiing, and mountain biking. I have also had hip surgery and bilateral knee replacement. None of these activities would be possible, in my opinion, had I not started Pilates years ago.
Prior to starting Pilates, I suffered from chronic lower back pain, sciatic pain, and poor posture and routinely treated the pain with NSAIDs or Tylenol. It has been over ten years since I have taken any over-the-counter pain relief meds. I attribute this almost exclusively to Pilates. Further, my posture has significantly improved, and have been able to maintain the same height I had at the age of 20 years old.
I would encourage any man who is sincerely interested in maintaining and/or improving flexibility to give Pilates a try but commit to 6 months of class. You will absolutely notice a change in your mental and physical health.”
The benefits of Pilates for men include improving your breath, posture, strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, and so much more!
Benefits of Pilates for Men
Develop neglected muscle groups.
Many traditionally male-associated exercises focus strictly on certain muscle groups like abdominal muscles, pecs, and arms. Pilates works on both smaller and larger muscles. By targeting these often neglected muscle groups, you will build overall muscle strength. These muscles will help support your body when you do more targeted exercises.
Improve your posture.
If you sit at a desk most of the day, it’s likely that your posture could use some work. Did you know that good posture is more than just sitting straight and pulling your shoulders back? A strong core and back will help you maintain proper alignment. Want to improve posture? Give Pilates a try! Plus, improved posture will help you stand taller and look better!
Increase your flexibility.
Flexibility isn’t just about touching your toes or doing the splits. Improved flexibility can help you avoid injury and makes everyday movement more comfortable.
Build core strength.
Pilates focuses on using and engaging the powerhouse. Throughout all Pilates exercises, your core muscles are engaging to provide stability and control. In Pilates class, you’ll work more than just the superficial abdominal muscles. You’ll also strengthen your deep core muscles.
Taking just 20 minutes for yourself to move your body and connect with yourself can make a world of difference for your mental health. While this is true of almost all physical activity, Pilates especially reduces stress with its steady movement patterns and focus on breathing.
Improve pelvic floor health.
Your pelvic floor health is another thing that’s not just for women. Pilates exercises work your deep core system, including your pelvic floor muscles. Taking care of your pelvic floor health can help prevent incontinence and sexual dysfunction.
Reduce lower back pain.
All of these benefits of Pilates tie into each other, and this one is no exception. Improved core strength provides more support for your back and spine. A stronger back and increased flexibility can help decrease your lower back pain!
Prevent injuries and speed up recovery.
Joseph Pilates originally developed “Contrology” as a form of rehabilitation. Pilates still works today to help you rehab from any injuries and prevent future ones from occurring. In Pilates, you learn to move the body as a whole and flow from one movement to another. This state of balance will help prevent injuries.
Work on functional fitness.
Physical fitness is more than just getting a six-pack or hitting a new personal record. Staying active and taking care of your body will allow you to move more freely and confidently in your everyday life. As we age, things like getting up from a chair or bending over to pick something else can become challenging. Pilates helps you maintain your functional fitness.
Increase your endurance.
Pilates is a great exercise to pair with the rest of your fitness routine. Unlike other high-energy, short-burst physical activities like powerlifting or even running, Pilates is slow and controlled. By slowing down the pace of your movement, you’ll build more endurance.
Pilates Exercises for Men
The Hundred is a classic Pilates exercise. Many Pilates classes will begin with the Hundred to increase circulation, warm up the body, and strengthen the powerhouse.
Lie on your back with your arms beside your body. Bend your knees to your chest at a 90-degree angle in Pilates stance. Bring your chin to your chest and make sure to keep your back completely flat on the mat.
Raise both arms straight above your thighs. Pump your arms up and down vigorously to the count of 5 while inhaling through your nose. Continue to pump your arms while you exhale to the count of 5. Repeat 10 times. Your arms should only move a distance of 6 to 8 inches.
Start on your back on the mat with your legs extended and heels together. Reach your arms overhead with your palms facing up and your back still flat to the mat. While taking a deep breath in, lift your arms to the ceiling then lift your head between your arms. Pull your belly button towards your spine.
Exhale slowly as you continue to roll up off the floor, reaching your arms forward, parallel to the ground. Stretch forward over the legs. Inhale to roll back down the same way you came up, keeping your arms at shoulder height. Repeat 4-6 times.
To increase the intensity of the exercise, try coming up with the feet flexed and going down with the feet pointed. For a greater challenge, keep your arms next to your ears.
Double Leg Stretch
The double leg stretch will work your abdominals and is great for flexibility!
Starting on the mat, bend both knees into your chest. Hold onto your shins and bring your chin to your chest. Your back should be pressing intentionally into the mat.
As you inhale, stretch both legs above your hips and extend your arms directly over your shoulders. On the exhale, return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Double Leg Lift
The double leg lift helps to activate your hip flexors and glutes, as well as target your abs. Throughout this exercise, make sure your back stays anchored to the floor!
Start lying on your back with your legs stretched up to the ceiling. Curl slightly, bringing your chin to your chest and your hands behind your head. Inhale and lower the legs down without touching the mat. Exhale as you bring your legs back up to starting position slowly. Repeat 10 times.
This exercise really helps with your posture. We spend all day bending forward, so it’s healthy to counter that by bending our backs in the opposite direction. The modified swan is perfect for anyone who sits at a desk and needs to really open their chest and combat “tech neck.”
Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched in front of you with your palms pressed downward. Lift your gaze to the front of the mat, lift your chest, and pull your stomach up. Inhale, slide your hands along the mat and feel the stretch along your front body. Exhale and slide your hands back, floating your body back to where you started.
Throughout the exercise, make sure your hips stay anchored on the mat and that you’re engaging your abdominals to open the front of your body. Repeat 5 times.
The thigh stretch stretches your quads and strengthens your hamstrings, glutes, and abdominal muscles. Start this exercise kneeling on the floor with your knees directly under your hips and hip-width apart.
With your arms stretched out in front of you in line with your shoulders, hinge your upper body back about 45 degrees, keeping a straight line from your head to your knees. Return to the starting position. Repeat 5-8 times.
The goal of this exercise is to expand the lungs and open the chest.
Inhale deeply while sweeping your arms back behind your hips, opening your chest. It’s as if the opening of the chest actually encourages your arms to go further back. Pull your shoulder blades towards each other.
Hold your breath in while you look to the right, left, and back to center. Exhale while your arms travel forward, in line with your shoulders.
This Pilates exercise targets your upper body, working your triceps, deltoids, and lats.
Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Press your arms firmly into the mat. Lift your hips up. Avoid lifting too high and losing the work in the backs of your arms. Roll down with control. Repeat 3-5 times.
Pilates Push Ups
In a plank position, legs in Pilates stance, bend the elbows narrow to your sides. Keep your core engaged the whole time.
For more challenge, bring your heels forward. For more work in the chest, open the arms wide and come up onto your fingertips for the push up. Do three repetitions for 3 sets.
Pilates is beneficial for everyone, including men!
Pilates is such an incredible form of physical activity for anyone. Despite the common misconception that Pilates is just for ballerinas and women, there are many benefits for men. If you’re just starting your Pilates practice, check out Pilates tips and exercises on our blog or follow us on Instagram!