Pilates for Swimmers
Correct and controlled alignment of a swimmers body is crucial in ensuring they are working with the water and not against it. Swimming is a sport that incorporates repetitive movements under load, which can often lead to areas of muscular imbalance or even pain. Even the smallest areas of muscular weakness, imbalance or lack of stability can cause a swimmer to work against the water, and not with it, potentially leading to longer finishing times when competing or potentially injury.
But why do swimmers have muscular imbalances, weaknesses or lack of instability, and how can Pilates help?
Outwardly, you see a person with what looks like a highly toned and muscular body, and think they couldn’t possibly have any weaknesses or muscle imbalances. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. When training, a swimmer will work many of the superficial muscles of the body – those muscles you can see. However, a lot of misalignment, weakness and lack of dynamic stability comes from our deep core muscles – the ones you cannot see!
The muscles of our deep core provide stability to our hips, spine and shoulders, ultimately keeping our body in the correct “neutral” alignment. By maintaining correct alignment, we improve our overall performance, allowing muscles to work together in harmony and produce a high quality of movement. A lack of strength or poor activation of these deep ‘core muscles’ can, in swimmers, have an impact on their technique as well as pace and endurance – deficits which are not optimal traits in any swimmer, but even more so in competitive swimmers.
That is a good question. Why is Pilates so good for swimmers? How could it possibly help a swimmer perform better?
Pilates is a form of exercise that focuses on strengthening the deep core muscles we mentioned earlier. A variety of controlled and specific exercises are utilised to activate muscles surrounding the trunk, pelvis and shoulder girdle, improving their overall strength and power.
Swimmers will learn how to activate their deep core muscles through a range of exercises, utilising those muscles important to swimming performance. By developing core strength, we can help to both correct and prevent muscular imbalance, whist also improving core activation and postural alignment.
Swimming involves repetitive dynamic movement patterns. In Pilates we can teach the appropriate muscular ‘firing’ patterns (those muscles that should be firing and when) to improve the coordination and efficiency of each stroke.
How can Pilates benefit a swimmers performance?
Pilates is a form of exercise to be patient with – improving core strength takes time, however you will reap the benefits of improved coordination, power output and swimming efficiency. By participating in Pilates sessions, a swimmer should expect to notice improvements in muscular strength within their deep core muscles – those muscles which underpin all movements involved in swimming. By ensuring the core is strong and that those muscles involved in producing efficient movement patterns are being used appropriately, the shoulders, spine and pelvis are able to remain in their neutral (preferred) alignment – something every swimmer needs for efficient arm and leg movement. As well as improving performance, we are working to prevent overloading or straining important muscles in swimmers.
A few of the main benefits a swimmer should see include:
- Quicker lap times
- Better posture, better body alignment
- Improved/more controlled breathing
- Prevention/reduction of injury