Three Reasons Professional Athletes Turn to Pilates

by Leslie Braverman on October 2, 2016

It’s all over the news. Pro athletes have discovered what others have known for years—Pilates works. Pacific NW Pilates co-owner and Lead STOTT PILATES Instructor Trainer, Leslie Braverman, takes a closer look three reasons why Pilates makes it to the big leagues.

Antonio Brown (pro football), Hollie Avil (triathlete), Roger Federer (tennis champion) and Dara Torres (sprinter) have reported Pilates improved their athletic performance and reduced injuries. In preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics, Pilates was a popular training choice. In March, the St Louis Cardinals announced the addition of Pilates to their weekly conditioning program.


The attention to alignment and core stability in Pilates teaches athletes to control the positioning of the joints and spine and use the correct muscles—with the right amount of effort—necessary for stability and mobility.

#1 – Core Strength and Joint Stability

Pilates wakes up muscles that are located close to joints. The deep abdominals, back, pelvic floor, psoas and diaphragm—“the core”— are a collection of muscles that support the spinal vertebrae and sacroiliac joints.  Like the structures of the spine, every joint (shoulder, hip and knee) has its own network of deep muscles that are designed to stabilize it against force and torque. In Pilates, athletes learn to use these deep muscles and re-establish the control on the inside before adding speed, torque and power from the outside. A strong outer body built on a weak inner core is akin to a house built on a cracked foundation. Both are unstable and likely to break down over time.

#2 – Control & Strength Through Entire Range

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Athletes do whatever it takes to win the game. Tennis, soccer and ice hockey require the ability to do quick, explosive movement in any direction. In an instant, the muscles on the back of the leg (hamstrings) may need to stretch to reach for a ball and then contract to regain balance to hit it. Passive stretching weakens muscle tissue. Active stretching (eccentric control) teaches the muscles to be long and strong in large ranges of motion.

In Pilates, exercises are performed on spring resistance equipment. Athletes need to develop control in every direction—the spring tension can be reduced to demand more control with less resistance and support.

#3 – A Balanced Body

For hours a cyclist’s spine remains curved over as he trains for a race. Pilates helps to unwind muscles and restore symmetry. A balanced body is the best defense against athletic injury.

Every sport or athletic endeavor creates asymmetries in strength and flexibility. Baseball pitchers wind-up to throw the ball hundreds of times for a game, competitive runners repeatedly use the same reciprocal motion, and elite swimmers train miles a day. Athletes may push hard for strong performance numbers without adequate recovery or balance in their training regimen—a practice that overtaxes some muscle groups, weakens others, and creates disproportionate strength and mobility around joints and tissue.

Though injuries can happen during a game or race due to accidents and unforeseen circumstances, many coaches and athletic training experts believe most athletic injuries can be traced back to fitness imbalances.

Pilates exercise helps a cyclist actively recover with exercises that balance the spine. Extending the spine promotes use of opposing muscle groups

Pilates Hits a Home Run

Pilates meets eight physical performance factors identified as important to athletes by coaches and athletic trainers—posture, balance, mobility, flexibility, stability, coordination, functional strength and endurance. Any athlete will benefit by including Pilates in a weekly training routine.

At Pacific NW Pilates over 45 equipment and mat-based Pilates classes are offered each week. Pilates professionals can learn how to teach athletes at specific education workshops.

Get in the game. Call us today.

Pacific NW Pilates is studio, school and fitness family under one roof. Click to learn more about our education courses and workshops, private studio sessions and group classes. Or call for details: (503) 292-4409.

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