During our session my client asked me, "Is it easier to teach females rather than males in Pilates?" I shook my head vigoriously. "Noooooo," I said. "Pilates is Pilates" I continued, "There tend to be more females than males who practice, but they are not any easier or more challenging to teach."
But wait, have I always felt this confident?
I started thinking back to former clients. The first male client I worked with was an avid golfer who had been a former swimmer. As one would assume he had good upper body strength, but also had incredibly tight hamstrings and was somewhat weak in the quads. Exercises that felt great to me, like lunge on the Reformer, were a feat for him. Conversely, the arm series on the Ped-o-Pull hardly gave him pause unless I had him seated on a box or in a low squat. In short, I had to learn to work differently with him and subsequent male clients. I had to obtain the awareness to get out of my own body and how the exercises felt to me, and teach to his particular strengths and weaknesses.
The following teaching strategies have helped me over the years and I list them here in hopes they spring some new ideas for you.
- Check spring tension. Men tend to have greater upper body strength than women, so accommodations need to be make in spring resistance. That being said...
- Incorporate the Pilates Ring and Resistance Band. Don't let every arm exercise be about "powering through" the movement and relying on the upper trapezius and deltoids. Use the Ring and band to emphasize the importance of the smaller stabilizer muscles.
- Use props in seated exercises. Men tend to have tight hamstrings. Set up props such as a folded mat or bolster to lift the hips for The Saw, Spine Twist, and Spine Stretch Forward.
- Take time for balance. I have noted that men tend to excel at balance (perhaps from skateboarding and/or surfing in their youth?) so I frequently incorporate standing work on the Reformer such as Single Leg Skating.
- Be kind. Males tend to avoid working their adductors in the gym and may over emphasize quads and hamstrings. Help restore muscle balance with an exercise like Splits on the Reformer, but start out on a blue or red instead of a yellow spring. This will keep them challenged but not hobbling out the door!
- Cue with relevant images. When I would like my male clients to broaden through the shoulder girdle I encourage them to imagine they are being measured for a tuxedo. During Jumpboard I ask them to "follow through with the foot like a basketball player jumping off the floor!" My corset cue becomes a cummerbund, and I liken rotating through the waist as practicing their golf swing.
- Be creative. Ask for feedback. Keep up the conversation with your clients and your experience and theirs will improve with each session.