Fitness Instructors Debunk the Myth of ‘Girly’ Workouts

What you’ve got wrong about cycling, SLT, hot yoga and more

March 26, 2018 9:00 am

Visualize the ultimate manly-man workout.

Something like Rocky in the meat locker meets The Rock on Instagram.

You’re probably not picturing yoga, Pilates or indoor cycling … basically, anything guys tend to perceive as the “manly” fitness routine’s “womanly” counterparts.

Which is — pardon our French — bullsh*t.

“Girly” workouts are not only a myth, but also a goldmine of athletic potential.

So we spoke with the instructors who teach these classes to talk misconceptions, benefits and how the testosterone-fueled feel once they actually try them out.

Hot Yoga

Kate Davies
Owner and Teacher at YO BK Hot Yoga + Pilates

One sentence description: We offer Bikram Yoga, Baptiste Power Yoga and Inferno Hot Pilates, a high-intensity interval training class that is very popular with men and women.

Estimated percentage of men in each class: 30%

What are some common male misconceptions?
Their biggest misconception is that you have to be flexible or in shape before trying yoga, which puts the cart before the horse. ​Hot yoga is so challenging that no one other than you and the teacher is paying attention to what you’re doing, so it’s best to dive in and take a class, regardless of where you’re starting from.

Why is it actually a good fitness option?Hot yoga and Pilates are great options for men because they are safe and accessible, yet a real ass-kicking. The results are addictive and exciting.​ Men come to our studio and see other regular dudes like them, so they don’t feel like the odd man (ha) out.

What do men say after they take a class?
​Most men walk out of the hot room and straight onto the street in their workout shorts and stand silently for a few breaths, steam coming off of them. Then they come back inside and say, “That was a hard one, thank you.”

Photo: Jaimie Baird

The Class by Taryn Toomey

Natalie Kuhn
Founding Teacher and Executive Director

One sentence description: A cathartic fitness experience that challenges the body in order to engage the mind.

Estimated percentage of men in each class: 5-10%

Why do you think fewer men attend?
Our class is not only physically rigorous, but it can be emotional in nature. I think men are perhaps intimidated by a group of women stepping into their emotional, physical and spiritual power as a collective. The men who do come are evolved enough to understand that this is exactly what our world needs more of.

What are some common male misconceptions?
That it’s a bunch of women screaming in a room together. Ha! Men, allow me to wipe this erroneous imagery of banshees from your mind’s eye: it is a community of humans dedicated to their physical goals and their own personal degree of self-inquiry. We do use sound but it is hardly “screaming” — it is the use of vocalization to support the release of tension in the body. Why that’s acceptable from pro-tennis players on the court (e.g., Rafa Nadal) and not women in a group class is beyond me.

Why is it actually a good fitness option?
First of all, gentlemen, you will get a great workout. I promise you, your second-day soreness will be real. Second, and perhaps more importantly, you will find a space for you to release the tensions of your day, week, job, family, etc. You will use your resources economically and efficiently so that you can move through the rest of your life with more clarity, strength and ease.

What do men say after they take a class?
Typically they are surprised that it was so hard! For those who are athletes, we have heard time and time again that it has helped their time and their performance in relationship to their sport. And quite often they are pleased to discover they had a necessary revelation in class about some part of their life.

Indoor Cycling

Leigh Barton
Master Instructor and Programming Director at MNSTR Cycle

One sentence description: MNSTR is a visual, cutting-edge experience where fitness meets nightlife that welcomes everyone, but isn’t necessarily for everyone.

Estimated percentage of men in each class: 40%

Why do you think fewer men attend?
I definitely have experienced this vibe amongst my male friends in the fitness instructor industry — a lot of them assume it’s a feminine workout, which is totally a misconception based on the way cycling has been portrayed in media, the past styles of “spinning” and by the larger fitness brands. Others say they “don’t do cardio” because they’re trying to build muscle, etc.

What are some common male misconceptions?
Dudes always seem to think cycling is led like a dance class and that there are choreographed moves on the bike — which is not the case at MNSTR. We teach a rhythm-based ride where drills are based on high-intensity intervals in speed or resistance. They also assume it’s gonna be EDM and Top 40 in every class which, again, works for some people, but not in my class (we host Metal Monday twice a month at our studios and come up with themes, as a lot of studios do, so there’s a ton of variety if you look).

Why is it actually a good fitness option?
Any fitness option is a good option if it makes you feel good and/or safe, but cycling (particularly with us) is a great way to build strength and endurance with low joint impact. It’s pretty easy to fix bad form and any knowledgeable instructor can help you get the most out of it. A lot of our regulars have become friends inside and outside the studio as well, since many come together for the shared appreciation of music they like (shout out to my Metal Monday and Emo Night riders!), and because MNSTR is really different from other NYC studios.

What do men say after they take the class?
Lots of men have definitely said, “That was harder than I thought,” but what specifically makes me happy to come to work every day is when someone tells me they never thought they would do something like this and they can’t wait to come back.


Amanda Jenny
Master Instructor, Training & Development Team

One sentence description: If cardio, strength training and Pilates had a baby, it would be SLT (for Strengthen, Lengthen, Tone).

Estimated percentage of men in each class: 20%

What are some common male misconceptions?
One common misconception is that SLT is traditional Pilates and won’t be challenging enough for them. Another misconception is that men think they have to be flexible in order to take the class. But here’s the truth: the majority of SLT classes are comprised of planks, squats and lunges — full-body moves that aren’t “girly” or “easy.” When these moves are performed on the Megaformer [SLT machine], there is an added element of instability which amps up the number of muscles that need to be recruited.

Why is it actually a good fitness option?
SLT works muscles that are often neglected in standard strength-training workouts. In addition, SLT is high intensity but low impact. Many male dominated workouts, like HIIT, can be really tough on the joints, so we are seeing more and more men come in our studios who want the intensity and effectiveness of strength training without the impact on their body. I also personally believe that SLT is beneficial to their overall health in living more mindfully. During class your muscles will be quivering, but your mind is encouraged to stay focused and present through the challenge. After class is over, you feel both mentally and physically accomplished.

What do men say after they take a class?
After a man’s first class I often hear, “That was a lot harder than I thought it would be,” and, “I worked muscles today I didn’t know I had!” From more regular male clients, I hear, “That was a real beating” and “That class killed me today!” Some of our male clients even call SLT their “secret sauce” and have claimed it’s improved their golf, tennis and running.

Interviews have been condensed for length