How I beat Back Pain with Pilates: Week 14


Mat class

Had a different teacher today, Anna, who teaches beginner’s mat classes. It was great! She has a very gentle approach and a slightly longer cadence length for each exercise than Amy. This means more time under tension, and makes some of the most basic moves just that extra bit harder. Good class though and drinking a black coffee before helped a treat. Especially as this week the usual oldies were replaced with smokin’ babes who I’ve never seen before..


 Homework Teaser revelation  – serious glute activation will hold you in the correct place for the final position – BEHIND the fleshy part of the arse. It also will align the hips correctly. So, up until today, I must have been doing Teasers lazily; a horrible thought.

Thanks to natural substances, this week I discovered just how hard you can contract the muscles that you already have a decent level of bodily awareness of. Glutes included, hence this Teaser revelation. Check out what comes up in tomorrow’s mat class, too.


Mat Class

Today’s focus was all about the role of the glutes and just how much activity they should be responsible for. Interesting to use the glutes instead of the quads when moving the legs and standing in the different Pilates exercises.

Apparently the strength of your glutes relates to the strength of your shoulders, in terms of proportion. “Getting stronger” would describe both for me.

Was a good class, and had a chance to practice Teasers with the help of a partner, (who was abhorred at the temperature of my freezing feet) engaging the buttocks (right glute is still the weaker one for me) with extra focus – making it harder on the core and abs, too.

Thoughts on the Contemporary Scene…

Class was full of old ladies. I felt my masculinity had been stripped from me. Terminology such as ‘below your bra-line’ was used, followed by ‘sorry Harry’. I didn’t know whether to laugh or break down. The imagery of Pilates has to be improved! So far, camp guys and over-sixties-spandex-mobs are about as far as it goes.

The intrinsic, (somewhat society-pressured) awareness of a woman’s own personal appearance has played a MASSIVE role in the boom of cosmetic, Contemporary Pilates. The hard-work and sweating has been replaced with lycra-smiles and (attempted) grace-without-effort, all in the name of ‘toning up that bod’ for no reason other than insecurity. And men are nowhere to be seen.

Magazine covers like this don’t help promote sweating and hard-work

From a businessman’s perspective, I respect the model of Contemporary Pilates. It’s a specific brand, and it’s successful. The model I dislike is the one of ‘look good, with no effort’. But even in the Authentic Pilates school of thought, dudes are few and far between. Personally, I would have thought that Pilates would appeal FAR more to men for its analytical approach to the body and control-based principles. But it seems the opposite is true. Women care far more about their appearance than men, and always have; it’s deep-rooted in evolutionary survival. But so is strength to a man. Being strong was, and is one of THE primary characteristics that ensures evolutionary success. Pilates offers that strength, and yet the studios are full of chicks. Confused?!

There’s more dudes doing Yoga than Pilates. Partly, I think it’s because the average man has the Contemporary School’s image in his mind; one of air-fresheners and mucous-coloured leotards embodied on shrivelled prunes. I don’t blame men for wanting to lift weights instead. Also, I would guess that most men don’t even know two schools for Pilates exist; Authentic and Contemporary.

As an advocate for the Authentic School, I want to see a boost in their image of providing the foundation of strength and balance in the human body. I believe that if you train Authentic Pilates daily, it will serve as your body’s maintenance, mobility, strength and flexibility foundation. On top of that foundation you can then build whatever you want; bodybuilding, athletics, dance, combat sports, ad infinitum.

In many ways, it appears the Authentic Pilates school markets themselves via their results. By this, I mean word of mouth from satisfied clients, or the studio owner already having a strong reputation in the community. The former works on a more local scale, understandably, as word of mouth and travelling to a studio has its limits. The latter is rarer, as Pilates instructors tend to stay within the Pilates field. How many Authentic Instructors can you name that are known in the athletics, combat or major sports leagues? I can’t name any. I could tell you the names of some respected trainers within the Pilates community, but that’s it. It seems instructors don’t branch out much further than their own studios.

The graceful appearance of a perfectly performed movement has more of an affinity with the dance and gymnastics community, but Pilates’ external popularity seems to stop there. In fact, I liken the current popularity of Pilates with men, to that of the attraction of ballet to a man. If the image of ballet was based on strength increase, men would flock to learn it. We all know that backstage, ballet dancers are STRONG. But that’s not the image. The prime characteristic of ballet is a graceful dance, which does not appeal to the average man as much as the strength required to perform.

Similar with the stigmatised image of Pilates; one of dodgy outfits and semi-graceful exercises performed with a studio-smile. How has that image come to be the main focus, replacing the prime characteristic of Pilates; control over the human body?
I blame the Contemporary-crew cashing in on the insecurities of the average female, personally. If Pilates was sold more as a strengthening and stabilising program than a Hollywood body option, the clientele would change too. Instead, the fire is fuelled by celebrities and their infinite press coverage dropping the P word in the name of vanity, causing the misconstrued image to spread. And it is an unfortunate trait in human nature that the mainstream prefer the Hollywood version of everything, especially exercise! Is it realistic to think that the mainstream would actually want something that is based on hard work?

Airbrushed Geese cater to female insecurities

The image of Pilates as an actively beneficial form of hard work is on the rise, however. Now international athletes are condoning Pilates as part of cross-training for their sports. What I want to see is that influence spread to the cities around the world, so that guys everywhere will want to source out their local studios and start training. So far it seems the influence spreads as far as an athlete’s press conference, where they mention the P word in conjunction with their training but so far, that’s it.

Filmed Pilates sessions of athletes would boost credibility, vastly. Kobe Bryant training on his Reformer would influence basketball players the world over.

We are beginning to see filmed Pilates sessions with lower-level athletes, offering sport-specific workouts, such as – a website that allows you to sign-up and watch videos on your computer wherever your location.  But where are the high-profile athletes that practice Pilates daily, like a Yoga habit? We’ve been told athletes supplement their training with exercises from a Pilates sequence, but who’s on their Reformer before they eat breakfast?

As the spandex-stigma wears off and professional athletes begin admitting Pilates into their lives, perhaps the high-profile-athlete-come-dedicated-Pilates-partisan will show themselves. The average Joe will too have the urge to want to try his first mat class or scout out his local ‘torture chamber’, in time, allowing the real image of Pilates to begin to surface.

Playing with hip push ups and static maltese push up prone holds. Working shoulders, lats, chest and upper back a treat!

Hip Push Ups  (Dropset reps means just going straight to your knees and carrying on.)

Set 1 Reps 10

Set 2 Reps 5 dropset reps 5

Set 3 Reps 5 dropset reps 5

Set 4 Reps 3 dropset reps 4

Maltese Push-up Holds (difficult!)

Set 1 – 6 seconds

Set 2 – 5 seconds

4 sets of 10 reps is the goal for all my bodyweight stuff right now:

Wide Chins

Regular Chins

Narrow Pull ups

L-sit (just above deadhang) – 30 seconds

Chin Hold (top, middle, just above dead-hang) 30 seconds

Hanging Toe Touches

Squeezer Push Ups with dropsets

Hip Push ups with dropsets

Maltese Holds (30seconds)

Check out my last post, The Final Countdown to see some more exercises which get the better of me and watch my videos from class and home! I’ll give my conclusion on my whole self-experiment in healing my back injury.


3 thoughts on “How I beat Back Pain with Pilates: Week 14

  1. As a classical Pilates instructor I really appreciate your post. One has to experience authentic Pilates to know the difference. The Pilates technique is so deep, “smart”, and lots of hard work. Many men that are gym buffs have come to the studio an fallen in love with the method. A lot of them can’t seem to get past the stigma, it’s really sad. Thank you for bringing light to the subject.

  2. Pingback: Pilates from a man’s point of view « inshapepilates

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s