Whether it’s in team sports such as rugby or football, individual sports like tennis/athletics or endurance events (marathon running or rowing for instance), Pilates is playing a bigger and bigger role in elite sports.
More and more teams and athletes are making it a fundamental element of their training regime. In fact, incorporating Pilates into a training/exercise programme benefits sports people at all levels, withthree key advantages springing most obviously to mind:
1 Reducing the frequency and severity of injuries
By addressing postural issues through Pilates, athletes can avoid many common injuries.
Instability through the pelvis is a common cause of lower back pain. The cause is often postural; an anterior pelvic tilt (in plain English, a tendency to stick the bum out), which is often caused by tight hip flexors. This in turn shortens the lower back muscles and brings the hamstrings into a stretched position, leaving both vulnerable to injuries. Pilates is excellent for releasing the hip flexors, which will help bring the hips in to a more neutral position, and reduce strain through the back and hamstrings.
In addition, Dynamic Pilates (TenPilates’ trademark update of the classic system, that incorporates techniques from weight and circuit training into the programme) will not only strengthen the muscles around the hips, but progresses into more ‘functional’ exercises. This helps train the muscles to work more efficiently and effectively throughout a range of movements that replicate some of the actions and stresses common to many sports, for example lunges, squats and lateral movements.
Addressing these points can significantly reduce the prevalence of injury, both chronic and impact-related.
2 Increased body controls
The reformer is piece of exercise equipment specifically designed for Pilates and is a fundamental element of many Pilates programmes. It is designed to challenge the body in a variety of different ways, but in all of them, control is paramount. Reformer Pilates gives more feedback to the athlete than traditional weights, machine-based or mat workouts. This feedback helps build awareness of where the limbs are in relation to the rest of the body, and how to correct their position whilst moving. Pilates will also build awareness of which muscles are working and how to activate the ‘correct’ muscles to provide movement and stability.
These motor patterns are fine-tuned through repetition over time, and are directly transferable to the gym, pitch, court course or track.
3 Increased power output
The body cannot generate powerful movements from a position of instability. Increased core stability is one of the key benefits of all Pilates programmes, enabling athletes to channel and maximise their power more effectively.
The extra stability through the hips and core that Pilates develops can allow athletes to generate power from more unorthodox positions. A lot of exercises in Pilates are unilateral, generating strength and control in unstable positions even through an athlete’s ‘weak’ side.
Whiles Pilates offers clear and important advantages for elite sportsmen and women, the benefits are equally valuable for recreational sports people, because many of the underlying postural issues it addresses are actually more prevalent for them.
Eilte and professional athletes apart, we lead ever increasingly sedentary work lives. Training and playing for a couple of hours each day teamed with 12 hours sat on the phone, at a computer or on a train/plane is the perfect recipe for tight muscles, poor posture and muscular imbalances.
This makes it even more important for recreational sports and exercise enthusiasts to include Pilates based training into their regime to avoid injury and to aid optimal performance.