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Pilates is a Solution for Tall Guys

by Alex Sinanan |

Why

It's weird being a tall guy in a short person world. Nothing fits. We are always ducking, slouching, making do. Hugging another tall person reminds you how good it feels to be able to do this standing tall: you feel good, through your back, your neck, your soul: you're not alone. It's nice to be standing straight and you can look them in the eye. It's weird to be constantly diminishing yourself to fit into this world.

We get used to being in a constant state of compromise and it takes a toll on our bodies. I'm 6'6" (198cm) and I've spent my whole life trying to make this work.

Tall guys need to do specific postural work to undo the damage caused by trying to fit into the default world. Here are some things that helped me.

Pilates is about movement and patterns mastered for the sake of doing them right in the context of your body. What many tall guys need is to reset your body outside of the constraints of a world designed for short people. You need to examine how you are supposed to work regardless of desk heights and door frames. How can you move smoothly through many different directional planes with the minimum effort while maintaining control and posture. There are lots of ways to accomplish this and Pilates really nailed it for me.

 

pilates side
Not being able to to flex through the ribcage and maintain scapular control and tension through the serratus muscle is the cause of the shoulder impingements I experienced when lifting overhead. Not a problem any more.

 

How

When we get hurt or move too much or sit too much, the body adopts protective patterns which can be difficult to shake. We get used to them and they become part of us. And we live on ok-ish in a compromised state, like a crooked stack of dishes that doesn't fall down: we seem to be ok. Until we get older, or get hurt.

 

Why don't you open up meme

These protective patterns help us survive. If a joint is tight, its neighbours will provide extra range to make up for it. It works but now you're working at 80%. And if you don't do something to get back to normal, you might lose that 20% forever.

Look at your average middle aged person. Chances are they can't remember the last time they climbed a tree or did a somersault. So do the occasional somersault, climb something. You'll feel better.

Your body wants to do lots of varied things. Doing stuff is good for you. Having a loving relationship with being able to do stuff will keep you young longer. Being 50 years old with a belly and not being able to touch your toes is no way to be. Remember what you could do in the playground when you were 5. You should be able to do that now.

People don't get old because they get slow. They allow themselves to get slow and so they get old. 

 

Pilates Front
How far forward could you go without breaking form?

 

I've always been a fit and strong person. Lots of natural talent, lots of versatility, lots of flexibility. But I'm a skinny hard-gainer.  So I trained with powerlifters to maximize my time under load, get strong - that's key for tall guys.

The best way to train at something is to hang with compassionate people who are way better than you. But that kind of lifting kind of hijacked me. When life's stresses overwhelmed me I lost the ability to just be. I'd be bracing when I shouldn't brace, tucking my chin when I shouldn't tuck, using lifting cues when I needed to breathe. I was broken and going back to lifting was just going to hurt me. I needed to get back to fundamentals.

Breath. This is a good place to start.

Breathing. Inhalation happens in three phases: the diaphragm expands then the mid back under the scapulae then the upper back/traps. Exhalation replays this in reverse: traps>scapulae>diaphragm.

I'm a chronic shallow breather. Stress brings on more breathing so I would brace through the diaphragm and wait for the challenge to pass. Eventually my lower spinal lordosis disappeared and the curve of my neck went away. I became a brick and nothing worked. I fundamentally needed to relearn how to breathe. 

I've long espoused the value of restorative/postural programs like MVMTLab's Ground Control. And Pilates.

Without going too deep: where lifting is about going out, Pilates is about going in. Only use what you need to do the thing. Breathe, engage as required. Leave the rest of the broken patterns behind. Trying without trying to isolate movements and control brings better awareness to everything you do. 

 

Pilates Spinal Roll

One vertebrae at a time roll down and drive the bar forward

And Now?

In the six months I've been doing pilates I’ve seen amazing gains.  It’s now part of my lifestyle and include it at least once a week. It's the perfect antidote to living in a world designed for much smaller people. And a great counter point to more aggressive types of training. 

 

Getting Started

Look up your local studio and go meet them! Schedule and assessment then maybe some private sessions to familiarize yourself with some of the expectations of the practice. 

If you're in Vancouver or Toronto, check out Pilates Process.

https://www.instagram.com/pilates_process_van/
http://www.pilatesprocess.ca/