Perhaps the most compelling reason why more men should do Pilates is that it can enhance their performance in bed, but more of that later…
First let’s consider some common misconceptions about Pilates, starting with the idea that it’s “just for women.” Whilst it’s true that a significant number of those who go to Pilates and indeed who teach it, are women, this has more to do with an image problem than any bias towards women inherent in the Pilates repertoire of exercises.
Pilates was originally developed by a man for men of course. Joseph Pilates created his now infamous exercise regime in an internment camp during the war as a means of rehabilitating injured soldiers. He then moved to New York and opened his first studio, where the Pilates Method as it’s now understood, further evolved. Amongst his first clients were boxers, wrestlers and male dancers.
Another common misconception which can deter men from coming to class is that Pilates is “too easy to be real exercise.” This couldn’t be more wrong. Pilates is used by elite male athletes all over the world – e.g. Andy Murray, Bradley Wiggins, Gareth Bale – as a means of enhancing their performance, so can hardly be considered “too easy” or not a credible form of exercise. Professional sportsmen (including the England Cricket team, London Wasps and St Helens) have incorporated Pilates into their training regime because they can see the tangible benefits it can bring to their overall fitness and success on the field.
Men are physiologically more predisposed to tight muscles than women, particularly in and around the pelvis. This can result in a tight lower back, calves and hamstrings, problem areas that regular Pilates, with its emphasis on controlled flexibility, can successfully overcome.
In addition to flexibility, Pilates can help men build the strength of their local stabiliser muscles. For those men whose job involves heavy or awkward lifting or sitting at a desk for long periods, lower back pain is a common problem, particularly sciatica and slipped discs. In such cases, activating the deeper layers of muscle, e.g. the transversus abdominis, is crucial in order to stabilise the spine. Pilates can not only develop the more superficial or global muscles, such as the rectus abdominis, the six-pack, but also the deeper or local muscles, which are notoriously hard to engage and strengthen.
Pilates’ ability to tackle both the local and global muscle systems and its holistic approach to working the body, is invaluable in both rehabilitating injuries and improving fitness and performance. Faced with such benefits, it’s a shame that some men are still put off coming to class by concerns they may be the only man in the room. Whilst in the past this may have been the case, in recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of men doing Pilates, both as part of a group and on a one-to-one basis.
Still not convinced Pilates has something valuable to offer men? Let’s return to the point made at the start, that Pilates can help men improve their sexual performance. An important and indeed unique feature of Pilates is the pelvic floor engagement. We do this to fire up those deep or local stabiliser muscles in and around the lower spine. Research into male sexual health shows that a strong pelvic floor is key to achieving and maintaining a strong erection. In Pilates we engage the pelvic floor after every out-breath. Think about how many times you exhale in an hour-long class. That’s a lot of pelvic floor strengthening!
Perhaps if it were more widely known that Pilates can help men achieve a stronger erection and maintain it for longer, there would be more men attending class than women.
This article was inspired by a piece by Holly Nuttall.