Written by Selena Deleon
HOW often does a man automatically assume the role of alpha by opening a door, lifting a heavy object or bracing the fall of his female counterpart? Proven time and time again, chivalry is not dead in Jamaica! We have human genetics as well as education to thank for that.
Injury prevention and rehabilitation
Being the stronger sex doesn't protect men from the effects of poor lifting, improper movement and harmful albeit courteous, habits. It is widely known that the repetitive combinations of workplace strains, overhead reaching and heavy lifting cause a higher incidence of impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injuries and frozen shoulder amongst the male population between ages 35 and 65 years.
There are a few hot spots that plague most men: The neck, shoulders and lower back. The benefits of Pilates to men's joint health, especially in the shoulders and back, are to position the bones in alignment with slow movement practices to train the muscles to correct posture and movement patterns, optimising joint health.
The stretching aspect of Pilates releases the tense muscles of the hamstrings, which alleviates tension from the lower back. Keeping the feet flexible and increasing mobility in the ankles also allow for a better spring action during running and walking, which also frees up a lot of shear force from the ground up and reduces the negative chain effect which translates to the knees and lower back.
Pilates, when done properly, uses a lot of focus, which connects the movement to the breathing. This aspect alleviates stress, improves mental acuity and promotes the secretion of serotonin. Which man out there wouldn't choose to be a little bit sharper on any given day?
Much of the method is centralised around core strength and hip mobility, which is an unwritten insurance plan for a healthy back well into the advanced years. Better movement in the hips and core strength to stabilise the pelvis, will give the lower back a break, which is a benefit if there is chronic pain, and makes the back less vulnerable when lifting heavy objects because it directs, most of the muscle action from the legs.
Fitness and strength training
As we evolve in our understanding of fitness and longevity, we get better at the game. The beliefs that we once held about best fitness practices for the ideal male physical form was based solely in heavy weight training and building muscle to increase size and strength. Moreover, Pilates has the connotation of being a female-dominated exercise method. However, it is becoming identified as not only an ideal cross-training solution for flexibility and recovery; it has also become wildly popular amongst men and fitness enthusiasts, who want to increase performance, muscle tone and definition.
Some of the advantages that Pilates brings to a strength workout are:
• Correct form and alignment;
• Muscle length and strength together combined;
• Functional training using more than one muscle groups together at one time, which improves movement on a whole;
• Access to a larger variety of smaller muscle groups, which cannot be trained otherwise in a traditional fitness setting;
• Inner and outer strength, training muscles eccentrically and concentrically;
• Mindfulness; and
• Breath training.
For having so much weight bearing on their shoulders, literally and figuratively, the practice of reversing poor movement patterns, working on flexibility, breathing, slowing down, and turning the heat up on the strength have been proven to optimise the minds, bodies and lives of the male Pilates population tremendously. Sceptical? You have to try it to believe it.