Personal Trainer James Smith Learns Why Male Athletes Should Do Pilates

Despite the advantages of Pilates, it is predominantly instructed by female trainers. Per Zippia, nine out of 10 Pilates instructors are female. Although male participation in pilates has trended upward, with approximately one in four participants being male as of 2023, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.

Male athletes can benefit from the bodyweight workouts Pilates offers just as much as female athletes. The benefits of Pilates are comparable to aerobics. They include improving muscle strength, overall fitness, and body composition(1) 

In a YouTube video on March 22, 2024, personal trainer James Smith explores Pilates’ benefits and why it would be valuable for male athletes to include in their fitness regimes. Discover the reasons below:

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Pilates History & Benefits

Australian Pilates instructor Lisa Hammond of REVOLVE studio introduced Smith and fellow personal trainer Diren Kartal to the origins of Pilates. She explained Joseph Pilates developed the method in the 1900s as rehabilitation for war veterans.

Hammond mentioned Joseph Pilates practiced Jiu-Jitsu and highlighted the primary advantages of Pilates, including “increased strength through stabilizing muscle groups.”

If you’re already [Jiu-Jitsu] training…it helps with stabilizing through shoulder girdle and helps with arm bars and Kimuras.

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Pilates Exercises

Smith facilitated Pilates exercises using a reformer — a padded platform called the “carriage” that slides up and down a frame — and a foot bar featuring adjustable spring tensions. Hammond highlighted the springs’ tension is adjusted to target specific muscle groups. Below are the exercises Smith and Kartal performed on their respective reformers. 


Hammond emphasized performing higher reps of slow, controlled movements to foster mind-muscle connection during workouts. “Imagining pulling tall through the crown of your head,” said Hammond. “Take it down for the lunge. Drive all the way back up,” The foot bar can act as a support to better target the quads and glutes.

Smith and Kartal share how these movements can help rehab hip flexor injuries and benefit advanced athletes seeking to explore various planes of motion. Pilates routines emulate bodyweight exercises such as squatslunges, and hip thrusts

Footwork & Single-Leg Press

During reformer footwork, Smith and Kartal experimented with various foot positions, expressing curiosity about Pilates’ benefits for recovery following days filled with resistance training and Jiu-Jitsu. Hammond assured them that Pilates could aid recovery and that Pilates could be combined with strength training as well. 

Their Pilates routine began with heels pressed against the foot bar, activating their quads. Subsequently, they transitioned to the “Bird on a Perch” position, placing their toes on the bar. They observed a sensation akin to a hack squat.

Smith utilized straps for the single-leg press. Hammond instructed Smith to bend at the knee before extending to better activate the glutes and obliques for stability and strengthening of the legs and engage the hips and ankles.

Smith and Kartal commented on the intensity of the routine per their sweat. They inquired whether Pilates contributes to an improved physique. “As Joseph Pilates would say, in 10 sessions, you will feel the difference,” remarked Hammond. “In 20 sessions, you will see the difference, and in 30 sessions, you’ll have a completely new body.”

Push-ups & Push Press

The trainers utilized their foot bars for push-ups. Hammond recommended limiting carriage movement throughout the routine. When Kartal acknowledged the core-strengthening challenge of the exercise.

They leveraged the foot bar and pressed the carriage away for the push press. They maintained elevated hips and extended their arms fully. Smith initiated with a kneeling variation before advancing to a toe position for an extended stretch.

Wide Press & Hundred

Smith and Kartal experimented with the wide press using straps, alternating between high and low kneeling positions. They incorporated a unilateral variation, pressing with one arm for more rotation.

They lowered the foot bar and grasped the strap handles for the hundred- a core-strength pike hold variation. Their legs transitioned from a bent, table-top position to a fully extended, lowered stance as they held a medicine ball between their feet.

Leg Circles & Rounding Up

Smith concluded the session with leg circles, utilizing long straps and guiding the movement with his feet. He finished with deep lower-body stretches in the lunge position. 

After the workout, Smith advocates Pilates as an outstanding training method for the core and rehab and emphasizes that nobody is “too big” to engage in It.

I feel like this is nice remedial strength training; something you wouldn’t feel beaten up by.

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Rayes, A. B. R., de Lira, C. A. B., Viana, R. B., Benedito-Silva, A. A., Vancini, R. L., Mascarin, N., & Andrade, M. S. (2019). The effects of Pilates vs. aerobic training on cardiorespiratory fitness, isokinetic muscular strength, body composition, and functional tasks outcomes for individuals who are overweight/obese: a clinical trial. PeerJ, 7, e6022.

Featured image: @jamessmithpt on Instagram

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