Joseph Pilates created the Pilates exercise protocol more than 100 years ago — an approach developed by a man for men. So why do many men think that Pilates is an easy, barely-break-a-sweat workout just for women? Why are men frequently reluctant and often times embarrassed to try it?
As a Pilates instructor, I am proud that 33% of my clientele are men (at one point, that total was more than 40%), with a wide range of physical abilities, from amputees to professional athletes.
How did I gain this large contingent of male students? It is careful planning and conscious choices that make it possible for me to work with a vast array of men from 20 to 93 years old. Suppose you’d like to increase the numbers of your male clientele. In that case, I believe these tips can help you not only grow your business but, more importantly, help a demographic that needs Pilates!
Atmosphere & Environment:
A gender-neutral, clean studio will help men feel more at home. I carefully selected blue and brown machines for a sleek yet welcoming environment. I also selected the 18″ studio reformer options with Balanced Body because it is more comfortable for my taller male clientele and those with back/knee pain to get on and off the machine without fearing height with standing work.
First group session:
I always try to put a new male client into a class where there will be another recurring male client. Even better is scheduling the new client in a class where there are men in the class before and after. Seeing is believing, and when a man sees that he is not the only male in a class, he is immediately more comfortable.
Customary gym attire does not always work well for feet in straps. A new male client may not know what they are getting into, and as the instructor, you want them to feel comfortable. On my website and FAQ, I request compression shorts be worn under sports shorts. Still, suppose they don’t remember or don’t initially realize why this is important. In that case, I avoid exercises that could cause embarrassment or awkwardness. I simply let them know that there are a million other exercises they will learn, including later putting their feet in the straps and so on. I’ve never had a male client not get it for future sessions.
Imagery cues help a person connect something they are familiar with to an action you want them to mimic. So why would we say “bra strap,” “Barbie toes,” “high heels,” or “corset” to men? Instead, terms like “lifted heels,” “weight-lifting belt,” and “back support brace” work wonders because they are relevant to them.
Why is this client taking a session? Back pain? To improve their golf game? Shoulder injury? Because LeBron does Pilates?
Make sure to have exercises that burn the quads, challenge the biceps, work the abs — and address their goals! If they enjoy the exercises — and feel they have gotten a challenging workout — you have the opportunity to work with them again and teach them all the benefits of Pilates.
The goal should not be to wipe the floor with them and teach them a lesson about underestimating how challenging Pilates can be. Their first (and subsequent) experience needs to be a balance between accomplishment and humility. And frankly, this is what I aim for with every client — even 1,000 sessions in! Every session should leave them feeling accomplished… feeling they did something they couldn’t do before, that they connected more deeply, moved more freely, or whatever it may be… but also humbled. Humbled to keep moving forward and seeing that Pilates is forever and can support and challenge any fitness level.
Slowly, Pilates will lose the stigma that it is only for women. Still, it takes instructors to make each individual feel comfortable and let them proudly encourage their friends to try it, too!
Much the same as a woman working out in a male-dominated MMA gym where they feel safe and welcomed, I believe that Pilates will become a supportive and appreciated workout for all men.