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Pilates - Sport's Worst Kept Secret?

 

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For years Pilates has been in the press as the exercise of choice for various models and actresses. However more recently you may have seen more and more sports people and teams revealing the importance Pilates plays in their training regime.

Athlete's incorporate Pilates into their training for many reasons- Durability- reducing injuries/ recovering quicker. By addressing postural issues through Pilates, athletes can avoid many common injuries. A common postural issue is an anterior pelvic tilt, this is often caused by tight hip flexors. This in turn shorterns the lower back muscles and brings the hamstrings into a stretched positon, leaving both vunerable to injuries. Releasing the hip flexors will help bring the hips in to a more neutral position, reducing strain through the back and hamstrings.

Weak or inhibited glutes (Bum Muscles) are often to blame for (and the key to 'rehabing') many back, knee and ankle problems.Dynamic pilates not only strengthens glutes directly, but progresses into more ‘functional’ exercises. This helps train the muscles to work correctly throughout common movement patterns in many sports, for example lunges squats and lateral movements.

Increasing body control/ proprioception using the reformer challenges the body in different ways, whether that’s using the moving carriage or the spring loaded loops. Either way control is paramount.

The machines give more feedback to the athlete than the weights, machines or mat workouts. This feedback helps build awareness of where the limbs are in relation to the rest of the body, which muscles are working and how to activate the ‘correct’ muscles.

The motor patterns are fine tuned over time and are directly transferable to the gym, pitch, court course or track! increasing power output The body cannot generate powerful movements from a position of instability. The increased core and limb stability associated with Pilates helps athletes channel and maximise their power.The extra stability through the hips and core can allow athletes to generate power from more unorthodox positions.

A lot of exercises in Pilates are unilateral (one sided), generating strength and control in unstable positons even through an athletes ‘weak’ side. It could be said that the above issues are more prevalent in recreational sports people. This can be due to an ever increasingly sedentary work life. Training and playing for a couple of hours each day teamed with 12 hours sat on the phone/ at a computer/ on a train/plane is the perfect recipe for tight and/or weak muscles, poor posture and muscular imbalances.

This makes it even more important to include Pilates based training into their regime to avoid injury and to aid optimal performance.

By Danny Burke 


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