Jun 2

Pilates and Sport

With all the talk of the Olympics tickets in London at the moment, it seemed appropriate to write some more about Pilates and sport. With stars like Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and the entire Nottinghamshire cricket team all using Pilates in their training regimes it is clear that the benefits are being recognised at top class levels and yet many people still think of Pilates as exercise that won’t push them enough.

Everyone knows that Pilates is great for core strength and so of course it is perfect for anyone who is active to complement their fitness regime with the exercises. However, there is more to gain than a stronger core. It is my belief that Pilates improves alignment and musculo-skeltal patterning to create more efficient movement patterns and therefore makes people less susceptible to injury. When the body works in a more aligned and functional manner, the neural pathways from the body to the brain can travel more directly and proprioception can be improved.

When Joseph Pilates created the Pilates method he intended to create a form of exercise that allowed the individual to realise their own physical possibilities, addressing specific weaknesses and imbalances by finding mental and physical harmony. Pilates has been characterised by the following principles: Concentration, Control, Centring, Precision, Flow of Movement and Breathing. All of these elements complement each other and intertwine to create a method that strengthens muscularly while re-patterning neural pathways between the mind and the body to create new movement patterns.  It is important for sports people to strengthen deeper muscles in order to stabilise the core, before moving onto the outer range of muscles. Most people who are active will be strong in the global muscles and therefore the core does not work as hard as it could as it is over taken by the stronger mobilising muscles.

Initially, exercises for sports people should train the local stabilisers in order to attain the ability to control single joint movement, before targeting global stabilisers with a greater load and finally progressing to more complex patterns involving the mobilising muscles. For example, when working on multifidi strength, begin with an arrow; move on to arrow with arm extensions then, when more advanced, move on to Swan on the wundachair. This example of gradual progression is important to give greater physical understanding and enable them to recruit the stabilisers before challenging them with complex movement patterns where more dominant global muscles are likely to dominate.

Here are just a few examples of sports men who credit Pilates with their improved fitness levels.

“On a personal note I have spent the last few seasons working hard on flexibility, and core strength. For this I have done regular … Pilates”. Ryan Giggs, Mens Health magazine

“I do an hour of Pilates a day. The medical set-up at Milan is fantastic and fitness-wise I am the best I have been for a long time.” David Beckham, The Sun

“…you are normally aiming for mid-August to peak at your fitness. So we’re doing specialist work, Pilates stuff. The lads are getting into it now. Ours is at the highest level in terms of intensity.” says Danny Murphy from Fulham on www.pilatesrehab.co.uk

Following an intensive study over the benefits of Pilates for sportsmen (more specifically American football players) it was found that “Overall, we felt the Pilates program provided an additional platform to assist football players in preventing injuries and increasing agility. These exercises are time efficient and require no additional equipment. Pilates exercises are a very simple way for teams to gain the edge they desire.” You can read the whole article at http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1410/pilates.htm

Also check out this great article on sports stars who do Pilates in America: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/2003-08-17-pilates_x.htm

“I love it. You are always looking on how you can improve yourself to play better and Pilates has made my back feel stronger and I look forward to a good stretch in my sessions. I haven’t suffered any injuries since I have been doing Pilates and I always feel better when I walk out than I did when I walked in!”. Marlon Harewood, West Ham player, West Sussex Guardian 2005

“At Bolton we have our own pilates teacher who comes in. I organised it and four or five of us do it, including Tal Ben Haim and Quinton Fortune. A few of the younger lads are also getting into it. I started doing it at Newcastle. Ryan Giggs, who was a Wales teammate, had been doing it because he has problems with his hamstrings and back. Craig Bellamy and a few lads did pilates and yoga at Newcastle. I’m fitter now than I ever have been.” Gary Speed, www.givemefootball.com

I hope I have made my point!! I am hoping to set up a ‘Pilates for Sport’ class in Islington soon so watch this space!

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2 Responses to Pilates and Sport

  1. Samantha Fitzgerald says:

    A lovely report, thank you

    I have been teaching Pilates (also I teach other disciplines) for about 10 years, I did my training with ‘Modern Pilates’ where I was trained by physiotherapists and sports specialists.
    After a lot of nagging I persuaded The Manager of a football team to let me do some Pilates with his team so most of last season 2010-2011 I was taking them for only half hour per week, the training staff felt that they couldn’t afford more time than this and so I was doing two classes of half hour (different players in each class)

    Even though I didn’t have half the amount of time that I needed to my job I still felt it was all worth while for them.

    They went up to the Premier League and felt Pilates had to be put to one side:( and yes injuries are happening regularly

    Now reading your report I hope you don’t mind that I will show this to the Manager in the hope that it will change his mind and see that Pilates is hugely important to his boys

    Thank you once again

    Sam Fitzgerald

  2. Grace says:

    I’m so pleased you found it useful Sam and hope it helps the manager to realise how great Pilates can be for sportsmen (and women). It seems amazing to me that there are still people who need to be convinced but I hope you manage it! Do let me know how it goes and feel free to share your positive results on here – I am sure you will have great success with reducing injury rates if you are given the chance and it would be great to have some further evidence to show how much Pilates can help!

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