Pilates for Football And Rugby
A growing number of top footballers and rugby players do Pilates as a way of improving co-ordination, mobility and flexibility, as well as for both recovering from injuries and preventing them in the first place.
In the quest for the winning edge, modern footballers and rugby players will latch on to any fitness technique that they believe will help them where it matters most - on the pitch. Both codes of rugby, in particular, exemplify this thinking, with Pilates exercises long incorporated into both preparation for matches and rehabilitation after injuries. The Welsh Rugby Union is among the high-profile advocates of Pilates.
Football managers such as Arsene Wenger of Arsenal, meanwhile, have long preached the crucial importance of stretching, suppleness and flexibility - the very things that Pilates does best. Indeed, Pilates exercises should be used more widely than they are in, for example, pre-match warm-up routines.
Both football and rugby can be physically gruelling, draining bodies that may already be fatigued. However, recent years have brought a growing willingness to look outside the sport for ideas, in particular to address the injury toll associated with over-training of certain muscle groups.
Weight training is an essential aspect of training for players of both sports; yet a body that has been bulked up in the gym can become rigid and restricted in its range of movement. The popular pec-deck machine, for example, may produce an impressive upper torso yet the movement required is unlike anything found on a sports field - or in everyday life, for that matter.
With both football and rugby demanding rapid directional changes often at near-maximum pace, an inflexible physique is unhelpful. Rugby forwards must also possess the ability to deliver controlled power from the unbalanced body positions adopted in the scrum. A Pilates programme can greatly improve general mobility and enhance core strength while easing the stress placed on the neck and spine during intense scrummaging.
Hamstring tears are also common in both sports and a properly tailored programme of Pilates, focusing on the stabiliser muscles of the pelvis (the buttocks and groin muscles), will help prevent them.