3 Reasons Why Pilates Is Perfect for Rotational Sports
By Ada Wells, MPT, PMA-CPT, Level 3 TPI-Medical Fitness Professional
World Series fever is in full swing…literally. Did you know that the sequence that impacts movement efficiency for rotational sport athletes (aka kinematic sequence) is the same for a golfer swinging a club, a baseball player swinging a bat, a pitcher throwing a ball, a volleyball player spiking a ball, or even a boxer throwing a punch. To have a good kinematic sequence, the athlete needs to possess the mobility and stability in all the right places, along with the coordination and balance to achieve the desired effect. Pilates is a great way to create balance in the athlete’s overall program. Here are my top 3 reasons why Pilates is perfect for rotational sports:
- Pilates is all about HOW ones moves. Athletes can pick up faulty movement patterns over the years due to faulty training, injuries, or just poor body awareness. Those overhead kettlebells on their off days may be slowly trashing their shoulders and lower back if they don’t have good body awareness. In my opinion, one needs to learn how to move before adding speed, resistance, and power to an exercise. Pilates exercises can take the components needed to perform the complex movement and break them down into their basic parts. Creating this awareness and control will be helpful for when the pieces are layered back together again in a familiar environment.
- Pilates encourages mobility and stability in all the right places. When an athlete has too much mobility at a particular joint, the result is guarding and overly “taut” muscles that restrict movement where it should occur, and transfers it to another segment that shouldn’t be moving. The same problem can occur if the mobility is restricted when things should be moving. For example, if the athlete has a stiff ankle from an old ankle sprain, the spin and glides that should occur in the joint will be transferred to the next joint up the kinetic chain…the knee. This can lead to excessive mobility at this joint which can lead to degenerative changes over the long haul at the knee. Then, the hip tries to control this extra mobility so instead of rotating from the hip in the movement, the rotation occurs at the lower back, which was not designed to rotate. Pilates focuses on full body movement so all that footwork and ankle alignment that is emphasized in exercises like footwork on the reformer, will effectively impact the rest of the system.
- Pilates is about core control, not just core strength. As Pilates teachers, we don’t care if you can do 100 crunches in a minute, but we do care that you can keep your bones stacked and aligned in the right place as you’re performing a complex movement. Movement efficiency relies on the coordination and synergy of the musculoskeletal system…not on individual muscle groups tightening on cue. Therefore, good Pilates instructors cue where the skeleton should go rather than what muscle is working. If the body is kept in the correct alignment through various orientations to gravity, the right muscles will be working and the movement will be smooth and efficient. Why work harder when one can work smarter?
Pilates, has other benefits as well. For instance, one can’t discount the fact that focus on being in the here and now settles the nerves and is energizing in itself. Whether you’re a baseball player in the World Series or a weekend warrior, Pilates will enhance your overall athletic experience for years to come.
Having good hip rotational stability with dissociation of the thorax is important for golfers in order to create an efficient golf swing motion. Loss of this rotational stability often results in more lateral sway and slide swing faults which can place more stress on the low back and create a loss of power in the swing. Using the Pilates reformer and the rotating disc, the standing leg is challenged to resist the leg rotating outwards as the thorax rotates towards the standing leg (as would occur in the backswing). This video shows a few variations of this scooter exercise which are favorites of mine when working with golfers and is great to do after working first on hip mobility (particular into internal rotation) so the golfer knows how to control the new range that the practitioner has just given him/her.
Dr. Libby Weaver, a well respected dietician in Australia, gives some amazing insight into the challenges that the modern woman faces today. We all know that stress is bad for us, but do you really understand why? If you have been under a load of stress and despite your efforts to lose weight with diet and exercise, you continue to gain, you may want to make a moment to see if time has become your saber tooth tiger.
Finding a outlet to become connected to the present (Pilates, yoga, meditation, tai chi, etc) can actually help you lose weight easier than training for a marathon. It’s more than just calories in vs. calories out, it’s also how the body systems can alter how we metabolize what we eat because our sex hormones have been thrown out of whack thanks to cortisol telling us that we need to hold on to every bit of fat we can if that saber tooth tiger is stressing us out.
Spending 18 minutes of your time here is well worth it to hear her describe how our modern woman can’t seem to find enough hours in the day to get everything done…all the while, making us realize that she’s right…so it’s time to make the best of every second.
Below are some startling statistics from the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF). It is important that we start early to prevent the debilitating effects of osteoporosis as this problem will grow exponentially as the baby boomer population continues to age.
* 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will suffer an fracture in their lifetime from low bone density.
* Middle-aged and older men and women with annual height loss of more than 0.5 cm are at increased risk of fracture
* Economic Toll: In Europe, disability from osteoporosis is greater than caused by cancers (except lung cancer) and is comparable or greater than diseases such as high blood pressure related heart disease, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.
* Movements where the spine moves into flexion (forward bending of spine) has been shown to increase thoracic compression fractures in those with low bone density.
* Movements where the hip and spine are placed at end range rotation can increase fracture risk.
* Strengthening back muscles can reduce the risk of vertebral fractures and kyphosis (forward flexed midback)
* Studies support that bone mineral density in postmenopausal women can be maintained or increased with appropriate exercise
So what can we do? Focus on exercises that improve balance, strength of the back extensors, posture, keep the spine and hips in safe ranges of motion, and that incorporates a walking program. All of the Pilates practioners at ProBalance know the risks of low bone density and how to modify for exercises within our setting. If you have low bone density, be sure to tell your Pilates teacher or therapist so they can recommend the safest exercise modifications and recommendations to maximize your outcome.
Ah…it’s the beginning of the year and you’re all fired up to work out. Just a few more reps of those overhead kettlebells should do the trick…that is until you start noticing that shortly after your workouts, you start to experience shoulder discomfort whenever you move your arm through its middle range or whenever you bring your arm across your body to fasten your seatbelt. It’s nothing bad…just annoying. It will go away on its own, right?
Shoulder pain is one of the most common ailments that I see following the New Year’s Resolution fitness rush. Often, this is due to poor shoulder mechanics which result in irritation of muscles and other soft tissues at the shoulder joint. If you’d like a brief, basic tutorial of shoulder anatomy, its mechanics, and some common pathologies, tune into this short 7 minute-ish video.
My biggest piece of advice: If you start noticing shoulder pain following your workouts, get to a physical therapist sooner than later. It’s far easier to address these mechanical issues early on before abnormal movement patterns start really taking hold, making the problem much more difficult (and time consuming) to treat.
Research points to 5 habits of happy people. These are so easy to incorporate into your daily life.
1. Show Gratitude: “I am thankful that I have the capacity to move my body, walk, dance, hold my children, touch my loved ones, etc.”
2. Regular Exercise: If you are sitting, stand. If you are standing, walk. If there’s an elevator, choose the stairs. If you are walking, skip. When in doubt, just dance!
3. Mindfulness & Meditation: Give yourself time to be present in the moment.
4. Conscious Acts of Kindness: “Pay it Forward” whenever you can.
5. Finding Meaning: Your spirit…what drives you to wake up everyday, and seeing your purpose beyond yourself, and acknowledging your place in the universe.
My purpose in life is to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Positivity is contagious so if I touch one person and improve their life, I hope they can pass on that energy and so on. I am grateful to all those in my life who support my purpose for it is the positivity of my family, friends, colleagues, and clients that allow me to share. Pilates is a mindful and focused journey of movement for which I am grateful to experience in my own body and to pass on to others around me. I hope everyone has a truly happy 2014!
If you are crouched over your computer keyboard or smartphone reading this post, you might want to take a moment to look up and just absorb what is around you and to take a moment to appreciate where your body is in space right now. Now, imagine your body moving as free and as efficient as a professional dancer or a finely tuned athlete. Do you think they are spending as much time as you are right now in front of a screen? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a small change. Take a step towards living as our bodies were designed to and move! Move with intention and move whenever you can. Can’t tear yourself from your favorite tv show? Pretend you’re a dancer or an athlete stretching as you are watching it. Sneak in some single leg balance when you can. In a confined space that doesn’t seem appropriate for exercise, get creative! It’s move it or lose it and life is short. Enjoy!