[This summer, get more power out of your swing with Pilates. Whether your favorite sport is tennis, stand-up paddling, baseball, softball or golf, Julie Erickson of Endurance Pilates & Yoga in Arlington Massachusetts, shares four Pilates exercises to help improve these rotation sports.]
My 12-year-old son hit his first two home runs this weekend. He’s 4’11 and 100 pounds. His first was approximately 300 feet, his second, 200 feet! He let me keep the game ball because it was Pilates that helped him use his core, glute and leg strength to drive that ball so far.
For any sport that requires a powerful swing — such as tennis, golf, baseball, softball — Pilates is incredibly helpful. The basic principle of Pilates is a strong core and controlled movement away from the core. When driving a club or bat or racquet, the best way to achieve strength and stability is to be able to ground the lower body and generate rotational power through the glutes and hamstrings. The obliques and core muscles put the finishing touches on the swing movement, and the resulting power drives the entire body through the swing, not just the shoulders and arms. You can get away with a swing that just uses these muscles for a while, but injuries are bound to occur. Think about how far or powerfully you could hit a pitch or ball with proper execution.
Below are four exercises to help power your swing with your core and glutes:
From seated position, roll back until lower back lengthens into mat, abs pulled in and hands stacked behind head. Reach right leg long and pull left knee in. Rotate ribcage as far as possible to the left, but keep the head in line with the tailbone, spine elongates into mat, abs strong. Lift higher through center and rotate to other side. Repeat 20 times.
Works: core, abs, hip extension, rotational stability and mobility
From hands and knees, wrists slightly behind shoulders, knees under hips. Press right leg long and back, keeping hips squared to floor — coming in to this start position should be ab, glute and hamstring work. Leg is long and stretching, belly muscles pull in very strongly. It is imperative that the lower back stays still throughout the entire exercise — imagine a wine glass on your lower back throughout. Starting with leg parallel to floor, pulse up in mini movements, focusing on the up of the movement and stabilizing the torso. The lower belly pulls in tightly to keep the lower back safe — the focus is on proper, small movements. Do 10 micro lifts with the toes pointed down, 10 with the toes reaching, and 10 with the knee bent and the heel pressing to the ceiling. Repeat for five sets without losing proper form and stability in the torso.
Works: glutes, hamstrings, torso stabilizers, abs, core and lats
Scoop belly muscles in, rock behind the sitz bones and roll back just enough to engage the belly muscles. Reach the legs out, toes at eye level. Keep chest lifted and shoulder blades drawing in. Pull lower belly muscles in deeply to round the lower back using the abs to control the lower back to touch the mat and lift back up — legs never move. Repeat 10 times with complete control. After last repetition, reach arms back to mat. Chest stays lifted. Reach legs over to right, in line with the hip, left hip lifts. Stretch legs away from stable torso and pull over to left, right hip lifting. Reach legs to ceiling above hips. Reverse direction. Do five in each direction.
Works: abs, core, rotational stability and mobility muscles, upper and mid back postural muscles
Stretches: chest and shoulders
On back, press upper back and triceps into floor and use belly muscles to stretch lower back into the mat. Lengthen and reach legs to right, hips grounded, reach legs away toward 3 o’clock, keeping lower back stretched into mat. Reach legs out toward 6 o’clock, hips grounded, using lower belly to keep pelvis from tilting away with legs. Reach legs over to 9 o’clock, stretching both legs long and evenly away. Reverse direction. Repeat five times in each direction.
Works: abs, core, upper back, triceps, inner thighs, external rotation in mobility and stability
Stretches: rotation muscles and chest
For more info on Julie and her studio, visit Endurancepilatesandyoga.com.