couplepilatesIf Pilates were an actual country (by the sound of the name alone it should be located somewhere between Greece and Russia) then the entire population would consist of MILFs and Soccer Moms. Everyone knows that this form of exercise is strictly for women over forty who drink soy lattes and are trying to recapture the glories of their pre-baby bodies. Pilates has no place in your life if you are male, in your twenties and can live off energy drinks and Hot Pockets.

Or does it?

Contrary to the above clichés and stereotypes, Pilates is not just for MILFs. It can be an important part of your exercise routine and just as crucial as banging out pull-ups or blasting your quads. I talked with Los Angeles based Pilates instructor/movement coach Gini Martinez, owner of Rock What’s Yours, about what exactly Pilates is, what it can do for you and how all of us shouldn’t judge it.

What exactly is Pilates and how does it work?

Martinez: Pilates is a strength-training workout created in the 1920’s by a guy named Joe Pilates. Joe’s exercises emphasize the awareness of your body moving as a whole instead of isolating one muscle group at a time. It involves comprehensive core training with additional focus on breathing and efficient joint movement.

How can you convince me that Pilates isn’t just for forty-year-old soccer moms?

While the benefits of Pilates, such as a flat stomach, may be easily marketed to middle aged moms, it’s by no means an easy workout. Joe was a boxer and started developing his exercises while living in an internment camp during World War I, so it’s not for wusses.

Isn’t it just the same thing as yoga?

That’s a common misconception. Fundamentally, the goal of Yoga is to prepare your mind and body for enlightenment. The goal of Pilates is to increase core strength and overall flexibility. If you become enlightened in the process, that’s a bonus.

Why does it seem girls are so into Pilates but guys not so much?

In a word, marketing. But, more and more men are trying Pilates and sticking with it. It’s become the secret weapon in their arsenal that helps them stay competitive.

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Are there any sports figures that use Pilates?

LeBron and Kobe both do Pilates as well as numerous pro athletes across all sports. I personally trained the United States Men’s National Soccer Team at the beginning of the 2013 season. The flexibility and core training definitely gives them an edge, not just in performance, but in reduced recovery time, too.

I don’t really want to join a Pilates studio. Is there a way I can do it at home?

Yes. You can purchased a DVD, train via Skype with a professional instructor or purchase a monthly subscription to a website such as Pilates Anytime that hosts a variety of classes taught by a wide range of professional instructors from around the world.

What benefits can I get from doing Pilates?

The top three benefits for men are: Core strength, flexibility, and reduced stress.

Will it help me recover from injuries faster?

Not only will you recover more quickly, you’ll be less likely to injure yourself in the first place.

Can I still lift weights?

Absolutely! In fact, you’ll develop better weightlifting form as a result of doing Pilates. According to HealthStatus, a guy weighing 175 lbs will burn approximately 300 calories in a one-hour beginner Pilates class.

Will it give me washboard abs?

Pilates strengthens all of your abs, not just the 6-pack. Most guys neglect their Transversus Abdominus – the deepest layer of abdominals – which leaves even the most athletic man vulnerable to back injuries. With Pilates, you can have your washboard abs and back health, too.

What and how is the best way to start if I do decide to do Pilates?

Ideally, take a handful of private sessions so you know what you’re doing and set yourself up for success right away. If money’s tight, take a small group class. And don’t let a class full of women make you feel self-conscious. Women LOVE having a guy in class. It shifts the energy and makes them up their game. Also, they’ll think you’re adorable for putting yourself out there like that.