You Mean Pilates Was a DUDE?!

This is the third in a series of posts about Men’s Health and Fitness. I read some articles recently in the IDEA Fitness Journal that sparked this series of posts. Of what I read, one statement stuck out to me the most:

Before Anthony Dominici, a Los Angeles-based executive producer and filmmaker, discovered that Pilates was named after Joseph Pilates, he thought ‘pilates’ “sounded a little ‘light’ for a workout.”

Do you know who Joseph Pilates was?

Joseph Pilates was a German born man; son of a Greek and a woman who practiced naturopathy. He was ill and frail as a child and decided to take what he could learn from activities like gymnastics, wrestling, etc and transform his body “naturally” into something that resembled the Greek Gods. His method of movements were known as Contrology and he published a book by the same name. What we now call Pilates (as a practice) is a series of strength based movements that stem from the core of the body and require little to no equipment to perform.

The Core and Engagement

I’ve written several times about what the core is and I want to sum it up as two things:

  • Your core of your body are all major muscle groups located in the torso and not an appendage. This includes the abdominals, erector spinae, lats, traps, rhomboids, deltoids, and pectorals….to name a few.
  • Movements at your core of your body (and all movement) is generated from the pelvic floor muscles (also in the torso of the body).

Pilates requires that you engage your pelvic floor muscles by imagining a zipper that runs from your tail bone, between the legs, and up to the belly button….and zipping it shut. This is similar to the exercise often referred to as a Kegel, but we’ll talk about why men and women should be doing those (again) on another day. Pilates also requires that you engage your core by pulling your navel into your spine without sucking in. You need to be able to breathe while performing Pilates exercises.

Types of Pilates

There are many different types of Pilates exercises and equipment including the reformer, the ring, the ball, etc. I’m a big fan of standard Mat Pilates Method myself as it requires nothing but your body to perform. There are Power Pilates, Bender Pilates, Stott Pilates, and Yogalates and PiYo and a million other variations out there. I suggest, if you’re going to give it a try, to research your options and try something classical over contemporary to begin with. But, that’s my opinion.

Pilates Benefits for Men

Again we find ourselves in this situation where the market for this activity is highly geared toward women, but began with a man. Somewhere along the way we lost track of what Pilates was really about and made it commercialized and all about being thin and lean instead of bulking up. Women tend to do Pilates because it won’t make them “HUGE”…..Ladies…..did you see the photo above?

Men tend to avoid Pilates because they think that it’s easy and won’t get results….Guys….did you see the photo above?

According to the article I read, and Michele Olson, PhD, FACSM, and professor of exercise science at Auburn University…..Pilates is great for men because it address some of those areas in which they are stereotypically tight and in need of stretching (hamstrings, lower back, glutes) and strengthens deeper abdominal muscles. The differences in men’s bodies can make the movements more challenging for men and therefore give them greater feelings of success when they complete them.

For me and my clients I’ve also found that Pilates (because it addresses form specifically) can fix a lot of lifting errors I find in a veteran exerciser. Roll-ups, for example, can teach better abdominal engagement in a sit-up or curl-up vs. focus on the hip flexor. Pilates push-ups can also help with sagging hips and shortened movements at the elbow joint. In general, because Pilates requires you to move with a breathing pattern (different than that of yoga but most closely aligned with weight lifting) it can improve form across the board. Pilates is also known to improve posture, decrease back pain due to increases in core strength, and give you a feeling of power and strength not found in most body weight exercises.

To read more about this topic and to get a sample series suggested by Dr. Olson, check out the article at

Mind-Body Exercise for Men


Have you tried Pilates yet?

What is your favorite Pilates move?

What benefit are you missing from your traditional workout that might be addressed by adding Mind-Body exercise?

Thanks Amanda for hosting another TOLT where we can showcase things we’ve been thinking about!

One thought on “You Mean Pilates Was a DUDE?!

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