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Why don't dudes do Pilates?

 (@cristiano)
(@cristiano)

As I was gearing up for my pre-work Reformer class at 1Rebel Broadgate, an unusual sight caught my eye. The typical all-female attendance was not so; a male was in our midst. My surprise led almost instantaneously to the next thought: why was this not more commonplace?

The low-intensity workout has reached a fever pitch in the UK in the past couple of years: stats from Pure Gym show Pilates securing three of the top 20 fitness trends for 2024. It was created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s but its recent popularity is down to its extensive celebrity fanbase. Miley Cyrus credits the practice for her sculpted arms, while Hailey Bieber waxes lyrical about hot Pilates for her toned physique. And while Justin Bieber, Harry Styles and Cristiano Ronaldo have documented their interest on social media, it’s yet to take off in a major way among fitness-loving fellas.

Fredrik Prag, co-founder of Pilates Scandinavia and the designer of WaterRower’s Reformer machine, thinks men are missing out. ‘It was created by a man and he created it first of all for men,’ he explains. ‘Joseph Pilates worked with athletes, wrestlers, skiers and boxers. He was a boxer himself and a circus artist, so it was very male-oriented. But society has changed since then.’ He attributes this to physiology. ‘Female energy is more introspective, so it fits the Pilates world. There’s no competition because you’re on the Reformer or the mat and it’s just you. There’s no measurement, it’s an internal experience.’ Men, though, have tunnel vision when it comes to the gym: ‘They want to feel like they had their ass kicked.’

“Pilates was created by a man and he created it first of all for men. It was very male-oriented"

Pilates is a mindful practice designed to connect mind, body and soul. A class offers 45 minutes out of the rat race, while providing ab-chiselling, glutefirming, core-centric body conditioning. Prag encourages stepping away from HIIT, highlighting the benefits of slower movements. ‘You get a strong, lean, not fatigued body. You’re not breaking down the muscles as you would in the gym. You’re connecting the tissues.’

Don’t mistake it for yoga. Yoga is the ‘preparation for meditation, but Pilates is preparing you for action,’ says Prag. The intention is different. ‘Its main goal is to make the body stronger and more efficient, improving circulation and flushing out toxins.’ This is why, no matter your gender, everyone can benefit from Pilates class or two. ‘It complements and adds value to whatever you do, whether that’s ski, box or golf — that was the original purpose,’ he stresses.

The proof is in the pudding. Prag references German professional golfer Martin Kaymer, former No. 1, who under his Pilates instruction was able to gain 20m off the tee. So, while you may not be taking home the Masters Green Jacket, you may just find it transforms your training.