by Melody F. Lin
Pilates Mat Class at The Art of Control Pilates Studio in Purchase College
Watching professional athletes, it’s easy to marvel at their strength and grace, and wonder about the key to their success. That key, it often turns out, is Pilates.
Professional Golfer Rich Beem credits his Pilates training as one of the main reasons he was able to win the 2002 PGA Championship. “I really just focused in on tightening up my abdominal muscles,” Beem notes. “I know it sounds kind of crazy, but when I did that, I was able to take the pressure out of my arms and shoulders, and I was able to make a pretty free stroke.” Beem also credits Pilates with helping him to become “much better looking” and seem taller. “I’m now so stretched out and have such great posture that I look and feel like a different person,” says Beem.
Echoing Beem’s enthusiasm, Pro Golfer Rocco Mediate says “[Pilates] keeps me loose, keeps me fresh, keeps me strong.” Athletes from several other sports also report using Pilates to improve their games, including MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, NBA point guard Jason Kidd, NHL defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo and NFL offensive guard Ruben Brown.
This unique conditioning system was created by Joseph Pilates, who originally named his method the Art of Contrology. Pilates strengthens all muscles of the body, with a special focus on the core musculature. Pilates begins by strengthening the abdomen, lower back and hips, making the torso the power center of the body and allowing the rest of the body to move more freely. Pilates balances out strengthening with stretching, while also integrating mind-body awareness.
Unlike some other exercise trends, Pilates is here to stay. As of January 2007, more than 12 million Americans were reportedly practicing Pilates—a 605% increase since 2001. One reason for its popularity is that Pilates produces fast results, lengthening and strengthening muscles without adding bulk. As Joseph Pilates always said, “In 10 sessions, you feel a difference. In 20 sessions, you will see a difference. In 30 sessions, you will have a whole new body.”
Greater Strength from the Inside Out
Generally speaking, many people tend to work on strengthening their bodies through weight training, thus conditioning the body from the outside in. As a result, men especially can have limited flexibility, weak core musculature and poor postural strength. The remedy can be found in the six basic principles of the Pilates Method: Precision, Centering, Breathing, Concentration, Fluid Movement and Control.
For example, cross-training golf with Pilates is a better match than one might initially believe. Every golfer knows that the key to a successful golf swing is balance. Unfortunately, golfers constantly torque their bodies throughout the game as they twist for a drive, lean for a ball or squat to measure out a putt. As these motions are repeated throughout a course of 18 holes, the same group of muscles is in constant use, thus wearing them out and causing overall imbalance. Such imbalance in the body can easily cause myriad health issues, including knee, hip and back pain—issues that could seriously affect one’s golf game.
Many pro golfers therefore use Pilates to strengthen their core muscles and increase their overall range of motion. In addition, greater back strength through Pilates training creates symmetry in the body and improves balance, reducing the risk of strain and injury and improving performance.
Power Up Your Game
Those looking to hit the golf course, tennis court, soccer field or basketball court this summer might try Pilates to improve physical conditioning and bring out their best. The Art of Control Pilates Studio in Purchase College, New York, offers instruction under Master Trainer Simona Cipriani, who trained directly with a disciple of Joseph Pilates. Cipriani, who has taught Pilates for the last 15 years, says she always welcomes new students.
To learn more about Pilates, visit artofcontrol.com or call 914.251.7842. Gift certificates available for Father’s Day.
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