If you walk into any Pilates class at any gym or health club, more likely than not the class will be dominated by women. While this trend has existed ever since Pilates started to become a popular exercise, men are quickly catching on to it’s benefits – including some of the world’s top athletes like LeBron James, Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant. It’s not just a couple of high-profile players, but entire professional sports teams from the NFL, NHL and the NBA are also getting in on the action.
“Pilates has become an essential part of our workout,” says LA Clipper’s coach Lawrence Frank. “Pilates is a game changer.”
Here are some of the benefits that Pilates is bringing to the field, court, or locker room:
In the Swing
Through a series of fluid, natural and full-range of motion movement, Pilates works by engaging and lengthening underused muscles to increase flexibility and strength. These motions promote better movement patterns, while improving overall mobility. Athletes undergo intense and grueling workouts that tighten the muscles, so Pilates is the perfect counter-balance workout to bring flexibility back to the body. Just take a look at Tiger’s swing – fluid, controlled and powerful. That’s Pilates at work.
Why is this a new trend? Athletes of all abilities are incorporating Pilates into their training routine not only for its core strengthening benefits, but also for injury rehab – and prehab (injury prevention). Pilates improves flexibility, builds strength, and develops control and endurance throughout the entire body. Especially for professional athletes whose careers and seasons depend on the health of the players, coaches and trainers are doing everything they can to prevent injuries and keep their athletes on their best game.
Professional athlete or not, adding Pilates to your routine also helps builds lean muscle mass while increasing tendon and ligament strength, lessening the possibility of overuse injury. Additionally, lean muscle burns calories more efficiently, and helps maintain ideal weight.
The Powerhouse Player
In Pilates parlance, the core is often referred to as the “Powerhouse.” All that lifting and ab work is a great thing, but usually at the expense of the back, hips, glutes, and pelvic floor. Lifting alone can lead to tightness and compression, which restricts movement. Now you know why your group fitness instructors are always telling you to suck your stomach in during an exercise, even if you’re not working solely on abs. It’s because the core is the structural foundation that holds the rest of the body together, generating stability, strength and control. The stronger your core, the better you’ll be able to work your other muscle groups without having to overcompensate and hurt yourself.
Over and Under
From professional to weekend warriors, many athletes are prone to overtraining. Repetitive use of the same muscle groups causes wear and tear on the body, while overuse of one side of the body excludes weaker muscle groups – resulting in imbalance. This is a recipe for injury. Adding Pilates into one’s routine restores muscular balance, creates better movement patterns, and lessens the likely of injury.
Pilates also creates space and lengthens one’s muscles, rebalancing the body by activating underused, smaller muscles that support the larger muscles. Quite simply, Pilates conditions the whole body, resulting in better mobility and strength “from the inside out” resulting in improved performance.
The Backbone’s Connected to The…
“We are only as old as our spine,” says Pilates inventor Joseph Pilates. A strong “powerhouse” is essential for balance and stability. Pilates helps protect the spine from daily wear and tear – including sitting. The spine is the central connecting point for the entire body, so keeping a healthy spine is crucial for making sure the rest of your body stays in sync.
Whatever sport you enjoy, whether you are a professional athlete or a soccer mom, Pilates will have a direct and positive impact on your performance – and general wellbeing. This refreshing mind/body activity improves concentration, works the whole body and lays a solid foundation for any activity or sport. When the core provides the power to the rest of the body, it’s only in your best interest to keep it strong.