Men, are you wondering what all the Pilates fuss is about?
Think it has got nothing to do with you? Think Pilates can’t benefit you? Think again!
Muscles get tight, right?
Pilates provides the perfect platform to improve the flexibility of particular muscles, in two ways:
- Many of the exercises emphasise both the concentric and, significantly, the eccentric phase of muscle action (in other words the lengthening phase)
- By incorporating specific stretches into the hour long class.
Firstly a quick explanation:
Flexibility refers to the suppleness of muscles – their ability to lengthen and stretch.
Mobility refers to the degree of movement in the joints. They get stiff and lose range of motion due to misuse, under-use, or no use. The significant ones are the joints of the spine, the hips (that one is a biggie) and the shoulders.
This is particularly significant for sports conditioning. For instance, without good spine rotation and hip movement the Golf swing is compromised. Without good hip movement running is compromised. Without good ankle movement dead-lifting is compromised. Without good shoulder movement an awful lot compromised … life, tennis, squash, upper body resistance training, the universe, bowling in cricket, swimming, everything…..
There is a big emphasis on joint mobility in Pilates and in particular getting the spine to move better
3. Form & Alignment
This is particularly relevant to gym users. Do what you currently do, only better. This necessarily requires the first two and more: you need a whole lot of stuff:
- Know what good form looks like AND FEELS LIKE.
- Clearly understand the correct way to perform and exercise
- Really “get” that these things matter .
And the outcome? Use the right muscle for the right move. No co-opting all sorts of extra muscles. You know the kind of thing I mean – like swinging back and hinging in the lower back in order to do a bicep curl , or arching the back during a chest press, or squeezing the shoulder blades together during a press up, or using the front of the thighs during sit ups
So learn to work more easily, more efficiently and reduce the likelihood of injury.
Don’t visit the gym? There are still benefits to be had.
Many of us have faulty shoulder action which affects daily life: Reduced mobility possibly? Discomfort if the arms goes past a certain height? Many of us squat badly, bringing the body weight forwards into the knees causing discomfort. The cause is often weakness in the buttock muscles. Squatting isn’t simply a gym exercise, it is a basic human movement that we should be able to do easily.
Alignment is everything in Pilates. It should be intrinsic to the entire session and the foundation upon which everything else is built, alongside remembering to breathe and being relaxed.
Not so glamorous this one, but highly relevant, and it does tend to be associated with Pilates.
Niggling back ache anyone? Stiff shoulders? Tension headaches?
Addressing postural stuff could really help – for example, for office workers, cyclists, gamers and everybody who spends hours on their smart phones.
5. Strength Gains
Not just any old strength though. For the most part I’m referring to both functional strength, and the need for strength throughout the body. It’s temping to focus on the muscles at the front of the body but some of the most important ones are at the back.
Runners you need your hamstrings and glutes to be really really good.
Triathletes? Well you need a bit of everything
Footballers? You need your abductors on side in order to cross the ball (not to mention great hip mobility)
Boxing – it’s all in the back. The “boxers’ muscle isn’t in the fists, it’s in the back. And talking of the Boxer’s muscle – improving it’s function and that of the lower traps can help counter excessively tight upper traps.
Abdominals – mainly just for show but we all want them don’t we!
Back muscles – well it is vital that the back muscles can keep us sitting or standing tall – to counteract that tendency to slump.
You need your lats and triceps for good press ups.
Some of you will have been told that your glutes aren’t working properly and this can mean discomfort on prolonged standing or walking. But the entire muscle group can be coaxed back to functionality.
Pilates will work the whole body, initially with isolated exercises but also with compound or full body movements.
Check out Alison's Blog for some more useful and informative posts about Pilates.