If you are serious about your sport you should be serious about Pilates!

 

One of the sacred fundamentals for a good golf swing is your posture” - Tiger Woods

Is Pilates beneficial to sportsmen? I'm a golfer, rugby player, tennis player, GAA player etc. can Pilates benefit me? Can Pilates help my performance?

The answer to all these questions is YES?

Pilates was developed by a man, Joseph Pilates, for men. Initially, when interned in the Isle of Man during World War I, all of his students were men. During his early days as a teacher in New York most of his clients were men, many of them were boxers, wrestlers and skiers. Pilates has developed over the years as a means of training for many top athletes whether they are male or female. Many of the most prominent Pilates instructors teaching today are men. Golfers such as Tiger Woods & Lee Westwood, Cyclists such as Levi Leipheimer and Mens Health Magazine are all strong believers in the benefits of Pilates for men.

Due to the increased popularity of Pilates classes in recent years, mostly attended by women, the unfortunate belief has developed that Pilates is an exercise regime better suited to women.  Although the increased popularity has been of benefit to the Pilates industry as a whole, the belief that it is a woman’s exercise has meant men are less likely to try it. Thankfully it does seem that in the last few years this trend has reversed, many more men are realising its benefits.

Why Pilates works for Men & Sports?

Pilates works on core strength, flexibility, balance, and efficient movement; all highly relevant to men’s fitness. The movements are slow and integrated, using the entire body, as opposed to the one muscle group focus that exercise regimes such weightlifting use. The emphasis on core training makes Pilates a great means of stabilising the truck and protecting the back.

Today the sports world accepts the advantages of using the Pilates Method to build strength without excess bulk, improve flexibility, agility and economy of motion.  Premier football clubs and professional rugby clubs use Pilates as part of their regular training, some go so far as to make it part of their contract with the club. Pilates is also used to prevent and reduce injury, this is important for the professional sportsman/woman to stay in the game or profession.

Pilates in Golf

Tiger Woods Back Swing Those involved in rotational sports, such as golf use Pilates to enable quality of movement as required  by their game. Every PGA professional or supporter will know that P.G.A. stands for Posture, Grip,  Alignment; the principles and physics that the golf swing is built on. A Pilates programme is aimed  straight at the first principle of your golf swing, which is correct posture. Note from the photo to the  right how TigerWoods' torso is still centered between his feet, only the upper body has shifted to the  right, while the lower body (pelvis area) hasn't moved much. If you set up to the golf ball with poor  posture, you have to compensate during your swing in order to bring the club back to a square  position. In other words, you will need to make adjustments because of the initial misalignment.

Pilates in Rugby

Irish Scrum with correct posture With demanding rapid directional changes often at near-maximum pace, an inflexible physique is a hindrance. Rugby forwards must also possess the ability to deliver controlled power from the unbalanced   body positions adopted in the scrum, note the straight backs of the Irish team in the scrum. A Pilates  programme can greatly improve general mobility and enhance core strength while easing the stress placed on the neck and spine during intense scrummaging. Weight training is an essential aspect of training for players; yet a body that has been bulked up in the gym can become rigid and restricted in its range of movement.  A growing number of rugby players, including the All Blacks include Pilates as in their training schedules a way of improving co-ordination, mobility and flexibility, as well as for both recovering from injuries and preventing them in the first place.

Pilates for Everyone

If you’re already active you will find that Pilates acts as a great basis for whole body conditioning, you will discover it is a natural cross-training exercise. If you are just starting exercise for the first time or coming back after a long break you will find Pilates classes a challenge, you will improve your strength and flexibility with each class. If you returning to exercise after a debilitating injury, you will find that Pilates allows you to challenge your body without aggravating the injury. Pilates will complement any existing exercise regime or lifestyle.

Pilates and Cancer

Prostate cancer is one of the most common diseases in men over 50 years of age. It is believed that the deterioration of the pelvic floor muscles can be a contributing factor in its onset. By practicing Pilates, the muscles can be effectively strengthened, and as a result, the risk of prostate cancer lessened. Pilates has also been shown to enhance sexual function in both men and women. As a result, sexual dysfunction may be decreased through Pilates practice.

Tips for Men & Pilates

  1. As a man you will more than likely be outnumbered by women in a class.
  2. Pilates training is the same for men and women. It is based on teaching the body to move in a healthy way.
  3. Men might find that some muscles, such as hips and hamstrings, are not as flexible as women’s. Exercises can be modified to allow you to develop the necessary flexibility and stretch out these muscles.
  4. Pilates requires subtle movements and smaller adjustments than most men are used to. When using resistance equipment the aim is not to overpower but instead to increase your control over your own body.
  5. Don't be put off by the small movements and slower pace of exercises in your beginners classes, believe me they will get tougher and you will feel the difference.

Articles of Interest relating to Men and Pilates

Better Posture, body image and self esteem

Pilates work out from Mens Health Magazine magazine

UFC Fighter Mirko ‘CroCop’ Filipovic and his back problems

Pilates & Martial Arts

Pilates and a huge variance of sports

Pilates and the GAA

Pilates and Rugby, Xavier Rush & Kees Meeuws