It wasn’t until professional Premier League footballer and goalkeeper Joe Hart started practicing Pilates on Merrithew™ equipment that fan Steve Humphreys decided to give it a go.
“I thought, ‘If he’s doing it, I should too,’” Steve says. “Seeing one of my favorite players doing Pilates inspired me.”
The first few classes took a bit of getting used to. As a recreational runner and regular gym-goer, Steve wasn’t used to consciously thinking about connecting and coordinating his movements to his breath.
But with regular practice, and some private one-on-one sessions with an instructor, he noticed that his general mobility, posture and core strength had improved. “It alleviated those aches and pains that I’d felt in my lower back,” he says.
As a weightlifter, another aspect of Pilates that appealed to him was working with the equipment, especially the Reformer.
Many people unfamiliar with Pilates often don’t realize all the benefits that come with working with tension and resistance. On the Reformer and Stability Chair™, Steve could adjust the spring tension to make the exercises more challenging, increasing his range of motion and developing muscular control in both concentric and eccentric phases.
He found all of this had positive effects on his other athletic pursuits. “Pilates is now the foundation of everything I do,” he says. “It enables me to have more balance, stability, strength and flexibility in all my other activities.”
For running, Pilates improved his hip and knee alignment and engaged weak stabilizer muscles, relieving pressure around his joints.
See also How STOTT PILATES® helps runners
For his gym workouts, Pilates helped him build core and leg strength, and stabilize his shoulder girdle, improving his form for lifting heavy weights.
See also Build leg strength and stability
While Steve is still one of only a few guys in his Pilates classes, he thinks that is changing.
“Once guys realize the benefits of doing Pilates and they find out about all the athletes, Olympians and sports teams that are incorporating it into their training regimen to build strength and prevent injury, they’ll be on board,” he says.
In Steve’s experience, he also thinks Pilates could benefit men of all ages.
Young men: “Pilates gives you more control over your body and helps prevent injury, which will give you an edge in your sports performance.”
Middle-aged men: “If you’re sitting at a desk most of the day, it will help you de-stress, improve your posture and spine health, and build a stronger core.”
Senior men: “Pilates is also great for mobility, functional movement and rehabilitation. It will help increase your range of motion and the repertoire can be customized for your specific needs. It really is an exercise you can do for life.”
We asked the experts
Why should men add STOTT PILATES® to their training regimen?
Colleen Naus, owner of Merrithew Host Training Center, pillarPERFORMANCE
“Everyone learns the basics when they start with an Essential level class, so men shouldn’t be intimidated about joining a Pilates class. Yes, it is a learning curve, but once they get into the work, they’re typically always strong enough to do more Advanced level repertoire. However, what I’ve found across the board is that they tend to have no concept of their shoulder girdle stability— that’s usually one of the biggest issues. They also sometimes have poor core connection, such as not being aware of how to engage the transversus abdominis to move the legs.
“I’ve learned that if I can get a man’s shoulder girdle stable, it can completely change his life.
“I have one male client who has been with me for about 16 years. He is a high-level professional who often needs to be in pictures with clients. Initially his chest and latissimus dorsi were so tight and locked up that he couldn’t hold his hands behind his back in pictures, so he held his hands in front of him. This really bothered him. Even though he was strong enough to do advanced work, he didn’t have the mobility or stability of his shoulder girdle to allow for the proper movements. It all goes back to the basics: if you don’t have efficient mobility, you can’t find stability, and therefore you cannot support load. So we had to back up and create mobility in the shoulder girdle before working on stability and strength to move forward. Today you will find him in all of his pictures with his hands clasped behind his back, chest open and proud!”
What’s the best way to get started?
While DVDs and videos can give you a taste of what Pilates has to offer, it’s best if you find a studio with STOTT PILATES Certified Instructors and sign up for an orientation or introductory session.
Your instructor will introduce you to the method’s foundations and get you acquainted with the props and equipment. They’ll also lead you through a complete workout to assess your physical health, postural alignment and mind-body awareness so they can make recommendations as to what types of classes and services will suit you best.
Find an instructor who lives near you!