No, You’re Not Too Manly for Pilates

If you think Pilates is only for beautiful women with ballerinas’ bodies, you’re probably not alone.

But you — and everyone else who buys into that narrow line of thinking — are wrong. Despite this common misconception, Pilates can be a great workout for everyone. The practice incorporates all the elements of healthy physical movement: breath, posture, strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility. Guys need to be able to move, too, so beards and chest hair are just as welcome and encouraged in the studio as yoga pants.

Lynda Salermo Gehrman, founder of Physio Logic Pilates and faculty for BASI Pilatesteacher training, thinks guys avoid Pilates because so many believe it’s just an over-glorified stretching session.

“There is a misconception that Pilates is only stretching. It actually focuses on both eccentric and concentric contractions of muscles to achieve balanced stretch and strength,” she told

According to Gehrman, Pilates is all about placement before movement. This is key. As a physical therapist who spends much of my time analyzing dysfunctional movement, I can attest that this focus on placement first — activating those deep stabilization muscles prior to movement — is critical to creating the foundation for strong functional movement patterns and injury prevention.

Gehrman has also noticed that men return to her studio after they discover the benefits of Pilates as physical therapy or chiropractic patients. “Once they see Pilates in real life they have to try it,” she said. “And once they try it, they are usually hooked.”

The Origin of Pilates

Guys who are still on the fence about Pilates might be more convinced if they took a moment to learn about its particularly “manly” origins. For starters, it was created by a man, and the practice still carries his name: Joseph Pilates.

Joseph Pilates stretching a client in his later years. Check out that faded ink — he knows what he’s doing.


Pilates was a barrel-chested physical trainer born in Germany in 1883. Poor health growing up led him to study anatomy, bodybuilding, wrestling, and martial arts, which he then used to develop his own exercise practice, originally called “Controlology.” He became a prize winning gymnast, boxer, self-defense instructor, and circus performer who believed in healing the body with physical activity rather than traditional medicine.

After World War I broke out, Pilates was stuck in an internment camp on the English Isle of Man. He organized daily workouts for others at the camp, including those too injured to get out of bed, which helped him refine his techniques for a broader audience. To accommodate the bed-bound, Pilates used springs from the mattresses to create resistance exercises — moves that are still practiced today in Pilates studios around the world on the equipment he began developing in the camp, like the ReformerCadillac, and barrel.

So, Pilates was developed by a badass circus performer who perfected his methods and MacGyvered equipment while he was being held in an internment camp during wartime. Is that enough to fill your “manliness” quota?

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