Pilates Exercises for Men
As a fitness method, Pilates often brings images of female celebrities, models and ballerinas to mind, but the Pilates method is a challenging, whole-body calisthenic workout suitable for men. In fact, this approach to fitness was created by a man, Joseph Pilates, and several of the method's most notable master instructors are also male. Pilates as exercise knows no gender boundaries. Yet, as Pilates Coach Leslee Bender points out, "Core conditioning is attractive to men, but they want to feel successful and most of them are not interested in swift, dance-based movements." With a few modifications and a focus on form, men can certainly benefit from the practice of Pilates exercises.
Stretch Tight Hamstrings
Do Single Straight Leg Stretch. To prepare, lie on your back on the mat, with your arms at your side and your legs bent to 90 degrees at the knees in the air.
Try to straighten your legs up over your hips. If you feel significant tugging in your low back or at the back of your legs, place a rolled beach towel under your pelvis to elevate your hips a few inches, which should relieve hamstring and low back strain.
Breathe in a deep breath and raise your head, neck and shoulders to curve off the floor. Keep your eyes on your abs and hips, and exhale as you use your hands to gently pull your right leg in toward your body while moving the left leg away. This creates a scissors shape with your legs.
Inhale as you draw your low abs deep into your pelvis. Try not to move your hips or neck as you exhale and switch legs, pulling your left leg gently toward your body while moving the right leg away.
Continue the scissor motion with smooth, steady movements, switching legs left and right, using the same inhale/exhale pattern. Repeat this exercise five to 10 times.
Change Up Your Push-Ups
Prepare for Pilates push-ups by getting on all fours on your mat.
Walk your hands and feet out to form a long plank position. Flex your feet, with your ankles stretching back into your heels, and straighten your arms with your hands placed directly below top of your shoulders—not your armpits. Lengthen your neck and keep the back of your head in a direct line with the back of your hips.
Exhale and draw in on your abs, making sure your hips are in line with the rest of your body, and not sagging or elevated.
Inhale, and while keeping your elbows held tightly at your sides, bend your elbows to lower your body in one piece, making sure your head and neck stay in line, and your stomach does not drop nearer to the floor.
Exhale and straighten your arms. Repeat the push-up for as many repetitions as you can complete while maintaining perfect form.
Improve Balance and Stability
Do the Corkscrew exercise to challenge the deep stabilizers of the spine and pelvis. Prepare by getting on your back with your arms at your side and your legs in the air, bent to 90 degrees at the knees.
Try to straighten your legs up over your hips. If you feel significant tugging in your low back or at the back of your legs, place the rolled beach towel under your pelvis to elevate your hips a few inches.
Breathe in deeply, imagining your hip bones and low back being firmly buckled down onto the mat below you.
Exhale, and with legs extended, slowly circle both legs to the right as one unit while holding the pelvis still. Don't let either hip raise up off the floor. Draw in on the navel, and continue the circling movement away from your center, then back up from the left to close the circle.
Repeat the Corkscrew circles to the right, keeping the shoulder blades weighted in the to the ground, three to eight times.
Repeat the entire Corkscrew sequence after a brief recovery period, this time moving to the left to begin the circles.
Completely Challenge Your Core
Choose the side plank pose to call upon all the deep muscles of the core, plus the obliques. Prepare by turning on to your right side on the mat, with your forearm flat in front of you and your elbow in line with the outside of your shoulder—not your armpit.
Inhale and extend your legs, with your feet stacked on top of each other.
Exhale and raise your hips and legs up to form a straight line down from your head to your heels. If you cannot balance in this position, soften your knees and lower your hips somewhat.
Continue breathing smooth, deep breaths, in and out, as you hold this position. Imagine your ribcage underneath you is being held up by a sling from over head, and make sure your tailbone is not slipping back and out of line.
Hold the side plank while maintaining stillness, spinal alignment and breathing pattern, for up to one minute.
Lower hips and knees to the floor carefully, then turn onto the left side to repeat the entire sequence.
To enhance your core strength, stability, balance and flexibility, do this brief Pilates-based routine three to four times per week in addition to your current exercise routine.
Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regime. If your back is arching during Pilates mat work, the activity is too strenuous for your current ability. If this happens, decrease your range of motion, soften your knees, and/or support the low back with a towel or wedge during movements until you can maintain a still, neutral spine while exercising.
- "Return to Life Through Contrology;" Joseph H. Pilates and William J Miller; 1945
- "The Pilates Body;" Brooke Siler; 2000
- Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Getty Images