How Don’t Worry Darling star Harry Styles uses Pilates to stay fit, strong and flexible

Top Pilates instructor reveals secret behind Styles’ lean, muscular frame and explains why Pilates is great for guys

MAY 29: Harry Styles performs on the Main Stage at War Memorial Park on May 29, 2022 in Coventry, England.
(Image credit: Joseph Okpako/WireImage))

Whether or not you’re a fan of Harry Styles’ Grammy award-winning music, acting ability and taste in fashion, it’s worth paying some attention to his workout regime. The former One Direction member needs oodles of strength, stamina, energy, and athleticism to withstand long days of filming on set and perform on stage night after night while touring. So, it should come as no surprise to hear that he takes his workouts, nutrition, and recovery very seriously.

Styles has previously claimed he trains five or six times a week, keeping his fitness regime varied and interesting with tough strength workouts, lots of running, and a bit of yoga, for which you’ll need a pair of the best dumbbells, some of the best running shoes, and one of the best yoga mats. But there’s another form of exercise that Styles has been incorporating into his training routine for years to take care of his body and mind, and that is Pilates.  

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After revealing way back in 2012 that he’d been advised by an osteopath to practice Pilates once a week to correct his ‘bad posture’ (opens in new tab), evidence of him actually attending weekly classes emerged in 2016 when he was snapped at Exhale Pilates (opens in new tab) in London, reportedly training alongside England footballer Harry Kane.

Styles has since spoken about the benefits of Pilates several times, telling Vogue he regularly practices because he’s ‘got very tight hamstrings - trying to get those open”. And in May 2022, he revealed he’d ditched the gym to ‘just do dancing workouts instead of weights, like twisting, Pilates stuff,’ on the Howard Stern Show. 

But what exactly is it about Pilates that keeps the 28-year-old heartthrob coming back for more? To find out, we asked Exhale Pilates founder Gaby Noble to reveal all the benefits, why more men should be incorporating Pilates into their workouts, and share some of Style’s favourite Pilates exercises for staying in tip-top shape. 

Harry Styles workout: why is Pilates so good for men looking to build a fit, strong physique?

‘There is this perception that Pilates is all about stretching and for woman, but this couldn’t be further from the truth,’ says Noble, who’s celebrity client list also includes Denmark and Manchester Utd footballer Christian Eriksen, along with actress Sadie Frost and model-turned-presenter Kelly Brook. 

‘What most people don’t know is that Pilates was developed by a man named Joseph Pilates who was a physical therapist, professional boxer, and gymnast. He created a method called Contrology, which was all about functional movement, not whether you could touch your toes. There are very few people on earth who would not benefit from adding Pilates to their day, as it includes breath, posture, strength, balance, co-ordination, and flexibility, which we all need. Pilates incorporates all the elements of healthy physical movement.’

According to Nobel, many sportspeople and athletes use the method of Contrology (Classical Pilates) at Exhale Pilates to enhance their current training regime and limit injuries, alongside office workers, gym-goers, and beginners all looking to lose weight, get stronger and improve their mental health.

‘Men traditionally work their muscles in isolation a lot, while classical Pilates has a flow to it, mobilising the joints through every exercise,’ explains Noble. ‘This different way of training is highly beneficial, making sure that you get a full-body workout where none of the smaller muscles get missed out. If you’re training to improve your sporting performance, want to lift more in the gym, rehabbing an injury, or simply trying to avoid ever picking one up, Pilates can help’.

Harry Styles workout: how can Pilates compliment other forms of training for men?

There are many benefits to be had from Pilates, aside from injury prevention and rehab. Here are seven more reasons why Exhale’s male clientele love to add Pilates into their week.

  • Pilates helps improve muscular balance which equates to more strength
  • You can lift more weight without pain in your lower back or joints
  • Your mobility and flexibility increases, allowing muscles and joints to breath more. This gives a better range of movement so you can squat deeper, for example
  • You can lengthen and shorten muscle fibre more efficiently, which helps to build a long-lasting better body, or build a better body in less time.
  • You can enjoy quicker recovery periods 
  • Pilates enhances overall training performance in all other sports, including boxing, weightlifting, football, and golf.
  • You can breathe better as Pilates exercises help increase lung capacity, which in turn increases stamina

Harry Styles workout: why does Harry Styles practice Pilates regularly?

‘Harry has a very active lifestyle so it’s important he stays fit and heathy,’ says Noble. ‘Training is a huge part of his life, and he uses Pilates to compliment his routine and to minimize the chances of getting injured’. 

Noble says that Pilates is also an important part of Style’s routine due to what’s demanded of him on stage from a physical aspect, and the amount of singing he is required to do. ‘As a singer, its important to keep your lungs fit and healthy, which Pilates really helps with, too. It’s low impact, and additionally helps to calm the central nervous system, which is so important when you are someone who is always on the go.’

Harry Styles workout: the Pilates moves that improve his posture and boost strength and flexibility

Want to train like Harry Styles and start reaping all the benefits that Pilates has to offer? Below, you’ll find five key Pilates moves from Gaby Noble that anyone can do at home to help build core strength, flexibility, and posture. Alternatively, book a class at one of Exhale Pilates’ two London studios.

1. The 100

Why: ‘This is a great exercise to boost circulation around your body because it is a breathing exercise. It works your lungs whilst pumping the body full of fresh oxygen and it will certainly wake your core muscles up’.

How:

  • Lie on your back with knees into your chest and arms stretched long by your side.
  • Inhale deeply as you feel your navel sinking into your spine, tailbone firmly planted on the floor
  • Lift your head to look at your navel, extend the legs to 45 degrees, keeping your heels together.
  • Start pumping your arms up and down, inhaling for 5 counts and exhaling for 5 counts.
  • Do this 50 times and then extend the legs to 90 degrees (only if your back doesn’t lift) for the remainder of the 50 pumps.
  • Finish by bending your knees into the chest, and gently lowering the head to rest.

2. Scissors

Why: ‘This is perfect for releasing tightness in the back of the legs. It also works on strengthening the core whilst stretching out the lower back’.

How:

  • Lift your head and shoulders off the mat, bringing your knees into your chest.
  • Extend the right leg to the ceiling and hold with both hands on the calf (or ankle if you can) as you stretch the other leg on the mat.
  • Anchor your spine to the floor and pull the raised leg towards you with a double pulse as you scoop.
  • Scissor the legs keeping them straight and repeat on the left leg.
  • Repeat this movement 5-10 times. 

3. Neck roll

Why: ‘This exercise is great to release tightness in the chest and reverse the signs of sitting and looking down at computers and phones! It is also great to open the front body, especially the hips’.

How: 

  • Lie on your stomach with your hands placed on the floor under your shoulders, elbows close to your body. Ideally keep your legs together. 
  • Inhale as you draw your navel to your spine and lift your head and chest off the floor.
  • Exhale as you continue the back stretch and straighten your arms. Keep lifting your chest and keep your neck long.
  • Inhale as you look to the left, circle the head down and around to the right and back to centre.
  • Exhale as you lower the body down to the floor, back to the start position.
  • Repeat this movement 3 times. 

4. Swimming

Why: ‘This exercise is ideal for waking up the glutes and important back muscles whilst stretching out the front of the body to support good posture’.

How:

  • Lie on your front with arms extended above your head on the floor. Legs are straight.
  • Lift left arm and right leg at the same time whilst everything else remains on the mat. Switch sides, making sure to activate your glutes and stretch your arms and legs away from a strong centre. Keep lifting your abdominals in and up to protect your spine (don't arch the back).
  • Lift the chest without crunching the neck (legs are together), then lift one arm and the opposite leg in a swimming motion up and down.
  • Make a vigorous swimming action for a count of 10. Rest and repeat.

5. Rolling like a ball

Why: ‘A great exercise to massage the spine. It will also test your balance and core muscles’.

How:

  • Sit with your knees bent to your chest, with knees slightly apart and heels together.
  • Lift your feet off the ground while lightly holding your ankles and balance on your buttocks – feet should be close to your buttocks, powerhouse scooped, and elbows wide. 
  • Inhale, pressing the navel to spine to initiate the rolling back.
  • Exhale to return to start position maintaining a ball position.
  • Repeat this movement six times and hold the last one for good balance. 

Jo has been obsessed with writing and fitness since her teenage years and spent all her pocket money on magazines and workout VHS tapes. When ITV cancelled Gladiators – causing her dreams of becoming the next ‘Jet’ to crash and burn - she decided to combine her passions and become a fitness writer instead. A qualified PT and author of several fitness guides, she has spent the last 15 years writing for many of the UK’s most respected newspapers, magazines, and online publications. When she’s not interviewing celebrities and athletes or testing fit kit, she can be found watching YouTube breakdowns of the latest MCU releases.