What it is
Pilates is a form of total body conditioning and training developed by the late Joseph Pilates (1880–1967) during the early part of this century, first in Europe and then in the USA. It is an exercise method that strengthens core postural muscles and develops proper body alignment; it reduces common muscle and ligament damage associated with other fitness regimes and often plays a key role in rehabilitation programmes. Pilates is a method of exercise and physical movement designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. With systematic practice of specific exercises coupled with focused breathing patterns, Pilates has proven itself
invaluable not only as a fitness endeavor itself, but also as an important adjunct to professional rehabilitation of all kinds. Practiced faithfully, Pilates yields numerous benefits. Increased lung capacity and circulation through deep, healthy breathing is a primary focus. Strength and flexibility, particularly of abdomen and back muscles, co-ordination – both muscular and mental, are key components in an effective Pilates program. Posture, balance, and core strength are all heartily increased. Bone density and joint health improve, and many experience positive body awareness for the first time. Pilates teaches balance and control of the body, and that capacity spills over into other areas of one’s life.
Pilates for men?
Joseph Pilates was a cigar smoking boxer, acrobat, and gymnast, and he developed his exercise program from that background first and foremost for men. So, is Pilates for men? Absolutely! The fact that women and their networks have dominated the world of Pilates in recent years has bred the misconception that Pilates is a female-only activity. This could not be further from the truth.
If you’re a man with an injury, you will realise that Pilates offers a logical method of working while your body is healing. Pilates doesn’t aggravate the body; the exercises are always performed with control.

How does Pilates work for men? It integrates the body by focusing on activating and connecting the strongest parts of the body first – your core. From your core, you work your body with integrated movement, connecting all the weaker parts to your strong core. The whole body becomes stronger as a result. In other words, you must strengthen the trunk of the tree and then integrate – not isolate – the branches. Through this process, the spine returns to its naturally supple condition.

Think of an aged person. What areas of the body lack the pliability of youth? Typically, they are the hips and spine. The center or core of the body is usually the last area to fail as a consequence of ageing. A relatively young person with a rigid spine or immobile hips will appear to be older than his years. Inversely, an older person with a lean, strong core and a flexible spine will appear years younger than he really is. This is how Pilates works.
Around 1914, Joseph Pilates was a performer and a boxer living in England and, at the outbreak of WW1, was place under forced internment along with other German nationals in Lancaster, England. There he taught fellow camp members the concepts and exercises developed over 20 years of self-study and apprenticeship in yoga, Zen, and ancient Greek and Roman physical regimens. It was at this time that he began devising the system of original exercises today known as “matwork”, or exercises done on the floor. He called this regimen “Contrology”. A few years later, he was transferred to another camp, where he became a nurse/caretaker to the many internees struck with wartime disease and physical injury. Here, he began devising equipment to rehabilitate his “patients”, taking springs from the beds and rigging them to create spring resistance  and “movement” for the bedridden.

In a way, Pilates equipment today is not much different than that of yesteryear. Spring tension, straps to hold feet or hands, supports for back, neck and shoulders are as important now as they were then. Because of the remarkable nature of the
equipment to both challenge and support the body as it learns to move more efficiently, the inimitably designed pieces truly act as a complement to the challenging “matwork” exercises.

(Sources: www.pilatesmethodalliance.org; The Complete Book of Pilates for Men by Daniel Lyon)

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