Written by Selena Deleon
AS sport evolves, we have seen more than one professional athlete pick up on the benefits of Pilates to their game strategy.
As a cross-training tool, the slower approach to Pilates benefits the deep core stabilisers which assist in grounding the body during other exercise activities.
Finding greater range of movement in joints and strengthening joints aid in keeping your body free of injuries and promotes good balance, which not only gives the masters an edge, it also steers them away from costly injuries. In most high-profile cases, it pays to slow down.
The many faces of pilates
As an approach to fitness and strength, Pilates can also benefit people who are motivated to use Pilates as an advantage for their primary sporting activity.
Running — building and stretching the muscles of the feet, ankles and calves, is crucial for averting injuries. The more power you get from each step and push off of the ground, the faster you can move. The added benefits of core strengthening and balancing strength over a wider range of muscles in the lower body, improves running times by miles.
Football — Cristiano Ronaldo is the modern-day poster boy for Pilates, and when interviewed, has touted this element of his training as his secret weapon. Hip flexor and hamstring injuries are prevalent in the elite football world, but thanks to his awareness and his Pilates regime, he is leading the way for a better future population of legendary footballers.
Golfing — the swing is directed straight from the core. Turning with power is dependent on the availability of range of motion in the hips and ribcage, not to mention the mobility in the shoulders and scapulae. So if you spend a lot of time sitting down, it will limit the extent of your golf game, and poor posture in the mix does not help. Every golfer knows that Tiger Woods and many other elite professional players do not do go without a daily dose of Pilates to keep them strong from the inside, flexible and light on their feet.
Squash — No other sport taxes the joints as dynamically as squash. To be the best at this sport, ankle strength and overall flexibility are of particular interest. The squash player's treasure trove is in his reach. To dependably give more length to get to those impossible drop shots consistently, there is no better tool than Pilates for this. Training the scapulae to glide easily around the ribs, with a strong core providing the ability to torque and master the seemingly impossible lengths, there is so much more available for this sport. These benefits are also applicable to tennis.
Cycling — a long interval of repetitive motion, coupled with constant flexion in the spine, can bring on injuries if not kept in check. The hips are particularly vulnerable and can eventually cause back pain. Bringing balance to your routine will not only alleviate strain and tension, but it can improve riding times by building strength along the back of the legs, providing more power in a pedal stroke.
Weightlifting — Loading the joints to increase strength is good, if the joints are being set up properly. Improper alignment can put you at risk for an injury and cause the body to overcompensate and morph itself in such a way that the effects are not felt for years after.
Pilates is a resistance-based exercise that uses tension to strengthen and stretch, allowing the body to develop a longer, stronger, leaner form, plus it is a “low-impact” total body workout that focuses on strengthening the core and elongating rather than bulking musculature.
The added benefit of the stretching aspect of Pilates will deliver a more balanced training programme; it is recommended to include Pilates one to two times per week, especially if you are training hard.
Let me bottom-line it for you: The more you train, the more you need Pilates!