There’s a joke around the office that I’m obsessed with Pilates, and I am. I really am. There’s no better feeling than stepping off a reformer feeling inches taller — especially for this 5-foot-2 writer. So when I saw that Harry Styles is a regular Pilates-goer, according to a photo his instructor posted to Instagram, I couldn’t contain my excitement — not only because I’m making the right call when it comes to exercise (if it’s good enough for Harry, it’s obviously good enough for me) but also because a guy appreciates what Pilates can do for the male body.
You see, men, Pilates is great for you. Sure, most Pilates classes are filled with women, but the method was invented by a man (Joseph Pilates) and developed for both men’s and women’s bodies. And the same exercises that help women lengthen and tone can actually help guys’ shoulders look broader, and make them better at weight-lifting, football, and other stereotypical guy activities.
This is no coincidence, says Zayna Gold, founder of Boston Body, a group of Pilates and Barre studios. “In traditional ‘guy’ workouts, men work the larger, outer layer of their muscles,” Gold explains. “Pilates engages the deeper, smaller muscles that lie underneath. This strengthens the core, tightening the ‘wrapping’ around the internal organs and stabilizing the spine, which keeps you safe through sports and workouts, and allows for better fluidity of movement.”
“Pilates also helps to balanced the muscular strength of the rotator cuff muscles,” Gold says. “This prevents injuries from sports like baseball, racquet sports, and golf. Whereas weight training will focus on the larger muscles like shoulders, biceps and triceps, Pilates seeks to balanced the inner and outer layer of muscles.” That doesn’t mean you have to give up weight-lifting — Pilates will actually make it easier to strengthen those larger muscles, while reducing wear on your joints.
Even if you’re not into sports or lifting heavy objects, Gold says, Pilates can help your day-to-day activities: “Your joints stay more flexible and give you more mobility throughout your daily activities,” she explains. One assumes that comes in handy for performing on stage and in music videos.
Now here’s the fun part: Pilates will make your body look really, really good. Wonder how male models seem to have muscles where no one else does? Those muscles are — you guessed it — due to Pilates. “Pilates works your serratus anterior muscles,” Gold says. “These are the small muscles that you see in men’s fitness models on the lower ribs. Transverse muscles — the muscles of the inner core that flatten your belly — are the main focus of each Pilates workout. And obliques, which tighten your waistline, are used throughout Pilates abdominal work and plank style exercises.” Sure, diet and cardiovascular exercise are important as well, but if you’ve been looking for a workout that tightens and builds, Pilates is it.
If you’re looking for confidence and less stress, Pilates can help with that too. “It connects your mind and body — you breathe through each movement and learn how to feel which muscles you are using,” Gold explains. This, she says, can help boost your control over your body and your confidence. And sure, when you feel more confident, you reflect it outward, but do you know what else helps your body look self-assured? Pilates. Balancing the muscles in your upper back, and learning how to widen your shoulders and improve spinal alignment, will make you look stronger and more confident, Gold says. Boom — it’s a confidence-boosting twofer.
So Pilates, guys, is pretty much always the answer. You don’t have to be as crazy for the workout as I am. But give a class a shot, won’t you? Because while you’ll probably never have the screaming legions of fans Styles does, you can build the strength to help him fight them off, and the confidence not to need a army of supporters — all thanks to Pilates.