Pilates and Sports

Pilates has played a huge part of the fitness schedule of professional dancers and athletes in order to stay strong, flexible and to improve performance. Cristiano Ronaldo and Serena Williams are just two high-profile athletes that swear by the method to keep them injury-free and at the top of their game.

Align in Camana Bay offers Physiotherapy Led Pilates with Carol O’Brien. Here are several ways in which Carol and Pilates can help Cayman’s sports men and women.

Short hamstrings are a common side-effect of sports that involve short intervals of explosive power and speed, such as football and sprinting. But shortened and stiff muscles can have a negative impact on dexterity and speed. Pilates improve the flexibility of muscles by building long, strong muscles to avoid injuries and improve performance.

Rebalance the body
The majority of sports require the use of the same muscles in the same way repeatedly. Some sports, like running, force the body to move in a single direction. This makes it strong in one plane (straight ahead), but weak when it comes to movements in other planes, such as twisting, bending and side-stepping. All of this leads to imbalances in the body, which leave it more susceptible to injury.
Pilates moves the body in all planes and orientations, strengthening any underused muscles. Pilates also includes many unilateral movements (exercises that work each side of the body separately) to ensure that muscles are strengthened evenly. This makes it a helpful practice for creating equilibrium in the body.

More power
Pilates creates strength and stability in the hips, trunk and targets the deep stabiliser muscles. This helps tennis players and footballers to find stability and generate power – even when they’re thrown off-balance. A powerful trunk – developed through Pilates – can also help with energy transference. This helps a cyclist generate more power, allowing them to travel faster and further.

Efficiency of movement
Pilates is designed to teach the body to move in an optimal way. This benefit is advantageous in most sports, and especially those that require endurance.
Triathletes, for example, need efficiency of motion to be able to perform well in three different consecutive events. Pilates’s focus on optimal biomechanics is also of huge benefit to triathletes as it prevents overuse – and potential injury – to certain muscles. Its emphasis on functional strength and flexibility means that Pilates can also help with energy conservation. Obviously, this is a big plus for athletes competing in endurance events.

Injury prevention and recovery
Injuries are a common and costly problem for sports enthusiasts. Although some causes are unavoidable, imbalances, inflexibility, weaknesses and overuse of certain muscles are also contributing factors. Incorporating a regular session of Pilates into your training programme is a great way of preparing and conditioning your body.

Pilates benefits athletes – but it’s not just for them. For recreational tennis players, footballers and golfers, taking up Pilates can have huge benefits.

Increasingly sedentary lives mean that bodies everywhere are becoming stiffer, weaker and more imbalanced. It leaves weekend warriors playing sports at the end of a desk-bound week at risk of injury. But Pilates can help undo the damage of days spent hunched over your computer and keep you mobile .

A study my Bookethorpe et al 2018 recommended a lumbopelvic strengthening programme such as Pilates as part of the rehabilitation program for hamstring injury. Pilates can aid to build muscle capacity of the hamstrings in both the shortening and lengthening phase of the muscle contraction, this translates very importantly to the requirements of the muscle during the different phases of running. Pilates will also help to increase lumbopelvic stability and postural awareness.

Contact Carol O’Brien at Align in Camana Bay to learn more about our Pilates classes and schedules.


Infographic by YLM Sport Science

Infographic by YLM Sport Science

Eamon Wilson