Updated: Jun 5, 2022
Pilates offers plenty of benefits for people of all fitness levels, from the everyday couch potato to the world-class athlete. As we always say, "Pilates is accessible to everyone and challenging for everyone". No matter who you are, Pilates offers the chance to improve your body, decrease pain and increase longevity. However, Pilates is becoming increasingly popular among elite athletes. Different sports athletes are turning to Pilates to help optimize their performance. From golf to football, athletes are relying on Pilates to help counterbalance their high-intensity training regimens as well as work on areas that may be neglected during their usual training sessions.
Benefits of Pilates for Athletes
Pilates offers athletes many benefits such as core training, injury prevention, lean muscle mass development, speeds injury recovery, and improved overall range of motion.
Anyone who has ever worked out in a gym knows that "abs" are a huge part of any workout regimen. Athletes are already aware of the importance of their "core" in their workout routines but Pilates might give them the perspective of using their core throughout their daily lives which includes playing their sport. Having a strong core will allow athletes to move quicker, especially laterally, and harness more power throughout their bodies. Whether they are throwing a baseball, football, or bowling ball, a strong core allows for greater mind-body connection, coordination and overall strength.
Elite athletes are hyper-aware of the importance of injury prevention. This could make or break their careers, allow them to play in championships, and/or allow them to score that big payday they have been working towards. Pilates can work to balance the body in a way that prevents it from getting severely injured. By creating flexibility along with strength, the muscles are happy and healthy. They are ready for anything, as opposed to being strong, tight and rigid. In Pilates, athletes will develop both fast twitch and slow twitch muscle groups which will also aide in injury prevention. (Just check out our video series on "Tempo"!) In addition, Pilates will work to give balance in the body from one side to the other. For example, in any sport that swings like golf, tennis, baseball, etc. a muscle pathway will overdevelop on one side of the body. In Pilates, we are always working to even ourselves from one side to the other, or from front to back. In exercises like the Roll Up, Push Down, and The Fish, it becomes very easy to notice an imbalance and work to improve upon it.
Lean Muscle Mass
Pilates works to build strength through a greater range of motion, through increased repetitions. This will naturally increase lean muscle mass, as opposed to the bulky muscle mass athletes typically build in the gym. When I think of lean muscles I immediately think of the Arm Weight Series, which would bring balance and strength to smaller muscle groups in the shoulders, chest, and back. This would directly benefit any athlete doing anything with their upper body! With as many squats as athletes typically do in the gym, they would greatly benefit from working through the abdominal series and lengthening their hip muscles such as the hip flexors, psoas, gluteals and hamstrings.
Speeds Injury Recovery
After injury, or in some cases surgery, athletes are usually prescribed physical therapy. I would argue that Pilates can be an extension of physical therapy long after the prescribed period is completed. By focusing on alignment and proper body mechanics, Pilates naturally lends itself to being a type of therapy for the body. By bringing balance and strength in all the right places, which includes a good bit of circulation and breath work, Pilates will get athletes back on the field stronger and quicker than most.
Improves Overall Range of Motion
Essentially, Pilates works to create a strong center and increased range of motion. More range of motion in sports can mean increased power. For example, in golf, a bigger swing translates into more power and velocity with which to strike the ball. Athletes are always pushing their bodies to the limit in order to win in their sport. Pilates will help them achieve this range of motion in a safe manner, with proper body mechanics, balance, and muscle memory to replicate it on the field.
In closing, Pilates mat exercises along with the apparatus exercises will keep athletes strong, balanced, and healthy in a way that their typical gym workouts can't. Check out our video series, "Tempo", "Neck and Shoulders", and "Stretch" for some great workouts that will benefit athletes of all kinds!