Some of the Pilates mat and equipment exercises are named after specific sports. Swimming is an example. Performed in the prone position, it requires precise rhythm and coordination between the arms, legs, upper torso and lower torso. In fact, the Pilates method, with its emphasis on flowing, continuous movement, proper breathing patterns, concentration and postural alignment, might well be the perfect cross-training exercise for professional and recreational swimmers.
A Swimmers Alignment
Just as a skier or snowboarder must work with the snow, a swimmer must work with the water. Even the slightest detour from perfect postural alignment can alter your relationship with the water and its currents. An adversarial relationship with the water will always end badly for the swimmer.
Unfortunately, a good deal of a swimmer’s training emphasizes the global or external musculature, while the internal core and stabilizing muscles receive little, if any, attention. Without this internal stability, your larger muscle groups have to work harder. This inefficient mode of swimming can slow you down, or, even worse, lead to muscle pulls and tears that potentially cause permanent damage.
The Pilates method of body conditioning focuses on activating and strengthening your inner support system, which consists of your deepest abdominal muscles, along with the muscles closest to the spine and the muscles of your pelvic floor. The system of over 500 mat and equipment exercises enhance core control by teaching the muscles of your trunk, pelvis and shoulder girdle to work together as a team.
Through weekly Pilates practice, swimmers learn to engage their core muscles and adjust their muscle firing patterns so that they activate in the most functional and efficient sequence. By strengthening both the deeper and superficial abdominal muscles, as well as their gluteal muscles, Pilates exercise engages what its creator called the powerhouse, which empowers all movements.
The Pilates powerhouse is essential to swimmers. When your body intuits that your core is turned on, the other muscles sense this stability, and realize that they can relax. In swimming, relaxation implies freedom of movement. The scapula, shoulders, pelvis and spine of a relaxed swimmer are balanced and aligned. Suddenly, you are able to lift your arms up and out of the water, without the typical stress and strain on your neck muscles. As if that was not enough, all of the Pilates exercises are performed with concentration and precision, which has a direct transfer of training to the pool.
Want to swim like a mermaid? Speak to one of our Clinical Pilates experts.