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Pilates for Men
Thanks to shows like Access Hollywood and exercise tips from celebrity trainers, Pilates has evolved from relative obscurity to mainstream exercise.
Many people think of Pilates as the domain of an elite group of fitness class overachievers who come prepared with designer yoga pants and abs of steel. Yet modern clinical research is revealing a new role for this hip workout in injury rehabilitation and prevention.
Pilates’ focus on core muscles produces its signature abdominal sculpting as a byproduct of its true aim, which is to elevate posture control, alignment, and stabilization, and body awareness—features which help us to retrain ourselves after injuries or prevent them from happening in the first place. And despite Pilates’ high-powered reputation, the exercises are easily mastered and adaptable to a full range of physical abilities, making it therapeutic for those who covet a six-pack as it is for those who are there to maintain it.
To get an idea of how Pilates works, consider a popular Pilates exercise, the Hundred. It gets its name from the time it requires, one hundred seconds. Try it out by laying down, bending your hips and knees at 90-degree angles, keeping your shins and toes horizontal and off of the floor. (If this is too strenuous at first, feel free to rest your feet on the floor.) Now as you slowly inhale for five seconds, raise your arms toward the ceiling. And as you exhale for another five, lower your arms to your side, tuck your chin, and tighten your abdominal muscles as much as you can—try to lift your shoulder blades off of the floor and toward your thighs. Repeat this just nine more times. This Youtube video offers a basic demo.
Though Pilates is trendy today, it was developed last century by the mind-body practitioner Joseph Pilates to help his followers activate the “powerhouse” of their muscles at their center of gravity. Part of the reason that Pilates’ exercises have seen such current popularity is that we have a new appreciation for that “powerhouse”. Because Pilates acts as a boot camp for our stability and alignment, it is an ideal cross-training exercise for any sport, as well as the physical challenges of everyday life, and several job related tasks.
Moshe Lewis MD, MPH, MBA is currently on the Volunteer Clinical Faculty of UCSF. His focus of care is pain relief, regaining flexibility, and building strength with the goal of getting people back to work and enjoying healthy, productive lives.