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Pilates For Men: Core-Strengthening Exercises To Help Gym-Goers

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We understand that many people have preconceptions about Pilates, but just wait until you hear about the benefits of pilates

Pilates will give you a cast-iron core and, according to this month’s guest trainer and co-founder of TenPilates (opens in new tab) David Higgins, "studies have shown that if you’re strong in your core, you can lift significantly more weight in big exercises."

It’s no walk in the park either. "These are deceptively difficult moves," says Higgins. "You don’t need to use heavy weights to challenge your stability muscles. If you over-challenge them, your global (larger) muscles will try to take over, so you’ll do the movement incorrectly."

"A lot of athletes and rugby players are doing Pilates for prehab (preventative exercises, as opposed to rehab work after an injury)," says Higgins. "If your body is functioning correctly then you’re stronger when an external force, such as a tackle, is exerted. You’ll be able to maintain balance better and less likely to get injured."

There’s a lot more, but we figure you've probably got the idea and are willing to give it a go. So now that you've accepted that Pilates is going to make a big difference to your fitness, get stuck into the following exercises. We’ve got more plenty more Pilates workouts for you try, too.

Superman

Because you do this move on all fours, it involves your upper back, neck and shoulders. That will help anyone who sits at a desk all day to have better posture because it encourages you to maintain a natural position in your spine. The leg slide in level 2 turns the move into a semi-open chain for a few seconds. Raising your arm and opposite leg encourages good stabilisation from your shoulders to your opposite knee.

Level 1: Superman leg slide

Superman leg slide

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  • Get on all fours with your knees beneath your hips and your hands beneath your shoulders.
  • Make sure your neck and spine are neutral. Contract your abs but keep breathing normally.

Superman leg slide hover

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  • Extend one leg behind you, sliding it along the floor. Then bring it back to the start.

Level 2: Superman leg slide hover

  • Perform the leg slide.
  • Raise that foor off the floor at the end of the slide.

Level 3: Superman leg slide and arm raise

Superman leg slide and arm raise

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  • Simultaneously raise one arm and the opposite leg without moving your spine or tilting your hips.

Human Cannon

Most people find that when they lift their knees in this move, it tips their hips out of neutral, their head sinks and their shoulders slump. So it’s important to focus on holding a good position and maintaining lumbar control. The progression in level 2 involves a forwards extension, which encourages upper-body stabilisation through your lats, serratus anterior and shoulders. Adding a press-up works your triceps and chest.

Level 1: Human cannon bent-knee hover

Human cannon bent-knee hover

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  • Get on your hands and knees with your hands slightly in front of your shoulders and your spine neutral.

Human cannon bent-knee hover

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  • Raise your knees off the floor a few centimetres and hold that position.

Level 2: Human cannon plank

Human cannon plank

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  • Perform the move as above but with your hands slightly further forward.

Human cannon plank

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  • Straighten your legs to get into a straight-arm plank position.

Level 3: Human cannon press-up

Human cannon press-up

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  • Perform the move as above.

Human cannon press-up

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  • Do a press-up.

Skating

The skating squat hold fires up the right areas of your body: glutes, quads and hamstrings. When you do the toe slide in level 2, you activate your gluteus medius. If that muscle is weak then you’ll get an anterior tip of the pelvis, which will overload your lumber spine and can result in injuries such as bulging disks. The toe touch opens the chain, which recruits more of the stabilising muscles and more of the glute.

Level 1: Skating squat hold

Skating squat hold

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  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and, keeping your spine neutral, sink into a half squat and hold that position.

Level 2: Skating leg slide

Skating leg slide

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  • Get into the skating squat position. Then, keeping your upper body still, slide one foot out to the side, then back to the start position.

Level 3: Skating toe touch

Skating toe touch

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  • Get into the skating squat position.
  • Then, keeping your upper body still, lift one leg out to the side, touch the floor with your toes and then return to the start.

Side Leg Raise Moves

Level 1: Side leg raise

Side leg raise moves

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  • Place one hand beneath your head with your arm straight and rest your other hand on your hip.
  • Place one knee below your hips with the other leg straight, toes touching the floor.
  • Raise your straight leg off the floor, hold for a count of two, then return to the start.

Level 2: Side leg slide

exercises

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  • Place one hand beneath your head with your arm straight and rest your other hand on your hip.
  • Place one knee below your hips with the other leg straight, toes touching the floor.
  • Raise your straight leg off the floor, then move it backwards and forwards without tilting your hips.

Level 3: Side leg circle

exercises

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  • Place one hand beneath your head with your arm straight and rest your other hand on your hip.
  • Place one knee below your hips with the other leg straight, toes touching the floor.
  • Raise your straight leg off the floor, then move it in circles. The bigger the circle, the harder it becomes.

Jon Lipsey worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Jon was deputy editor and editor from 2007 to 2013. He returned as editor-in-chief from 2016 to 2019. He also co-founded IronLife Media (opens in new tab) and the New Body Plan (opens in new tab)