To shake off—literally and figuratively—the “girlie stigma” of group fitness classes, Plana Forma studio has come up with a men’s workout that’s high in intensity and motivation.
The emergence of a men’s class in the fitness world concurs with the new male ideal: the taut, sculpted, more functional body.
“If your intention is to build big biceps, this is not the place. We aim for strength, not bulk,” says Plana Forma training director Van Manalo, who designed Forma Men.
A former dancer-choreographer, Manalo was trained in New York by Tanya Becker, founder of Physique 57, a vigorous workout that combines dance, cardio, core and strength training, and isometrics or contractions to strengthen a muscle group.
When the Philippines adopted the program, it was patented as Plana Forma. The Plana Forma and its other fitness classes drew women who wanted lifted butts and trimmer thighs, with the heterosexual male population a minority.
During a men’s focus group discussion, the respondents pointed out that although the Plana Forma workout was challenging, they found some moves such as hip gyrations too feminine for comfort.
“These men can’t see themselves pointing their toes or doing arabesques,” says Plana Forma owner Christina Lagdameo. “They still wanted to work out the glory muscles—biceps, chests and abs. We incorporated exercises for those, but we maintained the isometrics which Plana Forma is known for. They like working out the muscles that aren’t normally targeted at the gym. The guys don’t exercise the inner thighs that much, but here, they feel the burn.”
In Forma Men, Manalo integrates many “guy things” such as the jumping jacks, variations of the dumbbell curls, and lifts and push-ups with Plana Forma’s signature exercises for the abdominals, butt and thighs. What makes them challenging are the intense periods of high repetitions while maintaining correct form and distribution of weight.
The quicker the muscle fatigues, the better its efficiency. Out of sheer exhaustion, first-timers tend to give up before the timed sequence.
Manalo cites a client who started out pudgy, but after a few months of diligent attendance in the Forma Men, has dropped down several clothes sizes and now has a neck.
The profile of Forma Men habitués are businessmen and executives in their 30s and 40s. They all go to the gym and play basketball and do other cardiovascular sports such as jogging and cycling.
Shock the body
Cary Lagdameo and his brother, José Manuel, are part of the Plana Forma founding team. For four years, the Plana Forma and Forma Men have boosted Cary’s endurance and improved his agility in basketball. The thigh exercises in Plana Forma improved his brother’s cycling.
“Physically, they have done wonders for the legs and core. I can rebound stronger in basketball. I don’t get tired as much so I can last longer throughout the game. Mentally, you learn to push yourself to the limit and embrace the pain and heat,” says Lagdameo.
On the distinction between the Plana Forma and Forma Men, he explains, “There’s a lot more chest here. That’s what guys tend to look for. The other big difference is that in the men’s class, you don’t do positions that are difficult for men but easier for women.”
Accustomed to the load of a campus athlete, Roberto Locsin has been looking for a vigorous workout. In Forma Men, he finds himself working at maximum effort. “You do the same exact positions in weight training. Here it’s faster and more controlled. It’s not about how heavy you lift in class. The goal is muscle endurance. It’s a great workout, especially for lazy people like me.”
Combined with a diet plan, the workout helped Locsin lose weight faster: “Seeing improvements, you get motivated to stick to the diet with a workout like this. My abs got more toned.”
To José Ma. Francisco Santos, the low-impact workout keeps him in shape while he’s recovering from an injury. “I had a recent injury on my heel from running. One doctor said it was due to tightness in my calf. I had to go for physical therapy. Meanwhile, I needed to exercise to burn off calories as much as I could. Forma Men gives a full body workout.”
Comparing it to the gym workout, Santos says he would hit the treadmill for 30 minutes to an hour, then spend another hour pumping iron. With Forma Men, less is more. He gets the cardio and weight-resistance training in 55 minutes.
Quito Lopez’s body had grown accustomed to the routine of the gym and basketball, such that it needed a waker-upper. His body was pleasantly shocked in Plana Forma and Forma Men.
“The same routine gets boring. The muscles have gotten used to the same exercises that they don’t respond anymore. I wanted to incorporate something like this,” he says.
In the gym, men are focused on building the upper body and tend to neglect utilizing the muscles around the stomach, the pelvis and thighs. “Honestly, I like it because it strengthened my core muscles,” says Lopez.
Aside from targeting the blubber, the workout helps men improve their flexibility and muscular balance, elements often overlooked in traditional men’s fitness.
When Raul Manglapus III started a few months ago, he was tight in the hip joints and hamstrings. The stretches and the exercises that target the smaller muscle groups have made him more supple and improved his muscular balance.
At the gym, he does a steady sequence of push-ups and weight resistance with rests in between. On the other hand, the Forma Men uses lighter weights, 12 pounds being the heaviest. Manglapus has to catch his breath because of the higher repetitions with minimal time for recovery.
He was also challenged by the leg raises and hip tucks. After a few months, he saw the results: “I feel stronger, especially in the core. I feel I won’t get easily injured.”
Another come-on is that a group fitness class conducted by an engaging teacher produces better results. An instructor with a keen eye will not hesitate to correct bad form.
Manalo observes that at the gym, people who aren’t supervised tend to use momentum instead of muscle control to lift heavy weights, or push too hard and compensate for weaker muscles by engaging the wrong muscles. In Forma Men, he’s always on the lookout that ribs don’t flare out in dumbbell shoulder presses and rowing exercises.
When they’re curling their biceps, he reminds the clients, “Focus on your posture. It’s tempting to lean back. I want to see core stability.”
Men can’t escape from the signature leg pulses on the barre. “Can you show some control, gentlemen?” he asks.
Moreover, men are less likely to dribble in the last sequence when they’re in a group. The company drives them to level up.
“You can cheat at the gym. Here, someone is pushing you. And it’s more fun because we’re with friends,” says Lopez.
Locsin lauds Manalo for encouraging the class. “Van is an incredible motivator. You look forward to a demanding workout after a tough week. This is like my happy hour.”
Plana Forma is at Jecoprime Building, 20th Drive, McKinley Business Park, Bonifacio Global City; tel. 0917-8094392 and 5530870; and 2G-21 G/F Centris Walk, Edsa corner Quezon Avenue, Quezon City; tel. 0917-5838022 and 7099174.