Pilates for Men: A Case Study and a Game Changer

By Katie Kannapell Ryser

Photos by Kathryn Harrington

Shortly after opening CycleBar, the St. Matthews boutique cycling studio in December, my husband, Fred, casually told me, “Pilates is next.” I looked at him and said, “I beg your pardon?” Well, that’s the short version of how the So-Cal-based Club Pilates made its Louisville debut in August. After months of due diligence, we felt Louisville was primed for another boutique fitness concept and based on our experience and research, we could tell the timing was perfect for a specialized pilates studio. Personally, we were excited to launch a studio to lengthen and tone our healthy but somewhat flabby bodies. I was healthy but felt “skinny fat.”

A Case Study

Fred had taken Pilates classes in his twenties but at the time, he was still fit and strong from playing competitive soccer and tennis. Pilates’ selling point of “injury prevention” or “skeletal alignment” didn’t really resonate with him back then. His preferred training regimen when he wasn’t playing a sport was running.

In 2009 at his first (and last) annual Thanksgiving family touch-football game, Fred ruptured his left achilles. A few years later, after numerous physical therapy sessions, he got back out on the tennis court and quickly developed severe tendinitis. These issues flared up regularly but could be managed with a lot of before-and-after stretching, ice and the occasional dry needling session. Could he go 100 percent? No, not even close. Could he regularly enjoy fitness and kicking the soccer ball around with our young children? Yes, but with stiffness and some pain. And Fred is only 40 years old.

Club Pilates was finished in August and Fred jumped in as a practice client for our instructors while they tested out the new class formats. I was pleasantly surprised when he kept returning to the studio three to four times weekly. He even surprised himself by saying, “I haven’t moved this well since college.” Pilates was all he wanted to talk about. A game changer.

Fred shared specifically what has changed for him in the past eight weeks:

Golf

Hitting the ball 10-15 yards farther.

Swing feels smoother, hitting through the ball better.

Range of motion is greater through shoulders and back.

Stiffness and pain? Gone.

Conclusion: easy power.   

Spin Class

Monitor showed a 10-12% increase in power after 10 consecutive months.

Left calf and ankle stiffness and pain? Gone.

Left knee pain? Gone.

Conclusion: easy power.

Why was all of this happening? “A powerful muscle is a flexible muscle; an elongated muscle,” Fred said. “Most people, (myself included until recently) don’t realize how much leg power comes from 1) a strong core, and 2) strong and flexible hips and ankles. On the flip side, people don’t realize how taxing it is on your knees, ankles and the ligaments around them when your hips and ankles are tight and weak. A strong core supports your entire body. When your core is week, you compensate by over using your spine and back muscles.”

He added, “The evidence is pretty clear that the degree to which Pilates is helping me build strength and flexibility has a tremendously positive impact on my well-being.”

Fred is not alone. Daily, one of the 50 male clients at the Pilates studio will stop by the desk to share, “I can’t tell you how much better I feel playing (fill-in-the-blank) sport or doing (fill-in-the-blank) activity.”

Pilates just helps men do life easier and more powerfully. VT

Katie Kannapell Ryser is the owner of Club Pilates and CycleBar. Both studios are located at 4600 Shelbyville Road.