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Is Pilates for Men or Women?

Updated: Jan 6, 2022

When devising a BASI (Body Arts and Science International) Pilates training programme, there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter programme. Although Pilates was originated for men, we now see both genders taking advantage of what the work gives us. Each client has different goals, a different mind and a body. Pilates goals, therefore, need to be achievable and provide a challenge. Pilates offers re-training of movement patterns and not merely rehabilitation.

We all have habitual movement patterns that shape us into what we look and feel like. For example, an athlete uses repetitive movement patterns to achieve the best possible performance. These movement patterns need to be done with good movement, posture and alignment for the best muscle recruitment. Undesirable movement patterns must be detected and corrected to stop negative movement patterns from being formed as this can hinder optimal performance and cause injury and further imbalances. Most athletes are already dominant in particular muscle groups which already creates a bodily imbalance (whether visually evident or not). Athletes are certainly not the only one with repetitive movement patterns. Our everyday living also causes repetitive negative movement patterns. Let’s also consider the following: lots of cooking/cleaning/sitting/taking phone calls/standing on one leg/crossing one leg over the other/gardening/knitting and the likes. All of these examples require repetitive movements. To make matters more challenging, as we mature, habits become more embodied and repercussions are even more severe.

BASI Pilates helps in overcoming imbalances and dealing with habitual patterns as well as setting achievable goals for both men and women. This differs from specificity-training which focuses on specific movement patterns to achieve the desired outcome. However, Pilates works well with specificity-training as it develops mind-body awareness, brings balance to the whole body as well as the trained specific movement patterns. It also re-educates the body on a neuromuscular level to strengthen the weaknesses within the body which enhances specific performance. Pilates also enhances strength, flexibility, co-ordination and movement mechanics. All of this prevents injury and further imbalances.

When we understand all of this, it makes it clear that men and women are more similar than different, but bear in mind that we are all more different than we are similar! Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, we come with a unique story physically and mentally, and our Pilates classes need to acknowledge this. We cannot, however, ignore that there are many obvious physical differences between men and women. This makes certain exercises easier, harder, or more uncomfortable or comfortable. An example of an exercise being more challenging for the average man is the Roll Up. Their centre of gravity is typically higher in the body making it harder to get to the seated C position.

In contrast, the BASI Front Support exercise likened to the plank, is usually easier for a man who has greater upper body strength.

A typical Back Extension exercise can be more uncomfortable for a man due to his anatomy.

There are so many different body types whether male or females, with different age considerations and we have different general flexibility and strength. Every person comes with a different body and different needs and this needs to be addressed whether male or female. We are all so different, and sometimes the difference between men and women is the least of the differences.

Setting short-term achievable goals to reach long-term goals motivates the client’s needs, wants and expectations. Two clients may need similar goals but the approach to get there may be different. We come with different moods, personalities, hormonal changes, various backgrounds, relate differently to our bodies, connect uniquely to instruction and to Pilates. The main goal in Pilates is to complete total well-being. This is why we address the “whole” mind, body and spirit in front of us, on that day.

Oh boy, Pilates is for all of us!


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