Pilates News March

Welcome to the March edition of Pilates Central News.

In this edition:

  • Divas do Pilates
  • Rolling Stones
  • Standard Pilates
  • We’ve got male

Divas do Pilates

LIFE magazine has reproduced some fascinating pictures of Joseph Pilates training the opera singer Roberta Peters. The pictures were taken for a 1951 LIFE article headlined “Diva With Muscle.” Peters was a massive star at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and often appeared on TV in The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show.

Joseph Pilates in his New York studio training the opera singer Roberta Peters

The photos taken by Michael Rougier reveal Joe at work wearing his trademark skimpy shorts, back in the day when Pilates was simply known as contrology. They show Roberta hanging from bars, squeezing a springy steel oval device and exercising on early Reformers, which look much more like the hospital beds that originally inspired Pilates. Joe Pilates is even pictured standing on Peters’ “iron-like” stomach for the camera – not something our teachers would normally do!

Joseph Pilates also trained the ballet stars Martha Graham and George Balanchine. LIFE wrote that, ever since taking singing lessons as a girl in the Bronx, Roberta Peters, “has been making regular visits to the gym to build up her torso and strengthen her diaphragm.” All that training seemed to work. Peters enjoyed a long career performing well into her 70s and lived until she was 86, dying in 2017. The wonderful pictures of her sessions really do evoke the unique atmosphere of Joseph Pilates’ New York gym and his pioneering work.

Rolling Stones

Manchester City’s John Stones is the latest top footballer to endorse Pilates in the Times. He tells Henry Winter about a low point in his career back in 2020 when he was dropped by both England and Manchester City. The Barnsley-born centre back turned to positive thinking and new approaches.

Mac City's John Stones endorses Pilates in the Times

“It was a really important time for me: going back to basics, marginal gains, 100 per cent, diet, before a game more carbs, recovery, ice baths, massages,” said Stones. “The gym is massive for me, still now, twice a day, come here and train, and go home, do my extra bits. I use the Reformer, a Pilates machine, good for both strength and mobility. I am quite mobile anyway. My mum was a high jumper, hurdler. She could probably still do it now!”

That approach paid off for Stones, who is back in the City side and playing some great football as City chase another treble. He’s not the only Man City star to try Pilates. Super striker Erling Haaland scored a brilliant goal against Borussia Dortmund in 2002, where his boot was 2.1 metres from the ground, which was attributed to Pilates-based exercises.

A flexible body has helped with flexible tactics, and Stones has certainly prospered this season when moved into an inverted full back role by innovative manager Pep Guardiola. Pilates could yet help to decide the Premier League.

Standard Pilates

“Why we’re obsessed with Reformer Pilates,” is the title of a two-page feature in the Evening Standard. The paper suggests that, “the most sought-after waiting list for London’s fitterati” in 2024 is Pilates.”

Reformer PIlates article in the Evening Standard

Writer Madeleine Spencer suggests some reasons why Pilates is so popular: “Londoners have finally got wind of its secret, long whispered across Hollywood: that it’s a fast-track to strength and toning. Plus, we’re desperate to offset our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and the Reformer bed is notoriously effective relief from the back pain and discomfort that comes with sitting for eight hours a day.”

She also mentions the fact that users are realising “that maximum intensity isn’t the only way to work out and get fit” and that, “there is the promise of relieving pain. London has always had a broad spread of options for general movement — but none specifically addressed posture and strengthening quite as effectively.”

The feature has some interesting observations on yoga and Pilates being lumped together: “We are now realising that they are entirely different exercises, each with their own devotees. A survey conducted by Health and Fitness Education found that 70 per cent of fitness enthusiasts in the UK would now pick it over yoga. It’s also outstripping HIIT and Zumba by quite some margin, receiving five times as many searches online.”

All of which is good news. While to use the Standard’s phrasing, our clients can now congratulate themselves on being part of London’s fitterati.

We’ve got male

“Men are Finally Wising up to the Fact That Pilates is the Hardest Workout There Is,” reads the headline in GQ. The article cites last year’s viral video on TikTok of Hollywood star Glen Powell, pop star Tate McRae and TikToker Jack Shane on Reformers as evidence of its increasing popularity with men. Shane ended up with comically quaking legs, adding to the video’s shareabilty.

Men are finally wising up to the fact that Pilates is the hardest workout there is

It mentions sportsmen taking up Pilates such as US basketball star LeBron James, footballers David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo and baseball player Bryce Harper and the fact that winners Kansas City Chiefs prepared for the US Super Bowl by working out on Reformers.

The feature also has some interesting quotes from Melissa Bentivoglio, the founder of Frame Pilates, who has trained many athletes. She tells GQ: “In the last three weeks, I’ve had over ten 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 also believes Pilates appeals to the competitive instinct in blokes: “Once you start doing Pilates, there’s a complexity associated because you have to learn foundational elements, but it’s so f**king hard you keep doing it and it almost becomes obsessive.” Whatever the reasons, it’s excellent news that Pilates is no longer seen as just a female activity, but something for everyone to enjoy.

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The Pilates Central Team

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