Sydney soccer players “humbled” by reformer pilates class

A men’s football team has gone viral on Instagram after being “humiliated” by a reform pilates class in Sydney’s south, showing viewers it’s a lot harder than it seems.

Sami McDonald, 25, a pilates instructor and founder of Reform Me, said the kids at Hurstville Zagreb FC love the weekly pilates classes and notice the benefits after just a month.

“Football players put a lot of weight on their ankles and feet when they kick, so I prioritized ankle stability and support, for example, we do a lot of things on the balls of their feet where they lift their heels up and down,” he said.

“I think their flexibility and mobility have improved; the biggest benefit for men generally is better mobility in the hip region, which is not as naturally relaxed as that of women.

The first grade football players are spreading the word to the rest of their FC Zagreb teammates, with Ms McDonald saying she has had to expand her services to include pilates to meet the growing interest from other players.

“My reform studio is limited to six beds right now, so I plan on having a mat class so I can accommodate everyone because they’re really eager to join their teammates,” he said.

Commenters on the now-viral video on Instagram praised the kids for their effort in the classroom and called for more athletic departments to incorporate Pilates into their athletes’ regular training.

“I personally think all footballers should take reformer pilates,” said one commentator.

“It would certainly prevent a lot of injuries, especially if the focus is on improving trunk stability and contralateral sling patterns.”

With another male commenter saying: “There really needs to be more marketing and messaging for men who do pilates.

“I would love to try it, but the classes are all full of women and there’s a real stigma around it.”

When Zagreb’s players arrived at their first class, Ms. McDonald said most of them expected a class filled with nothing but stretching.

“They really had no idea that pilates was a real workout, they didn’t expect pilates to burn, they didn’t even know that was a thing,” she said.

Ms McDonald has been teaching pilates for three years and said she had noticed a significant increase in men doing pilates as a form of regular exercise.

“In my general classes I have at least two men who come regularly every week,” she said.

“I’ve recently noticed an increase in younger men doing pilates, whereas when I started it was more middle-aged men, but obviously both can benefit from it.”

In her professional experience, Ms. McDonald said men tend to take care of their bodies differently than women.

“If men suffer an injury they tend to ignore it and that’s not what you should do,” he said.

“This is why it is so important to raise men’s awareness of the benefits of pilates, so that they understand that it was originally created for physiotherapy, that it is not just a ‘femininity’ exercise.”

According to the latest data from the IBISWorld 2019-2024 report, Pilates has increased in popularity over the past decade, moving from a niche service to a more mainstream form of exercise.

Pilates is still heavily dominated by women in Australia, with about a 9-to-1 difference between women and men taking classes, says market research firm Roy Morgan.

According to 2018 data, 1.1 million women practice pilates compared to just over 120,000 men.

Helen Stamatakos, Pilates instructor and founder of Pilates Insync, has been training elite athletes for 18 years and says a growing number of athletes are cross-training with Pilates.

He has coached big names, from the likes of diver Melissa Wu to track star Rohan Browning, including several Matilda favorites ahead of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, from Alanna Kennedy to Charlotte Grant, and currently coaches the young Matildas team.

Training elite athletes forms a large part of Ms Stamatakos’ business, which includes players from the NRL, such as the St George Illawarra Dragons.

The Dragons train regularly with Ms Stamatakos traveling to Wollongong from her studio in Menai to teach the team.

“Pilates is popular among elite athletes as it is helpful in reducing the risk of injury because it is an eccentric movement,” Ms. Stamatakos said.

“It increases range of motion under load, so it improves mobility and that’s the most important thing.”

Traditionally, athletic training relies on progressive loading, where you increase weights with repetitions, but with Pilates you lengthen muscles through springs under load, he said.

“So so with pilates they’re getting stronger but they’re also improving their mobility.”

Pilates is the secret to athlete longevity, improved performance and injury prevention, he said.

Read related topics:Sydney

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