Pilates and Injury Prevention: A Unique Approach to Sports Performance Improvement

Athletes are always looking for the next best exercise to build strength, increase energy, help them go faster, and further with more endurance often pushing themselves to and sometimes past their limits to outperform the competition.

The quest for performance dominance if left unchecked and without proper guidance and training can lead to injury leaving the goal for greatness unfulfilled.

Pilates Reformers being used
Pilates Reformers

Athletes, like their coaches and owners hate injuries and do all they can to prevent them at all costs. To help with this goal, many coaches and athletes themselves have added Pilates training to their fitness regimen.

Recently, Pilates has become a common component for amateur, elite and professional athletes alike. According to Stott Pilates writer Kerrie Lee Brown, this shift into mainstream athletic training is due to “Pilates evolving to focus on the modern day biomechanics of the athlete’s body with essential scientific research.”

Pilates’ mind/body training techniques has proven effective in helping participants focus as they gain body awareness and proper postural alignment helping them to perform exercises properly and efficiently without placing undue stress on muscles and joints. To help athletes acquire these skills, and train for peak performance, experienced instructors will perform an assessment of the athlete’s current posture to identify postural deviations. Following the assessment a program is designed to address muscular imbalance issues. For example, a baseball pitcher may show signs of muscular imbalances in the shoulder (due to overuse issues). Based on the specifics of the imbalances the instructor will work with the pitcher to stabilize the shoulder while working all four of the shoulder muscles to strengthen weak muscles and stretch tight muscles.  Two exercises that are sometimes used to strengthen the shoulder muscles are called internal and external rotation.  To assist the participant in properly executing the exercise the instructor provides verbal and imagery queues along with tactile instruction to guide the participant safely through the exercise.  When performing external rotation, the instructor may instruct the participant as follows

Inhale to prepare

Exhale: Stabilize the scapula (verbal instruction) “Slide the shoulder blade down –into an imaginary back pocket “(imagery instruction). — Externally Rotate arm (away from the body, like opening a door) (verbal and imagery)

Inhale: Return the arm to the starting position (like closing a door).   

The verbal and imagery queuing allows the participant to hear, visualize and perform the exercise with proper form. Proper work of the muscles helps to insure strength, proper range of motion and flexibility to alleviate any muscular aggravation and reduce the chances of injury.

Whether you’re on the professional sports field or the field of life, Pilates training will help you stay in the game. Adding Pilates to your training regimen will insure proper balance, postural alignment, strength and flexibility for an active, healthy, injury reduced lifestyle.

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