Men Are Finally Wising Up to the Fact that Pilates Is the Hardest Workout There Is

Maybe because of the sport’s overwhelming popularity among professionals, over the last few years, we’ve seen a trickle-down effect to regular guys of all ages chasing a more toned physique. Garmin has included Pilates activities on its app since 2019, the brand confirmed there was a huge 96% leap YOY in the numbers of men logging Pilates minutes at the height of the pandemic—between 2020 and 2021.

Bentivoglio even tells us that in the past few weeks, interest in her at-home reformers have taken off among shoppers’ spouses. “In the last three weeks, I’ve had over 10 of our customers write me to say that they can’t get their husbands off the reformer. It’ll be like, ‘My husband’s never done Pilates, and he’s on a 30 day streak.'”

She chalks that up to Pilates, feeling like a refinable skill or hobby that ignites a competitive nature in men. “Once you start doing Pilates, there’s a complexity associated because you have to learn foundational elements, but it’s so fucking hard you keep doing it and it almost becomes obsessive.”

As gyms and studios have opened back up to the world, more men are showing up to get their ass handed to them in person, too. Solidcore (a national chain of studios that uses Pilates-style reformers for their grueling strength-training workouts) tells us that membership among men increased 71% YOY between 2022 and 2023 as gyms and studios started opening back up to the world.

Asad Syrkett, the editor-in-chief of ELLE Decor, got into Pilates in 2017 after a biking injury that messed up his shoulder. A dancer friend put him onto it for the rehabilitative aspects of the sport, and as he tells it, he’s never left. “The primary motivator for me and the thing that’s kept me coming back is feeling like it’s low-impact physically and also in some energetic ways, which I appreciate,” he says. He confirms that over the nearly seven years he’s been attending reformer Pilates classes, he’s seen increasing numbers of men stepping onto the machines.

Even young and limber Zoomers are taking up the workout, like Oliver Seid—the 24-year-old creator behind the Instagram account Your Fashion Archive—who had the luck of growing up surrounded by Pilates thanks to his mother, who’s been an instructor since the ’90s (and owns Beverly Hills studio Bodyline). “I naturally go to the gym a lot, and I have a pretty flexible body, so she says I move pretty well in Pilates,” Seid says. He admits that it’s not his main form of exercise, but because of the core work and balance required, “it’s still difficult for me, and I do find myself getting a lot out of it.”

As word spreads about the wonders of Pilates, perhaps one of the most unsung benefits will be a perspective shift in the way we view fitness successes. “The biggest thing for me about a Pilates class is that the energy in the room is less about gains and more about a mindset difference,” Syrkett says. Or at least, he clarifies, it’s a different type of gain: “You’re gaining awareness of muscles that you may not have used in a concerted way before. You’re gaining a holistic thinking about how exercise can help with injuries and help you improve in terms of strength or flexibility.”

So, if you’re feeling inspired to test your mettle in the studio, there’s never been a better time than ever to step up and join the club. “A lot of men are trying Pilates and getting humbled by it,” Syrkett adds. “I mean, I was one of them.”

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