Should Athletes Do Pilates?

by Samantha Wood

Samantha Wood is a licensed physical therapist since 1997, PMA Certified Pilates Instructor, Yoga Alliance certified teacher, and an international educator and Associate Faculty member for BASI Pilates®.  She has an MBA from USC and is the owner of The Cypress Center in Pacific Palisades, CA where Pilates is integrated with physical therapy for people of all ages and abilities.  Samantha’s clinical expertise includes Pilates-based rehabilitation, yoga therapy, orthopedics, sports therapy, and functional rehabilitation.  She began her career in sports medicine as a student athletic trainer at USC.  Since then, she has worked with many celebrities and professional athletes.  While at HealthSouth in Arizona, she was the PT for the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Coyotes, Phoenix Mercury, and Arizona Rattlers.

Pilates is a great tool to assist, or accelerate a physiotherapy program when coming back from an injury. By engaging in Pilates exercises regularly, athletes will create better movement patterns and decrease the chance of re-aggravating old injuries, as well as developing new ones. Not only that, but Pilates is used among athletes to help achieve optimal performance and get the most out of their bodies.

Following an “unscientific” survey Rael Isacowitz conducted with Olympic-level athletes, two areas were identified as consistent throughout the group for desired improvement: the mind-body connection and core strength, or as he prefers to call it…core function. What method could be better than Pilates for achieving such goals?

Typical Issues Presenting with Athletes

  • Strong habitual patterns
  • Imbalances
  • Lack of core strength
  • Lack of functional strength
  • Lack of functional flexibility
  • Lack of precision
  • Not utilizing muscle sequencing to the maximum
  • Not aware of the power of the mind-body connection
  • Injuries: acute – chronic


How Pilates Can Help?

  • Developing core strength
  • Developing functional strength
  • Developing functional range of motion
  • Overcoming imbalances
  • Addressing the whole: The Block System®
  • Using the fundamental principles of Pilates to enhance the mind-body connection: The ultimate edge: Awareness, Alignment, Breath, Balance, Center, Concentration, Control, Precision, Flow, Harmonious Movement

All sports have different mechanics, so to treat them all the same would be totally erroneous. We need to separate out the most vulnerable muscles to appropriately stretch and strengthen. Each sport has unique demands, which require unique conditioning and unique treatment. In the BASI 3 day Certificate Course “Pilates for Injuries & Pathologies”  we focus on understanding the most commonly seen injuries in the general population and how Pilates can be used safely and effectively for clients who have them. In this blog, I thought it would be interesting to dive a bit deeper into sport-specific athletic injuries (spoiler alert- we’ll start with golf on my next blog). However, no matter what the sport is, research has shown that core muscles initiate and attenuate forces generated by the rotational movements of athletic performance.   So yes, athletes should do Pilates!athlete

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