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Pilates for Sports Performance

Pilates is the key resource athletes use to enhance athletic performance, improve technique and prevent injuries.  The principles used in Pilates will enhance the athletes training and improve their reflexes, strength and stamina. Professional sports teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Milwaukee Brewers, and many more all incorporate Pilates as a cross-training regimen.

Physicians of Sports Medicine have come to realize the importance of efficiency of movement.  When we observe top athletes one thing stands out: these athletes make their performance appear effortless.  Joseph Pilates' philosophy is centered around the ease, efficiency, and quality of movement.  Pilates is an excellent way to bridge the gap between movement philosophy, sports biomechanics, and injury.

"Contrology is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work. You will develop muscular power with corresponding endurance, ability to perform arduous duties, to play strenuous games, to walk, run or travel for long distances without undue body fatigue or mental strain."

Joseph Pilates

Why does Pilates work for Athletes?

Most athletes' strength is in their larger muscle groups, and simply doing squats and sit-ups will not strengthen the smaller stabilizing muscles that surround the joints.  Unlike weight training, which strengthens large muscle groups, allowing the larger muscles to take over and get stronger while the smaller stabilizing muscles continue to weaken, Pilates focuses on strengthening an athlete's core and smaller stablizing muscle groups.  Pilates movements are more complex and therefore involve small and large muscle groups with each exercise.  As a result, athletes achieve greater range of joint motion while stretching, as well as overall strengthening the muscles.  Through specific Pilates exercises that are tailored for each athlete, specific flexibility, strength and speed goals will be achieved.

The Pilates Method, is known for its amazing core strengthening abilities.  In his youth, Joseph studied and became a well accomplished body builder, diver, skier, gymnast and boxer.  By the age of 14, he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts.  Joseph said that strength comes from your "Powerhouse," which consists of the abdominals, hips and glutes. Joseph saw the breath, spine, and Powerhouse as the root to perfect fitness and health.  His goal was to develop the body uniformly; he believed that every person is an athlete and we all should strive to be strong and healthy.

Whether your sport is football, baseball, basketball, or golf, all athletes need power, flexibility, balance, stamina, concentration, and precision.

Joseph Pilates called his method "Contrology." That is, "it's the mind that controls the muscles."  Pilates is known for its amazing abdominal, or "Powerhouse," and glute strengthening abilities.  Without strong abdominals and glutes, there can be no power, stability, speed or optimal use of arms or legs. Pilates also works on developing body awareness/proprioception so that the athlete consistently maintains ideal postural alignment. Standing in correct alignment is challenging, but maintaining proper alignment while moving in different planes is even more difficult. Pilates works to balance the body and develop muscular symmetry.

Too often, the abdominals and deep glute muscles are ignored or improperly trained in sports training programs. Most athletes are not aware of how greatly their on-field performance can improve when their core strength is trained correctly. Using the Powerhouse generates real power in push off, rotation or quick chance execution. By transferring the energy used in the powerhouse to the extremities, more power will be realized in the swing, stride or quick-start. Pilates is not about building large, bulky muscles, but rather flexible muscles that can be used effectively and efficiently.

Flexibility training should also be a part of every serious athlete’s training program. Many athletes skip this step as they feel flexibility is not important in achieving their peak performance. In order for the body to perform correctly under the extreme demands of different sports, it is important that your muscles are long and flexible enough to withstand the required range of motion.  Enhancing range of joint motion reduces injuries and improves performance and technique. Tight muscles can have severe consequences to overall performance, in addition to being the cause for low back pain and joint injury. Pilates is a great way to cross-train for all types of sports and activities.

At The Pilates Center of Oklahoma, LLC, your sport specific session will be tailored based on specific sport interests and needs to enhance performance. Pilates students will learn the fundamentals of Pilates, developing the Powerhouse and proper alignment, and how these principles can be applied to each specific sport. After a few Pilates sessions, existing imbalances due to improper workout techniques will become obvious, and steps can be taken to release tight, overworked muscles and strengthen the weaker ones. By incorporating Pilates into your daily exercise regime it will enhance your performance in your sport and help in the prevention of injury.

Depending on your goals, various types of apparatus from traditional Pilates equipment to foam rollers, weighted balls to BOSU--students will receive a well-rounded session. A consistent Pilates regimen will ensure that proper strengthening and stretching becomes an integral part of your cross-training program. Students will develop mind/body concentration while strengthening their Powerhouse. Tight muscles will lengthen and promote healthy blood circulation and greater range of motion within the joints. The strength developed with Pilates will better prepare the joints to manage the repetitive stresses joints must handle during intense training. Balancing the body will help to prevent injuries that might occur when stress is placed on an unstable structure. The end result is a strong, flexible and symmetrically muscled body that is strengthened from the inside out.

Pilates has endless application for all types of sports and activities. Here are some more benefits of Pilates:

  • Strengthen the Powerhouse for a steady swing and stabilize the spine.  

  • Minimize risk of lower back injury by strengthen deep abdominal and spine muscles, while improving postural habits

  • Strengthen glutes and quadriceps for running and jumping

  • Increase quadriceps flexibility

  • Increase hamstring flexibility to prevent hamstring tears

  • Increases athletes stride

  • Improve leg endurance and strength

  • Improve rotation of the torso and shoulder to create greater energy. Tight shoulders and chest muscles can increase the risk of shoulder and neck pain, shorten your reach and cause poor posture

  • Strengthen upper and lower arm

  • Strengthen and stabilize the shoulder girdle to prevent shoulder injury (rotator cuff tears)

  • Effectively correct the strength imbalances.

  • Improve breathing, which provides greater circulation and stamina

  • Most athletes take shallow, quick breaths that fatigue the muscles and leave athletes winded. Pilates breathing oxygenates the blood efficiently to get to the muscles, to make the muscles work at maximum capacity.

Pilates challenges the body and mind to work from the inside out, to create a strong foundation and to correct weaknesses. Pilates has endless applications for all sports. Come see why so many coaches and athletes are drawn to Pilates.

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