Pilates is a great workout on its own, but Pilates also makes for an effective cross-training activity that athletes can and should incorporate into their training or at least to supplement it. That’s because the practice improves overall fitness and targets specific muscle groups, enhances flexibility, reduces risk of injury, and introduces a new level of variety to workouts.
Given all these benefits, let’s take a look at how Pilates can help improve your game in these five sports:
Running is possibly the most accessible sport, which explains its enduring popularity across the world. To improve as a runner, however, optimizing running performance is key, and a recent study has found Pilates can increase your ability to use up oxygen more efficiently and sustain high oxygen consumption. This allows runners to cover longer distances without feeling as if their muscles are failing.
Through the core-focused Pilates exercises, runners can also develop greater stability in their form, which can go towards preventing lower back pain — an issue that is unfortunately all too common among regular runners. Pilates exercises provide greater balance, which helps prevent falls or missteps that can lead to serious injuries in running. Avoiding pain and trauma is especially important in the long run because Maryville University predicts that the shortage of primary care physicians will surpass 100,000 in the next six years. This means that there will be fewer experts who can address running-related injuries, which seem to be creeping up in numbers over the last decade. In fact, about 60% of runners experience acute or chronic injuries, a lot of which can be prevented with a stronger core and better posture that Pilates can definitely help with.
As a sport, swimming is also very much dependent on core strength. An athlete needs stability in their torso to be able to generate more powerful strokes and streamline their position underwater. Aside from power, a stronger midsection is also key to improving speed, especially in those fast tight turns that can make or break a race.
On top of that, swimmers can also benefit from the breathing techniques practiced in Pilates. They can learn how to coordinate each stroke with each breath, as breathing techniques are essential in both Pilates and swimming. The better a swimmer’s breathing pattern is, the more efficient their moves can be.
When it comes to golf, strength and mobility are important aspects of training and in improving as a player. To achieve these, golf and fitness instructor Karen Palacios-Jansen recommends Pilates reformer classes over weightlifting. Mainly because Pilates machines are very versatile and can be used for different types of Pilates exercises that improve posture, flexibility, balance, and endurance all at once.
Golfers, in particular, can focus on loosening their mid to upper back to generate better rotation through time. Shoulder rotation, combined with hip mobility and core control, are keys to a more functional golf swing that doesn’t induce pain in any of the joints and muscles in the upper body — ensuring that you will not only play better but also for longer.
Elite tennis players like Maria Sharapova are avid fans of Pilates for a reason – it helps them gain a competitive advantage over their opponents. For tennis players, Pilates loosens tight muscles, which effectively increase an athlete’s range of motion. Given that there’s a lot of rotation involved in playing tennis, a steady Pilates practice thus ensures that an athlete can keep up or even dictate the pace of each game.
Football involves a lot of running, and although it is a contact sport and running isn’t, both have high injury rates. That’s because despite football’s reputation for being a very aggressive sport with a lot of high risks, not all the injuries sustained are caused by high impact.
Take for example NFL player Antonio Brown, who is turning to Pilates in order to relieve muscle tension and increase flexibility. Remember that lifting heavy weights to increase muscle mass — and become a bigger threat on the gridiron — is part of being a football player. However, the side effect of this focus on weights is that it’s common to see a lack of flexibility among these athletes due to the sheer size of their muscles. Their intense workouts often translate to prolonged muscle soreness that can compromise their posture and lead to injuries. Luckily, Pilates is a great way to relieve muscle tension, elongate muscle fibers, and the reduce chances of injury — all great benefits that can improve a football player’s longevity and overall ability to cope with the rigors of the modern game.
Written by Tracey Craig