Whether you're a local weekend warrior or an NBA professional, adding Pilates to your training program could reap benefits well beyond your expectations. Most guys will scoff at the thought of a workout program that is mainly thought as a woman's exercise class, but if it's good enough for players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, James Harden and Jason Kidd to all have included it in their regimens at some point, isn't it good enough for you?
For those of you who might be familiar with the word "Pilates" but don't know exactly what the workout entails, the system is all about the "art of controlled movements."
Traditional training methods often find athletes in the gym with a variety of weight-based workouts targeting major dynamic muscles or out on the track training to enhance power and speed. However, over the last few years, many athletes are realizing that they are missing out on one of the most important targets to improve their body—the core. And no, I'm not talking about doing hundreds of Crunches or Sit-Ups.
With concentrated training on correct spinal and pelvic alignment, proper breathing form, smooth flowing exercises that target both larger and smaller muscles in the feet, legs, glutes, abdominals and arms, Pilates workouts create a holistic training program that allow basketball players (and athletes in general) the ability to run faster, jump higher, be more explosive and move with more agility. There's no shortage of research backing up Pilates' ability to help people move and feel better, as studies have found regular practice of Pilates to improve things like dynamic balance, trunk strength and postural stability, flexibility and gait patterns.
For athletes who've spent hundreds of hours lifting heavy weights and running sprints, Pilates hones in on small muscle groups and movements that are often neglected and underdeveloped, targeting them through more precise movement and proper breathing techniques. NBA All-Star Kyle Lowry has said his Pilates practice is "something completely different from what I do every day."
Basketball is one of the most explosive sports, with players demanding their bodies be able to sprint, cut, jump and often contort in a number of different ways (forwards, backwards, laterally, diagonally, vertically) with split-second notice. Imagine trying to navigate through the key and a number of defenders on the way to the hoop, taking contact to the body in various ways. Pilates exercises will challenge you to move your body in positions and ways that you normally may not during your workouts, while at the same time training you to control your breathing technique and maintain stabilization through the core.
Whether you are a guard or a big man, core strength and stability play a vital role in a successful offensive or defensive possession. A quick first step, shooting with balance or even off balance, exploding to the hoop, the ability to brace for impact as a screener, holding off an opposing rebounder or maintaining quality defensive position and movement are all essential movements to success. With a strong trunk area combined with stable feet, knees and hips, players will find more strength and explosiveness in both a static position or on the move. This STACK video is not of an NBA player but rather of NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown, but the reasons basketball and football players can both benefit from Pilates are really quite similar:
Jumpboard exercises, as demonstrated here, will allow athletes to train and focus on plyometric and aerobic exercises without the risk of aches and pains that can often plague the knees, feet and ankles with high volumes of traditional jump training. With the addition of the spring-loaded reformer, various levels of resistance can be implemented, providing challenges for all types of athletes. From a simple two-foot jump to a more controlled and focused single-leg explosion, five- to seven-minute sets on the Jumpboard will gas even the most well-conditioned athlete. Use of the Jumpboard also allows you to develop awareness of body posture and alignment specifically with feet, knees and hips.
If you're a basketball player looking to step up your game, correcting posture and muscle imbalance, improving flexibility and increasing range of motion, enhancing stability and core strength are all great ways to complement a more traditional training program. I encourage you to look into Pilates for these reasons. Find a Pilates facility near you and give it a go. In the meantime, try the mat workout included in this article which requires no special equipment.
Photo Credit: Pilates Review
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