Everybody seems concerned about women getting back into shape after pregnancy, but we’ve found that many of our readers are also concerned about the weight that husbands and boyfriends seem to pile on, perhaps in sympathy for their pregnant partners! The amazing Body Control Pilates Instructor Emily Hoyle talks to us about the importance of Pilates and why it is great for men.
From professional sports men to office-based workers, Pilates can protect your body and help dramatically with back problems and injuries. The science of keeping muscles in good condition is done by exercising in a calm and relaxed environment and with guidance is easy to do from home. It is not a replacement for cardio vascular exercise but should be used alongside any cardio workout, and it will also improve performance.
I like to think of the muscles in layers. We are happy to build up our big outer layers (e.g. biceps) but this can cause imbalance and puts more pressure on our deep intrinsic muscles, the inner layers, which protect our joints. Pilates works the inner muscles, which in turn helps the outer muscles. I have often found whilst teaching that the fitter someone is, the weaker their core, as there is more strain from the outer muscles on the deep intrinsic muscles.
Most sports are unilateral, as they develop one side of the body or one specific set of muscles leaving the unused muscles weak and so increasing the risk of injury. Look at tennis, for example, the deep stabilizing muscles get ignored and the neck and shoulder muscles are overworked and the thoracic spine gets held in flexion leading to a bent posture. A good Pilates regime will work on the other muscles and encourage the use of the entire body and at the same time correct bad posture and alignment.
Another good example is running. Runners (most sports involve some sprinting at least) get very weak glutes (bottom muscles), pelvic floor and transverse abdominis, over dominant quads and hamstrings. The stress on the joints is huge, particularly for roadrunners, and the deep intrinsic muscles in the feet weaken leaving us in bad alignment. Generally we are happy to spend a fortune on good running shoes but seldom exercise our feet. Pilates builds up theses deep intrinsic muscles as well as keeping the glutes and hamstrings in good condition, which will lead to runners being able to run faster, and the body stays strong, mobile and supple.
The deeper intrinsic muscles include postural muscles and muscles that help support our spine. Backs that sit all day in an office are:
- Disused: as there is a lack of exercise
- Misused: as there is cumulative effect over a period of time with bad posture
- Abused: as then when the body does try and perform a task (e.g. lifting something heavy) it is seldom done properly and so easily strained.
A good Pilates programme will work on the muscles that are underutilised, resulting in a stronger back that is able to support the body.
Pilates has many other benefits, for example, the benefits that using your core has on your prostate, and that at the higher levels of Pilates the heart greatly benefits from circulation improvements. The relaxing nature of the exercises helps reduce stress and muscle tension and re aligns the body so it works more efficiently.
Joseph Pilates stated:
“In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 you’ll see the difference, in 30 you’ll have a new body”
So do not expect a change in one session, develop a regime and stick to it and you will soon notice the difference. Also do not be concerned that you are not using heavy weights, if you over challenge the stabilising muscles then the larger, outer muscles will take over and the body will not have the desired benefit. Pilates is a great prevention programme so don’t wait for an injury or bad back to start. With a strong core your body is more stabile and your balance is better so if you are, for example, tackled in Rugby, you will be able to maintain balance and are less likely to get injured.
My recommendation is to have at least one private lesson, as this will enable the teacher to:
- Assess your body
- Tell you more about your specific requirements
- Give you a few exercises to do on a regular basis.
Find your local Body Control Pilates Teacher here.
Body Control Pilates Instructor
Registered Exercise Professional Level 3
Mob: 07790 978668