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Pilates: the benefits for athletes


Posted by Lisa Johnson of Lisa Johnson Fitness under Pilates on 20 November 2012 at 12:00 AM

Lisa Johnson has been a certified Pilates instructor since 1998 and has owned Modern Pilates for 14 years.  She is an avid fitness blogger at She's here to tell you how and why top athletes are using pilates to improve their sport:

Lisa Johnson PilatesAthletes have definitely been a huge focus in 2012, not just for Olympians but also in grass roots sports around the globe.  But did you know that Pilates is a secret weapon for many?  From gymnasts to runners, from swimmers to dressage riders, Pilates is considered a secret weapon for many trying to stay at the top of their game. 

Benefits of Pilates for Athletes

Pilates helps with balance, core strength and particularly for athletes, strength with extension.  Strength with extension is the ability to use force while stretching your limbs away from your body.  Think of a tennis player dashing across the court, reaching for a ball and being able to return it with velocity to his opponent. 

Pilates also gives your precision with extension.  That tennis player will not only return the volley with enough force to flummox his opponent but will also be able to accurately place it where he wants to on the court.  Or think of a football player jumping for an interception and being able to pull a ball out of the air with control away from his opponent.  Pretty cool no?

How Pilates Works

Pilates is a series of over 500 exercises (actually by the time you’re done counting up props and variations it’s probably twice that).  The exercises are very precise, a qualified instructor can hone in on a body’s weaknesses and give movements that will improve muscular balance, core strength and joint control.  If I want to nail one particular muscle in your body I probably have a minimum of six ways to get there from beginner to advanced moves.

Pilates is also easy on the joints so it can slip into an overall training regimen without interfering with the sport you're training for.  While an instructor can crush you into a pile of goo with a muscle aching workout we can also nudge you along so that you can continue training in your preferred sport. 

Pilates builds flexibility automatically into the workout, so there’s no need to add on a stretching segment at the end of the session.  You will be performing strength-training moves with a wide range of motion that automatically includes flexibility.  It saves time and trains the joint in the way it’s used most, while moving. 

Should You Try Pilates

You should give Pilates a try if you are a weekend warrior or a serious athlete and have had any nagging injuries or seem to be stuck, unable to improve to the next level of your game. Often Pilates can correct a muscle discrepancy or improve your sense of balance, which is often the special ingredient to improve your performance. 

It’s best to try at a studio where they focus on Pilates. Health clubs frequently have less than fully trained staff. Look for an instructor who has a 500 hour certification, they’ll have the most tricks up their sleeves to help you progress. Great certifying groups include Stott Pilates, Balanced Body University and Power Pilates.

I’ve included a video below that gives you a quick idea of what Pilates is and also shows you some of the exercises in a fully equipped studio.  Enjoy!

Ask questions, join debates and share your Pilates experiences in the Pilates Tribe.

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    Hi Lisa, I have tried Pilates only twice at gym; I found the breathing most difficult really, trying to breathe in and out at the correct time. Initially I found that the pace of Pilates was frustrating compared to what I was used to: aerobics, Zumba and Body Pump. But I can see that Pilates is a great workout for core strength and flexibility and I found it very challenging.

    Lisa J encouraged this.


    Started pilates after a back injury, and havent looked back. Its superb for maintaining and improving flexability. Though i dont do so much of it at the moment due to an injury i incorperate several of the postions/move in my core workout, its really helped attain and maintain washboard abs, my posture has seriuosly improved according to my physio and chiro, and as i am so aware of my postion and posture it ensure i lift correctly in the gym so preventing injuries, never done classes, self taught from books and dvd's, would love to take classes after injury despite what people think its sweat busting session.

    encouraged this.


    I love my Pilates classes. I do a dynamic pilates class, and it's really a test of balance, flexibility and strength.

    Lisa J encouraged this.


    Like so many, I started Pilates after a back injury to aid recovery. I can't imagine I will ever stop doing it the benefits are fanatstic and sometimes unexpected.

    Lisa J encouraged this.


    You guys are great, glad you're enjoying Pilates as much as I do! :-) Jane, the breathing can drive people a little nuts in the beginning, but usually by the third session you've got it sorted out. The most important thing is to KEEP breathing, don't hold your breath. As for the pace of a Pilates class vs. say Zumba, initially when you're learning at the beginner level it's a bit slower, but as you progress to intermediate the pace really picks up and you'll find yourself doing 50 to 60 exercises in an hour, it can get pretty intense. :-) Cheers. L--


    Hi Lisa, Great article. I started Pilates in January and am absolutely addicted. I love the feeling of your core getting stronger. I have pushed myself a lot harder physically this year all because I feel like I can. My only complaint is that I only manage to get to do it once/twice a week, I would be very happy if I could do it every day!

    Jason B encouraged this.


    whats the diffrence between pilates & yoga

    Jason B encouraged this.


    have u got stuff i can work on for m core and to tone up my abs more


    I did Pilates at college, but have since fallen out of it, but I love it! I live in the boonies, and the nearest studio is about 45 minutes away (pretty inconvenient). Are there any pilates workout videos you would recommend?


    Akiem, very basically Pilates is more about building strength with flexibility an added bonus and Yoga is more about flexibility than strength but that is a very simplistic way of putting it.

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