Tutorial #896

Stretching Tips for Men

20 min - Tutorial
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Kevin Bowen offers up some options for men (and women) who may need a assistance with some Pilates exercises due to lack of flexibility. This 13 minute tutorial provides several examples of how you can "work with what you've got," both in flexibility and in terms of props. Kevin shows variations using the Magic Circle and a towel that will help stretch your hamstrings as well as some modifications if your hips, legs and lower back are still too tight to execute exercises comfortably and with good form.
What You'll Need: Mat, Moon Box, Towel, Magic Circle

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So sometimes, or most the time working with men, what I usually end up seeing is that they have tight quads and tight hamstrings. So I like to teach them how to stretch their hamstrings themselves, and I also like to teach men that-- and women-- that a static stretch, while it may feel good, it may not really produce the long term effects that you want to have it produce. So if you have a Magic Circle, here's a great way to stretch. You can hang on to the Circle. You can hang onto it with one hand or both hands.

You can, if you're really tight, bend the opposite leg, so you're comfortable, and then just straighten this leg, and bend it back in. And I like to take them through a range of motion and let them work into their breath so that they can exhale and lengthen. And I try to encourage everyone each time you move to really go that much further. That much further. So he's got a nice range of motion here, even though he does claim, and he says he has tight hamstrings.

So what I would do here is I'd keep his legs straight, and then I'd ask him to bend his elbows and pull the leg back towards his face, and release it a little bit. Now he's feeling it. OK? And pull. And release.

And pull. And release. OK. Do this a couple more times. Pull, and release.

And one more time. Pull, and release. And now we're going to switch sides, so excuse us here. Getting my face with this leg in front of it. But now we're going to use a towel, because if you don't have a Magic Circle at home, you work with what you've got.

So take a towel. Wrap it around your leg, and you can go through the same movement. Straighten and bend. You may need a slightly longer hand towel to work through this. And as you develop more flexibility, then your next step, of course, would be is to straighten the leg out, and reach and lengthen through the leg that's on the mat.

Bend and pull it back in. So then when he's pulling it back in towards his face. So he's developing a lot more flexibility, and I like to keep the movements small and eventually get them to become bigger. But I don't like to hold anything for too long. Another issue for men a lot of times is tightness in the hips.

So from here, you can just straighten your leg up, hang onto it with the towel, that is with your opposite arm, and pull it across. Pull it across your body, and stretch. And only go a small distance. Only go a small distance. There we go.

And one more time. Good. What I'm going to have him do is actually change legs, so we see he's even on both sides. We're going to straighten the right leg out, take the left leg up, and we're going to pull the left leg over towards the right side. Keep in mind, everybody's body is very different, and every day your body is different.

So you have to work out for your body on that particular day. And there's a very big difference from one side to the other. As you can probably see here, this leg is not quite as straight as the other one was. So we have to breathe through it and work with it. And don't get frustrated.

It's the last thing you want to do. Everything's a work in progress towards a different place. Good. OK. Super.

Let me have that. So now another thing that usually happens for a lot of the Pilates exercises-- you can go ahead and rock yourself and sit up-- is that we do a lot of things seated. So if I sit Andy up this way, and he happens to be on this table on this raised mat, it's much easier for him to sit up. But if we move him back, much like you would be in a mat class, and try to sit someone up, he's got quite a bit of flexibility, even still. But to get the legs straight, most men can't do this.

He's a pretty good example. They end up sitting like this. So there's a couple of things to be done. You can either pad up. Or you can use a box like this.

This is called a moon box. It's part of an extended mat system that comes with a lot of Pilates equipment. So now what's happened is I've got him to sit up. OK? And his hamstring flexibility is not impeding or causing him tightness in the back of his legs.

So some simple exercises that we do in the mat work, if we extend the arms out, and we're going to do the spine stretch, and we round ourselves forward. That much easier to do when someone's seated up, and they don't have to worry about, can I sit up tall? This is much easier. So not everybody's going to have a moon box at home. So what do you do if you don't have a moon box at home?

Well, you might have a phone book. You might have a couple of phone books. You could take a couple of towels. You could roll a couple of towels up, and do them that way. Sometimes what I like to do to get thickness in a towel is I put it in threes.

And I may take several of these and set it up like this. It's not going to give you a lot of height, but you'll have to put a few on top of each other. So there are different ways to handle that. If you have a mat at home, the easiest thing to do with a mat-- you can go ahead and sit back-- is to roll up the end of it, and then you can sit on that. And that way you can sit up taller.

But if you can't sit up for a lot of these exercises, then they really feel very overbearing, and you're not going to feel like you can accomplish anything. So until you gain the flexibility to sit up, you really need to perhaps avoid these exercises. Another exercise that we actually end in this position is the roll up. And this exercise-- I'm going to show you a couple of tricks that I play with. I always teach it rolling down, as opposed to rolling up.

And sometimes I'll have the person hang onto a bar, a Gondola bar like this or a shorter bar. And I ask them to take a breath in, and as they exhale, I hang onto them and give them resistance, and I let them roll back and roll down one vertebra at a time. And I reach their arms back, and bring them up, and exhale. And I pull them up, and I let them slide, and round, and scoop in, and then sit up tall again. If this fails, I'll let them roll back.

Exhale, and pull against me, Andy. Once I get them there, I take the Gondola bar away. I put their arms down, and I let them use their arms to roll up, so I let them press into the floor and push themselves up and come up this way. Once they're up, I give them back the bar. I hang onto them, and I roll them back.

So this is great if you've got somebody to help you at home to do this, which many of us do not. So all I simply do is I take the bar away, and I tell them they can push themselves up this way, thinking of moving sequentially. Once they get up, it's much easier to sit up tall this way and roll yourself back. And then I always say, maybe count to 10. 10, rolling back.

9. 8. 7. 6. 5.

4. 3. 2. 1. And then reach your arms back.

Circle them around. Push yourself up, and sit up tall. So this starts to build your strength up to eventually get to the point where you can do the full roll up. Let's do one more. And just roll back.

Don't worry. I'm not going to count this time. Let your body slide back a little bit. Move across the mat. Reach back.

Circle around. Press it down, and push yourself up. Lots of easy ways to get some deeper access into the exercises. Another thing that's really common that a lot of men have is tightness in the front of the thighs, the hamstrings, the psoas-- not the hamstrings, I'm sorry. The quadricep, the psoas muscle.

So go ahead, and stand up, Andy. If you're lucky enough to have something raised like this, or maybe even a table in your house, you can always come on over and stretch back this way and slide back and forth. So go ahead, and give that a try. We're stretching the quadricep muscles, the front of the thigh. Getting a little looseness there.

So come up. There you go. Press yourself up. And again, while it may feel great to hold a movement, don't hold it. Go through a range of motion, even if the range of motion is small.

Good. And go ahead, and do the other side. So always focus on keeping both bones in your pelvis here, even though it's one bone. The ASIS pointed straight ahead. Pressing yourself up.

Excellent. Something else that you can do as well, if you've got really tightness happening in the whole hip flexor area is to actually come to the end of a table, so you can sit up on your table, your breakfast table, your dining room table. Sit on the end right here. And go ahead and lie back. Let your legs hang off.

And pull your left leg in, and just hang onto it, and let the right leg just hang off in this position. And you can think of pushing down, and then releasing a little bit. And pushing down and releasing. You get an openness feeling here. Now what's going to be very typical when we're really tight is that our legs will want to open out to the sides, so you're really going to try to focus that the leg just drops down.

And then from there, hold it there. Engage your abdominals. Lift this leg up. Pull it in. Switch arms, and switch hands.

And then release the other one down. So you get a nice stretch on both sides. So you can first let the leg go. And then stabilize through your pelvis, and feel as if you can push down with the heel of your foot pressing down and releasing. And pressing down and releasing.

OK? And then when you're finished, you bend both knees in, and pull both knees into your chest. And what's nice is grab around the back of your thighs there, Andy. And just kind of roll yourself in, pulling your knees in towards your chest and releasing. Another great way to loosen up the lower back.

Some simple things that you can do at home-- you could actually even take the towel again. You can take it around, behind, and you can pull in that way. And if you have a significant other, wife, partner at home, they could actually come behind you and press down gently and get a nice stretch in the lower back. OK? You don't want to press that hard, and you're not sitting on them.

OK? And release. These are just some simple things to do, and then you can just slowly just let your legs drop off there. And then before you get up, actually, pull your knees into your chest if you're up on a table, and kind of roll over to the side, and push yourself up, so you're not putting too much pressure on your lower back. There we go.

If you don't have a table up off the ground like that, you can still do that stretch on the floor. You just lay back on the floor, on a mat, and stretch through your lower back. Just a few simple tips that you can use when you're working out at home on your own. Thank you.

Comments

1 person likes this.
Thank You, really loved your Reformer class and these are great stretches for travel when I don't have my props :)
2 people like this.
Yes Andy has way more flexibility than the men that I see. Kudos to him! Thanks for the tips. As always this is great.
2 people like this.
love love love these suggestions... love the use of the table and for me as a pilates instructor, booty camp trainer and a runner, these are fabulous suggestions as will use picnic tables outdoors... thanks and would love to see more pilates for men classes and or suggestions...
hello, I am trying to play this video but it says it is not available...just wondering if it is my connection or if is it on your side. Thank you for checking:)
Darina~ Thank you for pointing out this error to us. It was a faulty link on our part and so you should now be able to watch these Stretching Tips for Men. We appreciate your help!
Hi Hannah, I'm having problems too.. it gets to 4 seconds into the video and stops. Can you please check it out again? thanks :)
Anita ~ I have just checked the four video formats (auto-detect, low, medium and high) and they have all played without a problem. Please check this FAQ about video playback issues and if you still have an issue please email us at contact@pilatesanytime.com.
Hi John, ok it worked fine tonight.. great stuff! Thank you!
1 person likes this.
Thank you for these great stretches - I found your laid back energy very helpful in understanding and then applying these tips to my super-tight male clients - Andy seems pretty fine to me!
2 people like this.
Loved the video! Just curious, I am a Pilates and Yoga instructor and I'm wondering why you would not hold a stretch for a male or for someone who is very tight? In Yoga we tend to hold the stretch.
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