5 Reasons Why Real Men Do Pilates

Put me Back Together is a collection of Pilates and Physical Therapy articles.  Here is a good article by Kristen Reynolds describing the origin of Pilates and how it benefits the fitness and well being of men such as David Beckham and Tiger Woods.

5 Reasons Why Real Men Do Pilates

Pilates is Just for Dancers: Fact or Fiction?

pilates for menIt is true that Joseph Pilates’ exercises were first embraced by the NYC dance community after he defected to the United States. His method reintroduced movement early in the rehabilitation process by encouraging active-assisted range of motion and low load muscular forces, which was unique to dancers and choreographers who were accustomed to long prognoses. However, most individuals are unaware that Pilates Method was intended for men.

As a young child in Germany, Joseph Pilates suffered from numerous illnesses leading to significant weakness. Accordingly, he dedicated his life to becoming physically stronger and studied several methods of movement, including yoga, martial arts, calisthenics, boxing, and gymnastics. From these experiences, Pilates devised a unique method of physical and mental conditioning named Contrology with the philosophy that “a few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.” This system of original 34 Pilates exercises is known today as Matwork.

In a WWI internment camp, he was a caretaker for many soldiers bedridden by injuries and the influenza epidemic. He progressed Contrology by attaching bed springs to headboards and foot boards to facilitate resistance and body support for patients. The dual feature of the apparatus is essential to the body as it learns to move more efficiently and truly complements Matwork.

Pilates has gained momentum and attention in the past decade as a modality for improving flexibility, strength and mind–body awareness. Over the past several years, the method has become a staple in the conditioning of professional athletes including NBA players Jason Kidd, Greg Oden, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James, MLB players Manny Ramirez and Curt Schilling, soccer star David Beckham, and golfer Tiger Woods.

Here are some of the top reasons these men do Pilates:

  • Power. Pilates maximizes performance and builds power by developing a strong foundation of core stability that allows the primary movers and levers to work on explosive movements more efficiently. The Jump board, an attachment to the spring-resistant Reformer, is an excellent tool that allows for supine and side lying plyometric training. By eliminating gravity, Jumpboard teaches correct biomechanics during take off and landing and is particularly effective in rehabilitation, as it provides athletes with a partial weight-bearing workout that activates fast-twitch muscle fibers.
  • Mind-Body Control. Pilates teaches participants to be mindful in their movements by integrating the pelvis, trunk and shoulder girdle in a safe, challenging and progressive system. The method facilitates neuromuscular re-education to occur in functional positions and multiple planes with focus on spinal stabilization. Dynamic activity in supine, prone, sitting, kneeling, quadruped, and standing postures requires balance and coordinated motor control. Concentration and the mind-body connection are essential components of this method and is typically what makes stellar athletes stand out from good ones. A recent study revealed that the Pilates method of exercise may contribute to improved performance in double leg lowering, star excursion balance tests, and throwing speed in college baseball pitchers.
  • Stamina. Research has revealed that active middle aged men who participated in two 60-minutes Pilates mat sessions per week for 12 weeks demonstrated statistically significant increases in abdominal and upper-body muscular endurance. Exercising on the apparatus also promotes endurance, as requires consistent co-contraction to concentrically resist and eccentrically control the spring tension.
  • Circulation. The emphasis on coordinating breathing with Pilates repertoire enhances blood flow to the soft tissue and reduces stress, reducing hypertension and Valsalva. The Jump board can also be used as a method of cardiovascular training.
  • Mobility. The greatest fear of men when doing Pilates is flexibility. The benefit of this method is that it promotes functional mobility with a stable center. Experienced teachers will also know several ways to modify for impaired segmental mobility or muscle length in the hip girdle and gradually progress the man safely.

By: Kristen Reynolds


English T, Howe K. The Effect of Pilates Exercise on Trunk and Postural Stability and Throwing Velocity in College Baseball Players: Single Subject Design. N Am J Sports Phys Ther. 2007 February; 2(1): 8–21

Kloubec, JA. Pilates for improvement of muscle endurance, flexibility, balance, and posture. J Strength Cond Res 24(3): 661-667, 2010