Are you an athlete that physically pushes your body?
Such athletes are individuals that train hard in one discipline–marathons, triathlons, iron-man, cross-fit, MMA, tennis, baseball, football, basketball, swimming, boxing, etc.
Typically, such an individual spends most of their time training specifically for that discipline and little or no time on other physical activities. There is nothing wrong with having a passion for a sport and working hard to achieve goals, but there are often negatives associated with focusing in only one area of physical development.
- Constant repetitive use of the same muscle groups
- Exclusion of muscle groups not used in the sport of choice
- Possible focus of only one side of the body
- Wear and tear on the body from excessive training
Pilates for the Athlete addresses these and other issues associated with overtraining in a specific sport.
Hard-core athletes have little or no time to add an additional discipline into their already hectic world of training. Yet, finding time for Pilates can provide benefits that are worth the effort. Many professional athletes have added Pilates to their athletic regimen and have found that it has taken their performance to the next level.
I would consider Joseph Pilates an athlete. Early in his life Pilates was known as a skilled gymnast and boxer. The training for both sports provided Pilates with personal insight in the physicality needed to achieve success. His athletic experience provided Pilates a personal understanding of the body’s need to expand training beyond the demands of one particular sport. Pilates understood that the body needed other physical elements in order to train efficiently and achieve maximum performance in a sport. Hence, the creation of his work – The Pilates Method.
The body needs balance and harmony. Hard-core athletes often fail to address balance and harmony in their training regimen. Eventually, such neglect can cause an athlete’s body to reject the demands of a particular sport triggering temporary or permanent injury. Many extreme athletes have avoided this possibility by adding The Pilates Method to their training regimen.
In a perfect world athletes would find time to include a Pilates routine in their workout. But, in reality, extreme athletes have little time to add more training into their life. Therefore, the focus needs to be on teaching athletes how to implement Pilates in their current routine thus preventing future damage to the body and creating a longer longevity for the sport they love.
So, how is this accomplished?
Following are three concepts from The Pilates Method that all athletes should seriously consider when extreme training for a sport. Attention to these concepts will provide the athlete with increased athletic capabilities, performance, injury prevention and longevity.
1. Importance of the Feet
The feet are a true reflection of what is going on in the body. The feet hold the weight of the body. Begin with finding time for your feet.
Joseph Pilates understood this concept and developed a footwork routine that can be performed on all Pilates apparatus. Footwork routines involve the entire foot; the ball, arch and heel. Each area of the foot must be addressed for two reasons — alignment and reflexology.
- Proper alignment of the foot provides an athlete with a strong base to support the demands of their training and sport. Misalignment can lead to injury of muscles in other parts of the body.
- Reflexology – the feet connect to every other part of your body. Joseph Pilates understood this concept and would spit out words such as the kidney, heart, etc. when individuals performed different positions of footwork drawing attention to the connection between the feet and other areas of the body.
This Pilates Method concept is important to an athlete because 99% of the time spent in training and performance the feet are engaged. Do you take time to nurture your feet? Strengthen & stretch? Following are a few movements from pre-Pilates that can address key areas of the feet and can easily be added to any exercise regimen.
Pilates Exercises for an Athletes
- Ankle Circles in both directions
- Moving through the sections of the feet: Point, Flex, Curl, Fan
2. Core movement
What comes to mind when you hear the word core?
Abdominals? Six pack?
No, think again.
The core is the structural foundation that holds the rest of the body together and generates stability, strength, & control. The core consists of not only the abdominals, but the back, the hips, the pelvic floor, and gluteus. A strong core prevents other parts of the body from being compromised.
For an athlete, understanding the importance of the core and the power it provides to the rest of the body can only be a benefit. Without a strong core, other parts of the body are at risk of injury, especially with excessive training. Pilates provides the knowledge needed to grasp the concept of moving from the core. Following are a few Pilates mat movements to improve core strength that any athlete can easily add to their daily routine.
Pilates Exercises for an Athletes
- the hundred,
- roll up,
- roll over
- rolling like a ball,
- single leg stretch,
- double leg stretch,
- spine stretch,
- spine twist
“Breathing is the first act of life, and the last… above all, learn how to breathe correctly.” – Joseph Pilates
Breath provides oxygen to our body and allows us to perform at peak levels. Oxygen is also required to repair cells after excessive training. So why would any athlete not want to learn proper breathing techniques?
More often than not, one lung works harder than the other. For athletes participating in one-sided sports such as tennis, golf, etc. this is often a factor. When training for such a sport one side of the body is more developed than the other. Other athletes may experience similar situations when one side of their body is more dominant than the other. For that reason, all athletes need to learn proper breathing techniques to perform at their highest potential.
Proper use of both lungs will provide the athlete with a higher capacity to perform. The breath provides energy to the body and allows the body to push beyond its normal limits. Lack of oxygen in any part of the body decreases circulation and movement thus causing other issues such as injury, fat storage, disease, etc. So, as an athlete seeking optimum performance, why not learn how to breathe properly? There are many breathing concepts, but the primary issue of all concepts is the importance of properly inhaling and exhaling in order to achieve maximum capacity. Learning this concept is extremely beneficial and will improve an athlete’s performance. Following is one Pilates mat movement that will help all athletes achieve proper breathing techniques.
Pilates Exercise for an Athletes
This article has provided a sampling of how Pilates can help all athletes achieve optimum performance. Laura Browning Grant will be teaching a Pilates for the Athlete workshop (PMA approved – 8 CECs) in Raleigh NC on May 17, 2015. To learn more or to attend a full course on Pilates for the Athlete check out www.laurabpilates.com
Thank you .
Great post! Very informative and well written.
I think it’s really cool to see the many benefits pilates can bring to athletes. For example, the article states that pilates can help improve core strength. Most sports require a good amount of core strength, so this would be an obvious benefit of adding pilates to a training routine. I’ll have to pass on the tip to my friend who is training to become a better collegiate athlete.