You’re about to get the inside scoop on a form of exercise that targets multiple hard-to-reach muscle groups at once. It’s good for dudes of any age and ability level, and it helps massively with rehabbing sports injuries. It’s Pilates.
But wait… erm… do guys even do Pilates?
It’s good for everyone! The benefits of Pilates for guys are the same as for women. Greater flexibility, control, and muscle precision are yours for the taking.
This workout method admittedly isn’t all about muscle gain like many typically male-focused exercise methods, but not everyone is looking to bulk up. Even if you are, greater command of those new muscles isn’t a bad thing.
Those who don’t are missing out. Read on to learn why men can’t get enough of a good Pilates routine.
By comparison, many forms of exercise typically associated with masculinity, such as weightlifting, target only one part of the body at a time.
(While the notion of traditionally masculine exercises now seems a bit silly, women’s weightlifting wasn’t part of the Olympics until the Sydney Games in 2000 — the competitive division of women’s weightlifting is literally only 1 year older than “The Fast and the Furious” franchise. Ugh.)
It’s also a workout with longevity. Because Pilates isn’t strenuous or high impact, you can keep practicing it well into your later years.
With a couple of sessions per week, you can improve posture, balance, and lower-body strength — all of which are critical for maintaining your quality of life as you age.
So, why do people think Pilates is only for women?
Your guess is as good as ours, bro. People are weird. Sure, there’s a lot of marketing out there pushing Pilates at women, but it doesn’t line up with the facts. Truth is, the system was invented by a German guy named Joseph Pilates, and he was a stone-cold badass.
Mr. Pilates was a pro bodybuilder and boxer who taught self-defense to British police back in the 1910s. During the Great War, the Brits put him in an internment camp, where he developed the Pilates system to help rehabilitate injured veterans.
Dunno about you, but a workout developed in a POW camp by a pro fighter to rehab soldiers’ battle wounds sounds pretty masculine to us.
The beauty of Pilates comes from the fact that there wasn’t much exercise equipment in those POW camps. Mr. Pilates had to develop a system that worked using the natural resistance of gravity.
That means you can give Pilates a go right now in your living room without spending a cent. Try starting with 15 reps of each of these 8 Pilates exercises and see how they work for you.
1. Pelvic curl
Good for: Hip flexors, glutes, spinal mobility
The pelvic curl gets your spine moving segment by segment, boosting flexibility and static balance.
- Lie faceup with arms by your sides. Take a deep breath.
- Press arms into the floor.
- Exhale and raise your pelvis to lift your butt off the floor.
- Tighten your glutes.
- Slowly, vertebrae by vertebrae, lift your spine up.
- Hold for 3 seconds.
- Exit the pose by “rolling” your spine back down to the floor, followed by your butt.
2. Leg change
Good for: core muscles
There’s an easy and a hard variant of this move:
- In easy mode, you’ll keep your thighs and calves held up, bent at 90 degrees.
- In hard mode, you’ll keep those legs straight out in front of you, a few inches from the floor.
The steps are as follows:
- Lie faceup with legs raised in the chosen position, easy or hard.
- Keep your knees together and arms by your sides.
- Brace your abdominal muscles. Keep your spine neutral and avoid arching that lower back.
- Slowly lower one foot to the floor, letting toes touch the floor while keeping the other leg in position.
- Raise your foot back up the starting position while lowering your other foot to the floor.
- Continue to alternate sides.
3. Supine twist
Good for: Spinal mobility, abdominal muscle control
A strong combo of mobility and precision, supine twists step things up by introducing sideways motion that takes time to master.
- Lie faceup with legs together and arms stretched out to either side, palms facing up.
- Brace your abdominal muscles.
- Raise your legs, keeping them together so they’re at the same level.
- Rotate to one side until your opposite hip lifts off the floor.
- Hold for 3 seconds.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
4. Chest lift with rotation
Good for: Abdominal muscles
This movement works a surprising range of core muscles, from your obliques to your very center. It’s a key part of your new Pilates toolkit.
Just make sure you’re lifting with your core, not with your neck.
- Lie faceup and place your hands behind your head.
- Take a deep breath. As you exhale, lift shoulder blades up.
- Slowly rotate to one side and hold for 3 seconds.
- Return to the center position without putting your shoulder blades back down.
- Rotate to the other side and hold for 3 seconds.
- Return to the center position and lower your shoulders to the floor.
5. Back extension
Good for: Back muscles
If you spend a lot of your day at a desk (and that’s most of us nowadays), back extensions are for you. They not only develop the muscles our sedentary lives waste but also improve flexibility and reduce pain.
- Lie on your stomach.
- Brace your abdominal muscles as though you’re lifting them up.
- Raise your head and chest off the floor, remembering to keep your breathing steady.
- With your neck extended, reach your hands down toward your feet.
- Pull your shoulder blades together.
- Release your shoulders and lower your upper back.
6. Glute bridge
Good for: Glutes and lower back
Another surefire cure for the deskbound blues, glute bridges activate that booty and target the muscles that affect your posture.
- Lie faceup with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Brace your booty muscles and lift that ass until your back, butt, and knees form a straight line.
- Once you’ve lined things up, engage your abs to avoid putting stress on your back.
- Hold for 3 seconds, and then slowly return to the starting position.
7. Side-lying leg abduction
Good for: Glutes, plus knee and hip stability
An extended version of the side-lying hip abduction, the full-leg variant strengthens often-overlooked muscles. Nailing those tricky areas can help cut down your risk of sports injuries and boost your balance.
- Lie on your side with your hips forward and knees bent together in front of you.
- Support your head with your bottom arm to keep your spine neutral.
- Straighten your top leg and raise it until it’s at a 45-degree angle to your bottom one.
- Hold for 3 seconds.
- Gently lower your leg back to its starting position. Don’t just drop it down — it’s important to maintain control.
- Repeat on the other side.
8. Side bend
Good for: Lateral spine motion
Your spine is meant to be way more flexible than you give the poor thing credit for. Side bends get it moving left and right, not just back and forth. The result is a more supple back and more stable shoulders. Golfers should check this one out.
- Start seated on one side. Your weight should be on your hip.
- Support yourself with your bottom arm extended and palm flat on the floor.
- Bend your top knee at 90 degrees with your foot to the floor.
- Press down with that same foot to push yourself up.
- Straighten your top arm and raise it above your head.
- Push with your leg until your body makes a bridge shape. Your weight should be on your bottom hand and top leg.
- Hold for 3 seconds, and then slowly lower back to the starting position.
- Repeat on the other side.
Wanna get the most out of your new Pilates routine? Make sure you keep your safety in check:
- Pay close attention to these starter tips. First, you’ve got to know what Pilates can and can’t do for you. It doesn’t incorporate much in the way of cardio, so you’ll need to get that elsewhere. No exercise method can do everything.
- Remember to breathe. When you’re engaging your abs and holding strange new positions, you might naturally want to hold your breath. This goes against the core ethos of Pilates, which is to feel natural and in tune with how your body is supposed to work.
- Perhaps most importantly, don’t take a “no pain, no gain” approach. Pilates isn’t supposed to burn or hurt or present barriers. Know the difference between the unfamiliar stretch of a new pose and actual pain, which you should avoid here.
Don’t let gendered marketing keep you from trying a hugely popular exercise method that has helped millions of people.
The benefits of Pilates for men are nothing to sneeze at. When you combine them with a strong cardio routine, you’ll start to see serious steps forward for your fitness.