When it comes to excelling in any sport, athletes are continually seeking ways to try improve their performance, flexibility, and overall physical condition. Being fit, strong and healthy are important check boxes for aspiring athletes. In this article, we will explore the numerous benefits that footballers can experience by practicing Pilates. Furthermore, I will share some personal experiences that demonstrate its positive impact on bettering your performance on the sports field.
My mother is a specialist in Pilates and has been learning and teaching this science of movement for many years. I often thought that Pilates was designed for older people, specifically women and that it there is no way it can offer me any benefit in my sport. My naive opinion on the matter was short-lived as I picked up a serious back injury 3 years ago which withdrew me from the field of play for many weeks. After countless visits to the physiotherapist, sports massages, dry-needling and long rest periods it seemed that I could not make a proper recovery. My injury was reintroduced a few weeks ago and began to plaque my mind as every time I tried to return to the field I would experience extreme discomfort and pain. The injury did not only take a toll on my physical condition, but it got to the point where it affected my mentality very negatively – I could not see any hope for myself.
This prolonged period of being injured was a turning point for me and I decided that it’s time to try this magical art of movement known as Pilates. Here are some of the benefits I experienced:
1. Core Strength and Stability
One of the primary focuses of Pilates is the development of core strength and stability. As a soccer player, we rely heavily on a strong core to be able to execute powerful shots, maintain balance during fast and agile movements, and resist opponents’ strong challenges. I learnt how to engage my deep abdominal muscles, back muscles and pelvic floor which improved my core strength and stability drastically. By strengthening these important zones in the body that many atheltes neglect, players can enhance their agility, balance, and overall control of their actions on the field. Plus you have better abs for the girls 😉
2. Flexibility and Range of Motion
The Pilates principles place great emphasis on flexibility and range of motion of the body.
These are vital areas that soccer players need to focus on to achieve optimal performance. Soccer players often experience intense muscle stiffness and decreased range of motion, especially after a difficult and competitive game. Attending class when my body feels stiff and super tight releases a lot of the built up tension and makes me feel more elastic and elongated. Definitely a good tool to use for recovery. Pilates however is not only about stretching, it helps improve joint mobility and muscular flexibility which enables players to perform complex movements with greater ease. Increasing your flexibility and body alignment allows your muscles to work harder without the risk of injuries and facilitates quicker changes in direction which are crucial for the dynamic and quick-pace of football.
3. Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation
Injury prevention and rehabilitation are essential aspects of an athlete’s training routine. Pilates exercises promote muscular balance which helps lower compensations done by your body that you are not even aware of while playing, reducing the risk of injuries. It also speeds up the rehabilitation process by targeting specific muscle groups and restoring proper movement patterns. Soccer players who incorporate Pilates into their training regime experience a decreased likelihood of injuries and faster recovery times in the case of an injury.
My Pilates Experience: How Pilates Elevated My Soccer Performance
Practicing Pilates transformed my game in more ways than I could have imagined. The controlled movements and focus on core strength helped me develop better balance and stability, enabling me to withstand challenges from opponents while maintaining control of the ball.
The flexibility aspect of Pilates improved my range of motion, allowing me to execute swift changes in direction, accelerate faster and strike the ball with increased power and precision. Additionally, the injury prevention benefits of Pilates became evident as I experienced fewer muscle strains and felt more resilient during intense matches. When I feel an injury is creeping around my body, my answer is Pilates!
Finally, Pilates taught me to connect with my mind and body on a deeper level. This increased my body awareness and mindfulness during training and games allowing me to remain more focused. This heightened sense of mind-body control allows me to make split-second decisions, react quickly to on-field situations and execute precise movements with accuracy.
Pilates offers soccer players a range of benefits that can significantly improve their performance on and off the field. From core strength and stability, to improved flexibility and injury prevention, practicing the Pilates method WILL make a noticeable difference in your game.
As seen by my personal experience, incorporating Pilates into your soccer regimen can lead to better balance, agility and resilience.
Therefore, if you are a soccer player looking to elevate your game, consider adding this art of movement to your routine and unlock your full potential on the pitch!
“I went to Pilates because I was forced to, I stayed because I wanted to.”