07 Oct How Pilates Can Improve Your Performance In These 10 Sports
Skiing, swimming, tennis… the list goes on. It doesn’t matter which sport you love, intensifying your Pilates practice will ultimately improve your performance
Increased strength. Explosive power. Better flexibility. Increased range of motion. Faster speed. Injury prevention. Performance improvement. Better posture. Solid balance. Is Pilates starting to sound good yet?
The world over, athletes are realizing the benefits of Pilates – and often yoga combined – when it comes to preparing them for the strenuous activity. From NFL teams to London Irish Rugby, sports professionals are turning to Pilates to improve flexibility, balance and strength as well as help with recovery and injury rehab.
Here we list ten sports and how Pilates can improve performance in them.
Pilates is a preventative treatment and conditioning for the body to keep it strong and injury-free. Classes awaken and reconnect different parts of the body as Pilates focuses on different muscles beyond the same group overused when racking up the miles. Read: save your hips and knees!
The mental benefits from Pilates come from feeling well physically and understanding where the body is, at any point in time. During long runs and races, the ability to connect with your core, feet and the whole body through what you learn from Pilates boosts your stamina and ability to recruit other muscle groups. Read long-time runner Petrina Steains’ experience under the tutelage of Flex Director Heather Thomas Shalabi here: Pilates for Runners.
Pilates emphasises elongating the muscles and creating space between the joints, while simultaneously building stability. Increased range of motion can help prevent injury and promote career longevity. Especially for those in highly mobile positions, like wide receivers, Pilates can facilitate more efficient movement on the field. NFL receivers like Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson use Pilates to their advantage, some as a complement to their weight training, and some as their primary method of strength training.
To excel at and enjoy dragon boating, ideally you need endurance, strength, power and coordination. Pilates exercises enhance your performance on the water while in the studio. Of course at the same time they’ll give your body that Pilates renowned alignment, spine articulation, mobility and stability and all-over body strength, control and tone. Read: The 4 Best Pilates Exercises For Dragon Boaters
Swimming is a very technique-driven sport requiring power, control and correct body alignment to glide through the water. Pilates can help improve performance in the pool by enhancing core control, flexibility, breathing and body strength. Pilates also complements strength and endurance workouts as it keeps the spine mobile and helps keep one in check with alignment. Mobility sure helps with the shoulders for swimming too, and Pilates exercises that increase your range of thoracic rotation and pelvis mobility improve rotation in the water. And let’s not forget about how it helps breathing, one of the most important aspects in both Pilates and swimming 101! Click here for our recommended exercises to help you explode off the blocks and through the water this summer.
Racquet sports: Tennis, Badminton, Ping Pong, Squash
Pilates is all about core stability and lengthening or strengthening the muscles to give a strong body. As tennis is a fast, high-impact and all-over sport, Pilates enables one to recruit from the core and use other stabilisers such as obliques or glutes to increase power or longevity in the game. Pilates brings an overall understanding of the body and the muscles needed to use for different positions or shots. If you just used the same global muscles for every shot, the body would wear out faster. This could lead to pain in the back or hip, or one could land the wrong way for the shot, causing further injury. Read Rhonda Scott’s experience here.
Pilates works on core strength and overall flexibility to improve one’s golf game. Golfers who start Pilates will be able to see the benefits in less than two months, with improved flexibility and a longer range of drive. Different to working out in the gym, Pilates can additionally improve one’s golf game by working on physical balance, strength and control as well as mental composure. And, significantly, it’s known to cure golf-induced back pain! Read: Pilates and Golf – The Perfect Match
Pilates would help you with your technique, posture, strength, balance, agility, mobility, flexibility, post activity recovery, and keep you ahead of your game! For skiers in particular, the whole Pilates system is great as it involves a lot of extension and rotation, which does wonders as skiing requires you to move your body in ways that you just don’t need to do everyday. Read: Pilates for Skiing
Pilates has proven to be a powerful cross-training secret for triathletes. Former competitive swimmer and triathlete Ashly Wenzel became a certified Pilates instructor upon seeing the benefits of the practice firsthand. After being hit by a car on a training ride, Wenzel turned to Pilates as a way to stay active without taxing her injured body. When she returned to competition, she discovered her cycling strength exceeded her pre-accident levels.
According to Wenzel, Pilates helps to alleviate pain caused by endurance sports and strengthens the essential muscles that make you a stronger cyclist, faster runner, and more efficient swimmer. It develops stability, strength and flexibility – all needed to gain speed and prevent injury.
Yoga is as comprehensive a system as it gets; however, it doesn’t have the ‘pull’ movement or sharp focus on core that Pilates has. The latter can fast track your progress to more advanced asanas by working the powerhouse and toning the muscles – especially in the upper body – that you need to reach them. Think being able to open your chest more fully, lengthening the spine in ways you have never experienced and holding poses for much longer.
Having strong legs or arms for example in yoga can lead you to depend on them to compensate for a weak midsection. Pilates forces you to isolate and gain a deeper awareness of core strength, leading to greater control over each movement; and discover that center of gravity that allows one to glide in and out of the pose with increased fluidity and grace.
“In Pilates, we say the periphery comes out of the core,” says former dancer Bob Liekens, a yoga teacher and the education director of Power Pilates in New York. “Most of the energy in yoga is out in the periphery, but in Pilates, we learn how to bring it back to the center and send it out again.”
Are you one of those “weekend warriors” who crams their entire week of working out into a two-day blitz on Saturday and Sunday? Sure horseback riding, kitesurfing, windsurfing, sailing or any of these are a great workout, but you definitely need to balance out the wear and tear of the muscle by toning them during the week. The message is always the same: develop a Pilates practice to benefit your body in a way that will help prevent injury and increase your enjoyment and passion for what you love to do best.
How does it do this? Pilates works on very deep, specific muscle groups to ensure that everything is ‘talking’ to each other. There is a reason why we call Pilates intelligent exercise; it works to educate participants on all parts of the body needed to improve or excel at movement.
Have you tried Pilates yet? Do you want to properly balance out your sports training with a strengthening yet rehabilitating practice? Has Pilates benefited your sport performance? Let us know! If you’re looking to explore Pilates as a way to complement or improve your sport, check out our latest promotions at Flex Studio Hong Kong, the city’s only Classical Pilates centre. flexhk.com/promotions