30 May 2012

Pilates for athletes

In many sports repetitive use and stress on certain muscle groups and the accompanying uneven development of musculature can be found. Pilates counters that by offering a strong emphasis on overall balance, strength, and flexibility. Often times runners and cyclists suffer from faulty posture such as internally rotated shoulders causing a hunched upper back and tight back of the neck, tight legs (heels, calves, hamstrings, IT bands, hip flexors) and lower backs, as well as weakness through the deep abdominal and pelvic muscles needed for stability. Pilates assists both the professional and leisure athlete to improve performance by promoting proper alignment, balance, and use of the body, thus correcting postural imbalances and reducing risk of injury and falls. Especially important to runners, Pilates helps to increase lower back and hamstring flexibility as well as hip flexor and quadriceps flexibility which can reduce lower back injury and pain. Other common injuries such as those to the knees, feet, neck and arms can be alleviated through greater awareness and reduced strain on the joins and ligaments. Cyclists will find that by balancing muscle groups such as the quadriceps and the hamstrings they will be able to stabilize leg movements and have more force with less effort while pedaling. Pedal power! Pilates also builds upper body strength and increases endurance by becoming more aware of efficient breathing and how to incorporate it into all movement. An added bonus is that the stretching and lengthening in Pilates helps to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in athletes.

Pilates principles that are especially helpful for athletes include:
-Integrated Breathing
-Core Strength and Posture (abdominals, pelvis, spine)
-Flexibility and Range of Motion
-Uniform Development
-Efficient Movement Patterns

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