Men’s Pilates and the Gender Debate – Join the Wolfpack on Saturdays

pilates pyrmont bouncerehab

Joseph Pilates: Later days – still looking strong !

Authors: Matthew Craig and Paul Dardagan – bounceREHAB Physiotherapists

Early Days: Pumped!


“Joseph Pilates was a MANS MAN: a former boxer, an athlete, who adored cigars, women and parties. When he formed his exercise, he was predominantly thinking about creating it for TOUGH MEN: wrestlers, police officers and even the German army which wanted to adopt his exercise regime before the Second World War began” (9). 

 The Pilates Timeline:

Pilates 1920s


1914 – 1918

Joseph Pilates (1883 –  1967), a German born to a gymnist father and Naturopath mother started his exercise “system” on German interns during World War I by attaching springs and ropes to hospital beds. Josephs camp is unaffected by influenza outbreaks that kills thousands.11





1926 – 70’s

Pilates moves to New York where he starts several  gyms aimed at improving the strength, posture,  movement and general health of men. “Pilates” exercise system gains the attention of prestigious dance schools and its popularity spreads throughout the US and the globe.

















Jane Fonda’s Workout, which became the highest-selling video of the time sold (over 17 million copies)

80’s and 90’s
Pilates hits Hollywood and gains popularity in mainstream fitness. Mainly in studios and was largely undertaken by affluent women. One of the reasons for why women and not men so predominantly attend Pilates classes is probably due to the fact that Pilates is considered as one of them group exercises, such as aerobics, BodyPump, Zumba, and similar, more or less “dance-like” type of exercise sessions.

2000 to today

The benefits of pilates for MEN cannot be ignored and has become part of strengthening, conditioning and injury prevention for athletes and, increasingly, the standard Aussie male.


ACL Knee Rehab @bouncerehab – Clinical Pilates with instruction from a Physiotherapist can safely strengthening legs.


The popularity of Pilates has skyrocketed of late but it is certainly not an overnight sensation. Pilates has been around for over 100 years. Women, predominately, viewed pilates as a trendy form of exercise that would help keep them toned and trim. For a long time, Pilates was marketed towards women and there was a stigma attached to the idea of a man doing pilates.

The irony though is that its founder, German- born physicist Joseph Pilates intended his exercise system to be used exclusively by men! Joseph Pilates himself was a boxer and self-defence instructor and the legendary German heavyweight boxer, Max Schmelling, was a regular at his New York studio.


Aussie men love their sport, the outdoors or getting out in the backyard with the kids. As a physio, I often hear things like “I used to play soccer but kept tearing my hamstring” or “I like to ride my bike but stopped because my back hurts”. Despite often resting and seeking appropriate treatment, these problems often become chronic stopping men from an active lifestyle leading to physical and mental decline. Men will often accept this as “I’m getting old” but in actual fact archeological studies suggest that the primitive man (if they survived disease and predators) would be in great physical conditions right up until old age (1). My personal hypothesis is because they would never stop moving with or without their pains.

Most injuries do not “just happen”, they occur due to imbalance – too much sitting, pushing it too hard in the gym or pounding the pavement training for a marathon. The human body is complex but lazy thing! It will always find the easiest (but generally not the best) way of performing a task. Eg. Slouching in a chair, shuffling at the end of a run. In doing this, we save on energy expenditure but put strain on structures that aren’t designed to cope with it.

enhanced-6005-1463073392-1Pilates helps target the muscle groups that men often neglect to use. Areas that when weak or tight can lead to problems. Pilates encourages the body to work together as a unit and exposes any weak links in the chain. Men are often shocked at how bad they are at exercises that, to the untrained eye, would be dismissed as just “rolling around on the floor”. But after a few sessions these exercises become easier and all of a sudden that lower back isn’t as stiff first thing in the morning!


Pilates has many known benefits for men (and women for that matter).enhanced-4782-1463074012-4

  • Improves emotional regulation (executive function) when dealing with daily stress (16)
  • Stronger and more functional core (2,4,6,7)
  • Reduced waist diameter (4) AKA “Beer Belly”
  • Prevents/reduces chronic back pain (5,12)
  • Improves posture (6,7)
  • Improves flexibility (2,3,4)
  • Reduction in sport or work related injuries (8)
  • Improves sex life (erectile function), bladder and bowel function
  • Improves balance in older males (11)
  • Reducing pain and disability in neck pain patients (13)
  • Improves sleep in sedentary men (14)
  • Enhances functional capacity in patients with Heart Failure (15)

Who is doing Pilates in 2017

There would not be a professional football, basketball, rugby, cricket team in the country that wouldn’t incorporate pilates as part of their daily/weekly conditioning program. “Core – conditioning”, “Prehab” or whatever you may like to call it. These athletes are using the methods Joseph Pilates pioneered, for men, to improve their performance and prevent injury.


Labron James – Worlds Best Basketballer!

They say real men pump iron – try telling that to the New Zealand All Blacks! Yep, they do pilates.  Pilates is incorporated into their weekly training schedule to strengthen their core,  improve their mobility, help prevent injuries and of course for the Hakka.

 Still need convincing… Who Else?
Tom Cruise, Tiger Woods, Ryan Giggs, Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman, Shane Watson, Hugh Grant, Rory McIlroy and many more athletes and celebrities! So if pilates can help Tiger Woods to stay at the top of world golf for 15 years and Ryan Giggs to play over 650 games for Manchester United… can certainly help you with your health goals.enhanced-5924-1463073427-18

James Bond - Daniel Craig

The Tiger uses a lot of Pilates

Picture Above : Rugby, 007 and Tiger Woods do regular pilates.


Pilates at bounceREHAB – Join the Wolfpack !14474536_1834369030128769_559041790879989760_a

Pilates at bounceREHAB is conducted by both male and female physiotherapists and instructors. Steve (physio) introduced Pilates classes back in 2013. It initially served as a continuum of care for our injured clients to rehabilitate lower back pain, shoulder problems and postural issues generally related to work. In 2013 our classes were filled by women, most with a previous background of doing pilates classes. There was only ever 2 men that regularly completed our classes. Between 2015-17, due to popular demand and educating our patients about injury prevention, we have grown our class numbers to 30 classes. Our male numbers have gone from making up 5% of our classes to a far better 35% of our class participants.

Our male clients perform pilates for a whole variety of reasons. Many report their goal is to:

  • Enhance their marathon/ultra marathon/triathlon/ironman/running or swimming performance;
  • Reduce recurrent injuries from martial arts, weight training or cross fit;
  • Improve day to day sitting posture and tolerance;
  • Improve and develop core strength, scapular endurance and improve spine/leg flexibility
  • Safe rehabilitation following shoulder, lower back, neck and lower limb operations
  • Reduce the effects of cancer treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy
  • Injury prevention and overall well being
  • Improve core lifting (reduce back pain) strength when lifting their children/babies.


Wolfpack @bounceREHAB – Mens Pilates Class 230pm Saturdays (Beer 315pm)

Matt, our Director introduced back in April 2016 our MENS ONLY Pilates Class. We coined the group “The Wolf-Pack” held on Saturdays 230pm – we finish the class with a well earnt beer at 315pm !

More re: Wolfpack below link 4683d3f3ec6fd493d245b3505d803de3

Testimonials from Alex and Phil 

Alex’s Story:

“About five years ago I was diagnosed with degenerative spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebrae to the non-medical people out there), which was causing me severe back pain. As someone who had always been sporty and active, this came as a bit of a shock to the system, and I spent two years avoiding all sport trying to make things better.

Having decided against spinal surgery, and getting bored of not doing sport, I worked with Matt to decide how best to build up the muscles in and around the spine and have, since then, worked with the rest of the team for massages, physio and more recently, weekly pilates. I was pretty nervous about putting my health, quite literally in the hands of other people – but have got to a point with Matt, Steve and Paul where I have complete trust in their advice and expertise.

And I’m happy to report, that in the past two years I’ve got back in to my sport and exercise and successfully completed two Ironman triathlons (3.8km swim, 180km ride, 42km run) in the past year… and ironically, about the only bit of my body that didn’t hurt afterwards was my back!”

 Phil’s Story: Man-Pilates

“About a year ago my partner was working in the city. A busy PR exec, she was rushing from an event with arms of boxes and bags. Stepping off a curb in Surry Hills, she slipped on some leaves and fell backwards. Because her hands were bound up with all she was carrying, she landed on the back of her head.

The head injury was horrendous. If she was a footballer, she’d never play again. But as she recovered it became clear there was soft tissue damage to her neck and shoulder. She was in a lot of pain, constantly.

She tried various forms of acupuncture and physio with very little relief. A new doctor recommended Pilates as rehab and from the moment she stepped into bounceREHAB she’s never looked back.

Within 10 classes, the injury was healed through specific treatment. Her pain receded quickly and her neck and shoulder strength improved to the point she was stronger than when she started. But she didn’t stop. Already she could see changes in her body – there was long lean muscle, great core strength and she was losing weight without trying. Now it wasn’t about rehab, it was about getting fit and strong.

By the time she was 20 classes in, and accessing a lot of great former dancer muscle memory and from, she came to love Pilates, and the benefit it brings her.

I watched, listened, and eventually decided to have a go too. My background is in martial arts, so I already had good flexibility, understanding how your body works and some of the core (haha!) principles of Pilates. My first class was a revelation. It was tough, really tough. You sweat as you work through, say, some hamstring curls, heels suspended, shoulders on the ground. The first few feel fine. The last few sets of 15 are wonderful agony. That’s how it goes, every class.

I too noticed change in posture, strength and flexibility very quickly. Let’s be honest. Lots of men, including me, exercise for vanity as much as health. Let me put it this way – I know where my first six-pack is coming back from and it’s not bench-pressing my own bodyweight.

Pilates has become my secret weapon. I mix it with some boxing, running, and a light weights session, and after 35 years of serious exercise, I think I’ve found my perfect combination”.




If you want to feel amazing in 2017 and you are keen to give pilates a try feel free to call our Pyrmont clinic and have a chat with our physiotherapists. They should be able to assist answer any queries or questions you may have.

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1) Sisson. 2012. The Primal Blueprint: reprogramme your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health and boundless energy.

2) June and Kloubec 2010. Pilates for Improvement of Muscle Endurance, Flexibility, Balance, and Posture. Journal of strength and conditioning. Vol 24. Issue 3. 661 -667.

3) Segal, Hein and Basford 2004. The effects of pilates training on flexibility and body composition: An observational study. Volume 85, Issue 12, 1977–1981

4) Rogers and Gibson 2009. Eight-Week Traditional Mat Pilates Training-Program Effects on Adult Fitness Characteristics. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport Volume 80, Issue 3. 569-574

5) Endleman and Critchley 2008. Transversus Abdominis and Obliquus Internus Activity During Pilates Exercises: Measurement With Ultrasound Scanning. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Volume 89, Issue 11, 2205–2212

6) Emery, Serres, McMillan, Cote. 2010. The effects of a Pilates training program on arm–trunk posture and movement. Clinical Biomechanics. Volume 25, Issue 2, 124–130

7)Johnson, Larsen, Ozawa, Wilson and Kennedy 2007. The effects of Pilates-based exercise on dynamic balance in healthy adults. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. Volume 11, Issue 3, July 2007, 238–242

8) Hides, Stanton, Mendis, Gildea, Sexton. 2012. Effect of motor control training on muscle size and football games missed from injury. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Vol 40 Issue 6. 1141-1149.


10) Sydney Morning Herald

11) Barker AL et al (2014) Effect of Pilates exercise for improving balance in older adults: A systematic review with meta-analysis.Arch Phys Med Rehabilitation; December 2014.

12) Wells C et al (2014) The Effectiveness of Pilates Exercise in People with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review

13) Mallin G, Murphy S (2013). The effectiveness of a 6-week Pilates programme on outcome measures in a population of chronic neck pain patients: a pilot study. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2013 Jul;17(3):376-84.

14) Leopoldino A et al (2013) Effect of Pilates on sleep quality and quality of life of sedentary population .J Bodyw Mov Ther.

 15) Guimarães GV et al (2012)  Pilates in heart failure patients: a randomized controlled pilot trial.Dec;30(6):351-6. Cardiovasc Ther.

16) Caldwell K et al (2009) Effect of Pilates and taiji quan training on self-efficacy, sleep quality, mood, and physical performance of college students. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2009 Apr;13(2):155-63.