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Leave It to the Pros: Pilates for Athletes


The Reformer equipment used in Pilates for athletes | Spine & Sport PT | Rancho Santa Margarita, CA ClinicWhen you think of someone taking Pilates, who comes to mind? Be honest! If the person you are picturing is a thin, flexible ballerina with amazing posture, you aren’t alone!

Most people associate the practice of Pilates with dancers and they aren’t wrong. Some dance companies require their dancers to take Pilates to improve their skills while some individual dancers find and participate in the practice on their own time. But would you be surprised if we told you that dancers aren’t the only athletes turning to Pilates?

Pilates for athletes – all sorts of athletes

Yup! It’s true! Football players, swimmers, basketball players, golfers, tennis players, volleyball players, baseball players all are turning to Pilates for athletes to help improve their games in some way.

Here’s some people that have confessed to using Pilates (to name just a few):

There are even entire teams that are now having their athletes attend Pilates classes throughout the year. Some teams that have said they are now using or have used Pilates include:

  • Dallas Cowboys.
  • Green Bay Packers.
  • Milwaukee Brewers.
  • Orlando Magic.
  • Washington Wizards.

Now, you don’t have to be a sports fanatic to know some of these names! But why are athletes relying on Pilates?

Strength and stability

For football players like Antonio Brown their position requires quick, sharp movements. Pilates helps with core strength & stability that in turn allows for those explosive movements we see in professional athletes. When the core is stabilized, strong and engaged, movements can become more explosive, balance can improve and injuries can be prevented.

If you’ve ever suffered from a back injury, chances are you need to work on your core. The core helps to support the back.

Pilates for athletes truly helps prevent injuries

Most athletes hit the gym (more specifically the weight rack) when they train. While lifting heavy weights helps them build strength, without stretching, the body has no balance. Pilates helps to create that balance by both strengthening and lengthening muscles throughout the body.

Unlike traditional workouts that focus on one area and then a different body part at the next workout, Pilates challenges the entire body throughout every class. Some classes may seem to be targeted toward a specific body part but truly every part of your body is worked in each class offered at Rancho Santa Margarita’s Spine & Sport Physical Therapy location. We can also incorporate aspects of our sports physical therapy into Pilates to further help prevent sports injuries.

Muscle, bone and ligament health

Think about the amount of time professional athletes have spent playing their sport (and maybe additional sports in their earlier careers). Years of training & playing take a huge toll on the body. Pilates for athletes not only benefits muscle & bone, but also ligaments and tendons – encouraging more “give” (as opposed to being stiff causing tears).

Pilates is also utilized as a form of rehabilitation for many different reasons. The Reformer apparatus is non-weight bearing, so for those individuals who are coming out of surgery or are experiencing back pain, the Reformer is a great solution. Also, Pilates exercises can be modified to meet a variety of levels. So for an individual who is progressing through Pilates with ease, the exercises can be changed to become more challenging and vice versa.


Not all athletes are born flexible like a gymnast or dancer. Pilates incorporates stretching into every workout, promoting flexibility which helps athletes in different ways. When the muscles are relaxed and flexible, players can experience increased speed, less frequent injury, elongated careers, relief from muscle soreness, etc.

Most athletes spend a good amount of time weight-lifting, which creates short, bunchy muscles. In contrast, Pilates for athletes creates long, lean and elastic muscles. When the muscles are short and bunchy, they are more prone to injuries – again, flexibility is key!

Body control from Pilates for athletes

If you’ve ever been to a kids’ sports game (think soccer or basketball), you may have noticed a lack of body control. In comparison, think about a football receiver or basketball player who needs to stretch his body in a specific way to either catch the ball or dunk. He or she has to have good body awareness & control in order to be effective. Pilates helps with just that – precise movement. Engage the muscles you want to engage with the mind-body connection that Pilates teaches.

These are just a few of the many reasons athletes have said Yes to Pilates. If you’re an athlete looking for something that could give you an edge in your specific sport, maybe it’s time to look at what Pilates can do for you. After all, if some of the world’s best athletes are doing it, and that tells you something!