The core strengthening, flexibility improvements and stability that stem from Pilates exercises is particularly beneficial for athletes. These benefits are the main reason why some of the most successful MLB baseball players reveal that they rely on the Pilates method to maintain their optimal physical shape and improve performance.
Various types of Pilates programs have been developed specifically for the needs of professional sports athletes and ballplayers. These are often used to increase strength and conditioning, reduce the risk of injuries, maximize functional strength, improve overall performance and do effective rehabilitation.
Which popular MLB baseball players do Pilates and how does it help them? Let's find out.
Arguably one of the best starting pitchers in the history of Chicago Cubs team, baseball player Jake Arrieta touts Pilates for his stellar performance.
Arrieta hasn't always been a baseball ace. In 2013, he was demoted to Triple A after four starts. At this point, Arrieta considered putting an end to his professional sports career playing baseball.
Midseason, Arrieta was traded to the Cubs, and after arriving in Chicago, he made a promise to turn his life around. It was during this period of his life that Arrieta came across a Pilates studio. He reported that he was "hooked" right from the first session.
Soon after, Arrieta was doing Pilates exercises three times per week. Eventually, he turned his garage into a Pilates studio. He credits the exercises for results in much better body control, as well as mental toughness.
His fitness routine consists of two hours of stretching per day, functional range conditioning and reformer workouts. A reformer is an exercise machine that intensifies Pilates routines through the use of springs that provide additional resistance and challenges. The method is used to stress and strengthen the muscle groups that Arrieta needs as a baseball player including, but not limited to the lats, obliques, and shoulders.
Today, you can even find a Jake Arrieta Pilates routine online. According to the pitcher, this routine is the one that changed his mindset and his career. According to his Pilates trainer, Liza Edebor, it's possible to go from a regular guy to "just ripped" simply through the reliance on the right Pilates routine.
In 2015, the Minnesota Twins team baseball player, pitcher Trevor May was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back. The condition, known as pars defect, is characterized by symptoms like lower back pain, stiffness and occasional nerve symptoms.
May has been attempting to overcome the condition through regular rounds of yoga and Pilates.
Doctors confirm that the back issue May suffered from is the result of core instability. Luckily, Pilates is one of the best exercise methodologies that deliver optimal improvements regarding core strength.
Various clinical studies confirm the effectiveness of Pilates for overcoming back and lower back injuries. A systematic review was published in the PLOS Online journal on the topic. Researchers went over 152 studies, and they found out that Pilates exercises offer greater improvements in pain and functional ability in back pain sufferers in comparison to standard care and even physical therapy.
Heading into the 2017 campaign, Rays' pro Evan Longoria announced a change in his offseason fitness routine. He reported that he'd been focusing predominantly on Pilates after taking some advice from none other than pitcher Jake Arrieta.
In an interview with ESPN, Longoria said that Pilates has been delivering much better results than his previous yoga routine. According to Longoria, Pilates is critical to his agility and strength training. It has helped him maximize bat speed and increase core motion for superior performance during the upcoming playing season.
According to Longoria, "flexibility is "the new strength." He reported that his entire Pilates workout was focused on the range of movements required during baseball rather than on bulking up. Stability plays a crucial role in optimal performance, and according to Longoria, his Pilates exercises help make significant improvements in that area.
Clinical evidence supports Longoria's claims. A lumbopelvic stability clinical trial was carried out and presented in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine. Researchers worked with 40 male and female volunteers who were either asked to do a routine of Pilates exercises or were assigned to the control group.
A standard lumbopelvic stability and flexibility test was performed at the beginning, during the fourth and the eighth weeks of the experiment. During the fourth week, there were 65 percent more members of the Pilates group passing the lumbopelvic stability test. The number increased to 85 percent by the end of the eighth week.
Nate Robinson is another baseball player who relies on Pilates for his offseason training and preparation.
In 2008, doctors told the pitcher that his flexibility wasn't at the level it should be for successful athletic performance. Strong but rather stocky, Robinson found out that he needed a change in physique to improve his career.
Immediately after the end of the 2008 season, Robinson considered a change in his workout. This contemplation led to finding Pilates and incorporating it into his workout routine. According to the pitcher, the benefits of the new method include massive improvements in flexibility over a relatively short period.
During the offseason training, Robinson did Pilates three times per week with an instructor. Stretching, agility work and resistance exercises are the ones that make up the bulk of his offseason training program. While doing weight training exercises, Robinson also focuses on typical Pilates balancing routines that maximize both core strength and stability. While most of the exercises are focused on the core and the lower body, there's also shoulder training, an essential for successful pitching performance.
Mets pitcher Dillon Gee embraced the Pilates method in 2012 in an attempt to increase his strength. Former teammate Chris Capuano suggested incorporating Pilates after he found out that Gee had a tough year and was considering himself to be particularly out of shape.
According to Gee, many ballplayers are reluctant as they see Pilates as exercises for women. At the same time, he reported that the workouts are a lot more challenging than one would expect. In the very beginning, he found it almost impossible to complete a routine on the Pilates reformer.
Gee's Pilates instructor decided to focus on core strength, stability and shoulder exercises. That's the beauty of the method created by Joseph Pilates in that it can be tailored to address the individual preferences of the practitioner.
Through his Pilates workout, Gee enhanced the strength of the abdominal muscles, the glutes, and the lower back. This way, he became much more capable of keeping his lower body stable, removing the strain on the shoulders during throwing.
The next stage of the training focused on isolating and utilizing specific muscle groups. In time, Gee found himself capable of "accessing" and strengthening muscles that were previously underutilized. Because of these exercises, Gee believes that he has acquired additional strength and resilience, two essentials for being a successful pitcher.
Another pro who credits Pilates for getting him ready for an upcoming season is Hunter Pence, one of the most valuable San Francisco Giants team players.
A series of injuries in 2015 forced him to end the season earlier. During the year, Pence experienced problems like a broken forearm, tendinitis and a strained oblique. The last injury was the one that made Pence try out a Pilates routine in an attempt to overcome the pain, recover faster and get in a good physical shape for the upcoming season.
Because of the injury, Pence wasn't capable of doing any other form of exercise. Pilates was his only option, but he soon started experiencing the many benefits that come with performing the routine.
Thus, the athlete began with gentle recovery exercises that were later on intensified. Today, Pence is in the best physical shape than ever before. This fitness level is part of the beauty of Pilates. It’s a highly adaptive routine. Apart from helping injured athletes get back on track, it can also result in more strength, and it can effectively prevent injuries in the future.