Pilates and Sport
March 21, 2014
Many top sportsmen and sportswomen are now making Pilates an integral part of their fitness programme to enhance their performance, improve their technique and keep their bodies strong, supple and injury free. The attention to detail on muscle recruitment can be of enormous help to athletes in all sports.
“Pilates”, says the writer Martin Amis, who does it twice a week, “is the reason that he no longer groans when playing tennis”. “Pilates”, says Elena Blatacha, one of Britain’s top women players, “helps a lot with injury prevention. I’d recommend it to anyone”. Baltacha herself reportedly spends an hour a day doing Pilates.
A growing number of tennis and squash players at every level for everything from injury prevention and recovery, to rectifying muscle imbalance, improving flexibility and building core and stabilizer muscles.
Well known tennis players who do Pilates range from Venus and Serena Williams, to Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati. Martina Navratilova says that Pilates has helped her body regain the flexibility of her prime, while Pat Cash, the former Wimbledon champion, still does Pilates as a key part of his fitness routine. The Squash Player magazine, meanwhile, featured a full Pilates programme for squash.
Racket sports are by their nature one-sided. Most players repeatedly use the same hand and arm to hit the ball, generally in the same direction, with head and neck usually adopting the same position in anticipation of playing a shot. Such pronounced left- or right-sided movements load stress on the structure of the body, producing a physique that is out of balance and more liable to break down with over-use injuries particularly prevalent.
Further problems can result from the fact that few tennis players have a bio-mechanically perfect serve. Repetitive, inefficient patterns of movement combined with the quest for power give rise to problems in the collection of joints that make up the shoulder. “Tennis elbow”, or inflammation of the muscle tissue and ligaments at the base of the elbow, is caused by chronic twisting of the arm plus repeated shocks to a small bony ridge on the outer elbow.
While even the best Pilates instructor may not help you serve like Venus Williams or Roger Federer, a programme of specific exercises will work the body more uniformly to prevent overdevelopment of one side, while also strengthening the deep abdominal muscles needed for a stable base from which to hit that winner.
Addressing flexibility through the shoulders and upper back while lengthening the tighter front muscles of the torso will boost your power and range of motion – and make it easier to reach for that drop-shot at the net.
At Physiotherapy Matters we offer one-to-one Pilates sessions with a Senior Physiotherapist – why not give us a call to find out more about how we can help?