The Benefits of Pilates for Athletes

The Benefits of Pilates for Athletes

Pilates may be a trendy workout, but that does not make it any less effective. This low-impact exercise is a favorite among pro athletes like Andy Murray and Cristiano Ronaldo for a reason.

The benefits of Pilates range from improving balance and posture to enhancing strength and flexibility. Pilates has also been shown to increase muscle mass, boost metabolism, and elevate athletic performance.

To understand more about the benefits of Pilates, read on further.

Types of Pilates

Pilates is a full-body exercise that focuses on breath work and core-strengthening movements. It is comparatively new as compared to Yoga, where Joseph Pilates developed the eponymous exercise in the 1920s.

Pilates can be done with or without equipment. Mat Pilates is where no
equipment is used, whilst Pilates uses a range of equipment and the most
commonly known is the reformer.

What is the difference between these two types of Pilates? And which one is best for athletes? We will answer these questions and more below.

Mat Pilates

Mat Pilates has the lowest barrier to entry and is suited for all ages and ability levels. The only equipment you need is a yoga mat and your body. You can do mat Pilates at home, at the gym, or in a Pilates studio.

The basic movements in Pilates feature slow and controlled movements. Many of these movements target the core and lower back muscles. Movements are flowing yet precise and feature-controlled breathwork.

This may sound easy, especially for elite athletes. But Pilates is actually a strength training exercise. When on the mat, you use your body weight to create resistance.

Pilates is more of a foundational strength-building exercise. It is excellent for rehabilitation and recovery (AKA clinical Pilates)

Reformer Pilates

Reformer Pilates movements are virtually identical to those performed during mat Pilates. The difference is that exercisers use reformer equipment.

The Pilates reformer is a traditional piece of Pilates equipment that looks like a bed with springs, a sliding carriage, ropes, and pulleys.

These springs produce tension when the platform moves, providing resistance.

During a reformer Pilates session, exercisers push and pull the platform across the frame. They may also hold the platform in place as they resist the springs.

Which Type of Pilates Is Best for Athletes?

There have been few studies comparing the benefits of mat Pilates and reformer Pilates. And there have been even fewer studies looking at which practice is better for athletes.

However, reformer Pilates may have more benefits, in general. A 2014 study investigated Pilates for low back pain. Though mat and reformer Pilates both had benefits, improvements from reformer Pilates lasted longer.

In a more recent study, researchers investigated the differences in calorie burning. The researchers found that reformer Pilates burns significantly more calories than mat Pilates.

The Benefits of Pilates for Athletes

One of the main goals of Pilates is to improve your core. A strong core is crucial for any elite athlete. After all, core strength is essential for flexibility, strength and stability, and efficient movement.

Learn more about the benefits of Pilates for athletes next. Plus, stick around to find out how these benefits can enhance athletic performance and aid in rehabilitation after sports injuries.

Other resistance training exercises are excellent for building muscle. But they leave much to be desired in terms of flexibility. In fact, weightlifting can even lead to less muscle flexibility.

Pilates is different. It is a dynamic exercise instead of a static one, meaning you move your body extensively rather than standing or sitting in place. Dynamic movements promote more limber and flexible strength.

The movements performed during Pilates tend to lengthen muscle fibers.

Strength and Stability

Despite its differences from other forms of resistance training, Pilates is still an excellent way to build strength. The precise, prolonged movements performed during Pilates can increase lean muscle mass.

Pilates also enables plyometric movements. Plyometrics refers to exercises that encourage speed and force. Athletes can particularly benefit from plyometrics because it builds explosive muscle power.

If you want to take advantage of this effect, try doing reformer Pilates with a Jumpboard. Jumpboard classes move at a faster rate, providing cardio and resistance training in a single class session.

Motion Efficiency

A lesser-known benefit of Pilates is its ability to improve awareness of your body. Also known as proprioception, body awareness is critical for preventing sports-related injuries.

Pilates puts focus on uniting your mind, body, and spirit. Exercisers learn to make more mindful movements that are as efficient as possible. This ability can translate beyond the Pilates mat (or reformer).

An added effect of improving motion efficiency is enhancing muscle memory. Muscle memory is the ability to perform movements without thinking. Better muscle memory means you can learn new movements faster.


Pilates for Performance

When it comes to Pilates and athletes, most research has been done on this exercise's benefits for performance. In a 2020 review, researchers investigated these benefits across four different studies.

The studies reviewed looked at impacts on performance across a variety of sports and activities. Overall, the researchers found evidence of athletic performance benefits in terms of:

  • Flexibility
  • Agility
  • Power
  • Balance
  • Endurance

Pilates can have a more specific impact on performance in certain sports. For example, a 2018 study looked at how Pilates enhances running performance. It studied 32 distance runners training for a 5k marathon.

The participants were divided into a control group and a Pilates group. After 12 weeks of Pilates training, the experimental group showed significant improvements in running performance.

Pilates for Rehabilitation

Remember when we mentioned that Joseph Pilates originally created this exercise for dancers? His goal was to find a low-impact workout regimen to help dancers recover from intense practices and repetitive motion injuries.

Which Athletes Can Benefit from Pilates?


Though it was originally created for dancers, virtually all athletes can benefit from Pilates. Still, we have the most evidence for Pilates' benefits for professional dancers.

According to research, Pilates can improve dancers' strength and flexibility. It may or may not also have benefits for dancers' balance, endurance, and overall performance.

Pilates can also benefit athletes who need the flexibility to perform. This includes gymnasts, divers, surfers, figure skaters, cheerleaders, pole vaulters, skiers, weightlifters, and martial artists.

The strength and stability Pilates promotes benefits for power sports. The top power sports are weightlifting, gymnastics, water polo, wrestling, football, softball, baseball, and swimming.

Another advantage of Pilates is its effect on the efficiency of motion. Making more efficient movements is especially helpful in endurance sports. This can benefit endurance athletes like runners, tennis players, rowers, and mountain bikers.

Last but perhaps most importantly, Pilates can help athletes who play sports that are most likely to cause injury. The top sport for injuries is basketball, followed by football, soccer, baseball, golf, and skiing.

Athletes who perform repetitive motions may find relief with Pilates. Repetitive motions commonly cause injuries. The top sports for repetitive motion injuries are gymnastics, tennis, track and field, golf, baseball, and basketball.

The Best Pilates Exercises for Athletes

Now that you understand the benefits of Pilates for athletes, you are probably wondering how to get started with this workout.

Below, we explain three of our favorite Pilates exercises to improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury. You can try these exercises with the help of a Pilates instructor or on your own.

Side Leg Lifts For Obliques And Glutes

Side leg lifts work best on a reformer. If you do not have access to this equipment, try using a yoga ball or a spine corrector. Or stop by Pilatique in Singapore to try one of our reformers.

For this exercise, lay on your side with one arm braced against the floor. Your body should be in a straight line, almost like you are doing a side plank.

Take a deep inhale, exhale, and lift your top leg straight up. Hold before lowering your leg back down on an inhale.

Ensure you keep your kneecaps straight forward throughout this exercise. Avoid locking your knees to reduce the risk of injury.

Repeat for 10 or more reps on one side. Then switch to the other side for a leg, oblique, and glute workout.

Side Bends for Hips and Thighs

The side bend can be performed with or without equipment. If you have a ladder barrel, use that. If not, try a yoga ball instead.

Regardless of what equipment you use, start by resting your hip on the ball or barrel. If you have a ladder barrel, rest your feet on the lowest rung of the ladder. If you don't have one, simply rest your feet on the ground.

Next, inhale deeply and lean your upper body toward the barrel or ball. Hold your hands above your head. Make sure your arms and hands stay aligned with your torso to prevent injury.

Exhale, engage the muscles in your thighs, and move your body back to the starting position. You can make this exercise even more challenging by holding a weight while you do this exercise.

Try 10 reps on one side before moving to the other. This exercise will work your obliques, hips, thighs, and even your core.

Improve Your Performance With Pilates in Singapore

There are countless benefits of Pilates for athletes. You can improve your flexibility, strength, and muscle memory. Plus, there is plenty of evidence for Pilates' benefits for athletic performance and sports injury recovery.

Are you searching for a Pilates studio in Singapore where you can see these benefits for yourself? Pilatique offers Pilates classes, Pilates courses, Pilates education, and Pilates teacher training courses for aspiring instructors.

Sign up for a consultation with Pilatique and we will help come up with a Pilates regimen for your unique goals.