Pilates for Rugby Players

Highlights:

  • Prevention
  • Rehabilitation for common injuries
  • Clinical Pilates exercises for rugby players

Pilates is an exercise regime used among varied populations directed to target muscle length, strength, mobility, stability and to reconnect positive pathways from the brain to the body. There are many myths that Pilates is only for injured individuals however, we are seeing more and more high-level athletes use Pilates as a form of preventative exercise. Pilates aims to ensure for the correct muscle balance for an individual’s sport, it helps to develop a strong core, improve spinal stability, and sufficient mobility around joints. Pilates targets the small intrinsic muscle groups along with the global powerful muscles and when guided properly with a health professional, can improve performance and technique, making you more efficient in your sport.

International rugby teams have been seen using Pilates in their weekly exercise routine to improve their performance on the field. Rugby players are constantly exposed to rapid directional changes and often at their near maximal pace. It is not helpful if the players have inflexible movements or technique. Rugby forwards require the ability to deliver controlled and powerful motions from unbalanced body positions which are adopted in scrums. Pilates assists with increasing the mobility of joints to better allow the player to quickly and efficiently get into awkward body positions required during scrums. Pilates also challenges these key areas/postures in balanced and unbalanced positions in clinic. With respects to the strength required in a scrum, think specifically about the amount of impact that transfers from the powerful lower limb muscles, through the spine and into the shoulders to then be transferred to the opposition. Should these forwards have poor core and spinal stability, the force is translated straight through their spine and the impact is lost on the opponent and focused on themselves. Picture an empty can of pop. If you were to push this empty can into a wall, it will crumble in the middle as there is no pressure of strength when it’s empty. A full can however has the support of the liquid and increased pressure therefore, sending the force straight through the wall.

Typical injuries seen in the clinic when treating rugby players involve their lower back, groin and hips. Rugby players have a lot of global muscle mass that requires adequate mobility around the associated joints. Pilates greatly lengthens muscles as well as directly strengthening them. The hamstring muscles in particular can be easily targeted to lengthen and strengthen when using a Pilates reformer. Flexible hamstrings directly assist in preventing lower back, groin and hip injuries. Mobility, flexibility and strength combined are paramount for neck, spine and shoulder injury prevention. Pilates helps to confirm any discrepancies of strength in global muscles such as your hamstrings, quadriceps and pectorals. Pilates focuses on muscular stamina and endurance while targeting engagement of the more powerful muscles. Neglect or an imbalance of the global and intrinsic muscles creates weakness. Weakness leads to over reliance on the global muscles therefore forcing these muscles to perform both roles of stabilizer and mobilizer which is inefficient and can lead to injury.

Below are some exercises used with rugby players in clinic.

Thoracic Rotations and Shoulder Shrugs on the Core Align

 


Kneeling Chest Opener

 


Arms in Straps Series

 

 

If you can increase your postural alignment, increase your dynamic stretching and mobility in all planes of movements, you will become a more functional and efficient player. Pilates assists to create this as a preventative tool for Rugby players.

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