That’s pretty incredible that you can run a 7-minute mile or bench press your body weight. But can you touch your toes? How do you feel the next day after a race or game? If you have no flexibility and feel sore and stiff for days after your event, Pilates may be the right solution for your training regimen. Not only will you feel better, you will perform better.

What makes Pilates different from normal strength training? Pilates concentrates on not just large “mover” muscles, but the smaller, stabilizing supporting muscles. For example, if you work your hip flexors and extensors, but never train your abductors, adductors or work on hip rotation, you won’t get the full benefit of your work. Tightness, weakness and imbalance of your supporting muscles limit the effectiveness of the larger muscle groups. Whether your sport is your hobby or your profession, Pilates’ benefits include more efficient movement, better endurance, speed, functional strength, a strong core, less prone to injury and quicker recovery.

Here are three examples of sports and how Pilates can benefit your performance:

Triathlon

One of my friends is a triathlete, competing annually in IRONMAN competitions.  Her training schedule is amazing; she runs 20 miles before work and after work, she swims an hour and then a bike class. Triathlons require multiple skills, different areas of training and plenty of endurance for running, swimming and biking. And, it can take quite the toll on the body if one hasn’t trained properly.

The following Pilates exercises would benefit triathlete training, based on the areas of attention needed for running, biking and swimming:

Hip flexibility – Reformer feet in straps, the hundred

Quad flexibility– Single leg kicks, Reformer elephant

Back extension– Swan on reformer or mat, cat/camel, Cadillac prone push through, Pilates swimming

Scapular stability and shoulder strength– Open leg rocker, push ups, kneeling abdominals

Triathletes who have tried Pilates consider it excellent cross training, like 4-time IRONMAN and World Champion qualifier, Michele Landry. She saw such huge benefits she became an instructor. Triathletes will see that flexible ankles will help them swim efficiently, that a strong core will help protect their back from hours on the bike, and their running form will improve. All critical to seconds off their performance time!

Pilates swimming exercise is great for strengthening the back, hip extensors, hamstrings and gluts. A great full-body exercise! Image credit @The Epoch Times

Pilates swimming exercise is great for strengthening the back, hip extensors, hamstrings and gluts. A great full-body exercise! Image credit @The Epoch Times

Tennis

Whether you play in a rec league or competitively, tennis is one of the few sports you can play into your senior years. Because movement is predominantly in the transverse (horizontal) plane, there is the risk of overuse of the hip and knee joints. Tennis players also tend to have tight hips, back pain, and overall strength imbalance. Because Pilates builds strength without pain, even pro tennis players, like Andy Murray (2013 Wimbledon champ), credit Pilates for improving their game.

Here are exercises we recommend to improve your tennis game:

Rotator cuff and Shoulder flexibility– Reformer seated arm work, pulling straps

Core strength– Roll down, the hundred, supine arm work

Hip flexibility and rotation– Seated foot work, knee circles, hip circles

Leg strength– Feet in straps, Reformer lunges

Tennis players should practice cardio as well, and Reformer Jumpboard is excellent for that. An instant butt-kicker!

Short box abdominal series is excellent for core and oblique work. Image credit @Shape Magazine.

Short box abdominal series is excellent for core and oblique work. Image credit @Shape Magazine.

Golf

Golf is a difficult sport; the swing is an awkward movement engaging many muscles not used often and most who play may not work out frequently. Not to mention the mental concentration needed to play well. Golf injuries occur from the game’s primary activity: swinging the club. Core strength, hip flexibility and spinal rotation practiced in Pilates help to battle the asymmetry and imbalance of swinging. Professional players like Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam incorporate Pilates into their training regimen.

These exercises will benefit the main muscles used for golf- the obliques, the rotators and the multifidus:

Hip rotation and extension-Leg circles, bicycle, cat/camel

Scapular stability– Sternum drop, Reformer elephant, Pilates push ups

Spinal rotation-Saw, Spine twist, large leg circles

Back lateral flexion strength-Mermaid, side plank, side bends

Approximately 60% of recreational golfers are hurt from playing the game, with the most common pain occurring in the back and hips.

Side bends, also known as side plank dips, work obliques and lateral spine flexion. Image credit @Skimble.com

Side bends, also known as side plank dips, work obliques and lateral spine flexion. Image credit @Skimble.com

And, you don’t have to be an athlete to see the benefits. Just having the energy, flexibility and being less prone to injury makes practicing soccer with your kids or playing on the company softball team more enjoyable. Go ahead and experiment with your own Pilates before and after assessment and test your endurance, flexibility and strength. Your competitors will wonder how you have upped your game.