Did you know that athletes do Pilates? Or have you always thought that Pilates is just for "girls"?
Actually, Joseph Pilates was a professional boxer who extensively trained competitive athletes in the fields of boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, circus arts, dance, as well as actors, police officers and people of all walks of life. The Williams Sisters, Tiger Woods, John England, the New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, the Green Bay Packers, the Detroit Lions, the Milwaukee Brewers, and closer to home, the UC Berkeley Golden Bears, all use Pilates as an integral part of their training.
Why is Pilates such a great form of strength training for athletes? Pilates is a method designed to strengthen the core while increasing whole body strength, flexibility, and balance while emphasizing healthy body mechanics. Many commonly used training regimens utilize high repetitions with
heavy weights, followed by stretching (hopefully) to prevent the tightening of muscles. In contrast, Pilates emphasizes short reps focused on perfect form and the "eccentric" contraction of the muscle. (An eccentric contraction occurs when the work of the muscle happens while it is lengthening, versus shortening.) The result? A workout with the perfect balance of strength and flexibility, a newly found awareness of one's body in space, topped off with the training of solid, healthy body mechanics. And healthy, balanced body mechanics create a smart and efficient quality of movement that allows you to throw the ball farther, run faster, and jump higher.
Athletics (and life) requires the dynamic, multi-dimensional movement of our bodies. In sports, movements are not simple and two-dimensional. Tackling and hitting require rotation and torquing in any given direction with force. That means that two-dimensional bicep or hamstring curls and crunches don't translate into the dynamic, multi-dimensional movements needed for the power and agility of high performance sports. Athletes need to strengthen their muscles in multiple planes and alignments in order to throw a ball effectively, swing a bat, dismount off of an apparatus, sprint towards home, or defy injury of a hard hit.