Michael Feigin, MS, CSCS, has been a leader in the fitness industry for 20 years as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. He is the co-owner of Half Moon Pilates, a New York-based fitness business with studios throughout the New York metropolitan area, as well as a nationally recognized education program that educates and certifies Pilates instructors. Michael earned a master's degree in clinical nutrition as well as numerous certifications in exercise, and is a certified Strength and Conditioning Coach from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. For more information, visit www.halfmoonpilates.com.
In recent years, the Pilates industry has seen tremendous growth. Yet it still happens and it always happens the same. I’ll be at a social gathering and someone will ask what I do for a living. I say, “I own Pilates studios.” “ Pilates? Isn’t that like yoga?”
Usually, the respondent is a man. Women are slightly more educated with regard to Pilates thanks to the slimming and lengthening effects mentioned so often in fashion and style magazines. But most men simply know it as something that some women they know do for exercise, and it’s very difficult to motivate men by telling them they will fit into a size four dress.
So the question is “Why should men do Pilates?”
Most men tend to train their abdomens incorrectly, focusing far more on repetition and range of motion than they do proper technique. Pilates will make them focus on technique, and that focus will help them garner results, strengthening their midsections and, consequently, protecting their lower backs.
Most men focus a great deal on weight training and cardiovascular work and that leaves them needing more flexibility. Because stretching does not offer benefits like bigger arms, most men skip it.
Most men live in the world of the weekend warriors: they go out on the weekends and play sports as though they were still in high school, and the resulting injuries can be devastating with long-term consequences. So how do you convince men that this is something they should do?
Always be aware that men have less of an overall body awareness than women. Physical corrections may be difficult for men to translate into action. It may be easier for your client to respond to an action that will lead them to proper placement.
Pilates usually entails a great deal of multi-tasking and this can be difficult for some men. Testosterone is a hormone that creates focus, but, unfortunately, sometimes that focus becomes too single-minded. Try to gauge whether your male client is capable of multitasking before you give him five goals to accomplish all at once. If multitasking is not going to be possible, focus on one goal at a time. Occasionally change the goal so that the exercises do not become boring to the client, but beware of overloading. I know men who have left Pilates studios after being overwhelmed with cues and tasks and this information overload caused them to just shut down. Their response about the work? “Well, it seems a little boring.”
Find as many articles as you can about men and particularly male athletes who do Pilates to improve performance. For starters: Tiger Woods, Jason Kidd and the New England Patriots. Also, collect articles about the benefits of core training. Frame and post these articles in your studio, right next to the articles from Self and Elle. Also, keep a file of copies of these articles to give as handouts to men who may stop in, or to their wives who may already be clients. I have signed up more men with stories of my straight drives on the golf course, “200 yards with a 4-iron,” than any other method.
For the first two or three workouts, focus very intensely on the abdomen. If the client wakes up the next morning and feels that he has truly worked his abdomen for the first time in a long time, you will have gained have his respect.