A Big Guy's Guide to Pilates
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Kobe Bryant during a pilates workout at training camp on August 16, 2007 at the Winn Hotel in Las Vegas Andrew D. Bernstein / Getty Images

Before you roll your eyes and scoff, hear this: Some of the biggest, baddest dudes in professional sports get taken to task with a little bit of Pilates. For instance, Marquise Goodwin, an Olympic track-and-field athlete and a receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, takes Pilates classes at the Austin, Texas-based studio Dancers Shape. “With the name Dancers Shape, you think it’s going to be easy girl stuff,” Goodwin says. “If you come in thinking that — you are wrong.”

And Goodwin’s not alone. Football players all over the country are turning to Pilates to target smaller muscle groups, improve core strength, and enhance flexibility. “Pilates transforms your mind and body, and changes how you look at the ‘little things,’” says Michael Davis, a Cornerback for the Los Angeles Chargers who takes classes at Club Pilates. “I never knew how it could benefit me as a person and an athlete.”

⚡️Newly drafted 2017 season Cornerback for the LA CHARGERS @lachargers2017 @lachargersofficial @lachargersnfl @lachargersfanclub ⚡️ We are SO excited to be apart of Michael's fitness journey as he gets in top NFL shape for the LA Chargers! We are honored to be helping Michael accomplish any and all of his fitness goals as he prepare for an amazing season with his team 🙌🏻👏🏻 Congratulations Michael! We're cheering for you! • • • Pilates for football 🏈 ? 👉🏻 Pilates can improve flexibility, balance and strength. it can help to rebalance and activate your muscles healing to avoid strains, rips, and tears. Add it as a compliment to your workout, or as primary strength training! • • #clubpilatesglendale #clubpilatesglendale #nfl #nfldraft2017 #chargers #lachargers #football #strengthtraining #strength #pilates #pilatesfit #pilatesbody #powerful #cardio #training #stronger #menshealth #mensfitness #gymmotivation #gym #strong #footballseason #nfldraft #profootball #menswear #pilatesreformer #weights

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The thing is, a well-programmed Pilates routine doesn’t just make athletes stronger and more flexible. It can extend their careers. “I’ve been working with NFL players since 2012,” says Jennifer McCamish, the owner of Dancers Shape. “They typically overuse one muscle group and underutilize opposing muscle groups, creating imbalances, aches, and pains that can make them more susceptible to injury.

“The Pilates technique trains the deep stabilizers to strengthen the core. This helps improve proprioception, body awareness, and breathing to support a large body in motion. The more you’re in control of your bodyweight in space, the more efficiently you move.” In other words: It'll make you a better athlete — and a more-balanced dude in general.

But you don’t have to show your face inside a “girly” Pilates studio if you want to give the technique a try. There’s a full lineup of mat-based Pilates moves that require no equipment and are perfectly safe to try at home. McCamish suggests the following home-based exercises.