Pilates is a very effective form of exercise to add to your training routine if your looking to improve your swim time and endurance. Let's deep dive into a few reasons why Pilates can be beneficial.......
Core Strength and Alignment
Pilates focuses on strengthening the deep core and stabilizing muscles, which creates an advantage as all movements in swimming should have core engagement so that you are able to control your way through the water (leading to efficiency in the water!). Whether you're doing the front stroke or back stroke, you want to ensure you are engaging your core without letting your traps take over as your arms are going overhead. If you do let this happen, you may experience strain in the neck which leads us to our next benefit....
Pilates also promotes correct firing patterns. As you're powering through the water, you want to ensure that you're firing correctly so you can move through the water more efficiently, increasing your speed. If you're out of alignment, it may make it more difficult. Pilates helps activate your inner support system which means you're always working from the inside out but with control in the way your body is meant to.
Breathing is the first basic principle in Pilates and the first thing you learn and do during your Pilates classes. Pilates promotes deeps breaths to ensure the most efficient exchange of oxygen and optimalutilization of your lungs. It also promotes unnecessary tension in the neck, shoulders, mid back and diaphragm. Very similar to what we spoke about in the firing patterns, we want to make sure that we're not keeping and storing tension in the body in and out of the pool.
Mind Body Control
Pilates exercises are normally done at a deliberate pace to concentrate on precision and control. Without the control, you may be prone to injuries. Not only does it help develop long and lean muscles but also helps you to focus on the mind body connection (what they are feeling/firing, proper form and alignment, etc..). The same thing is done in the pool. Although swimmers may not have the time to slow down their movement, doing Pilates can help develop body awareness, which allows you to concentrate better on form, breathing, etc... while doing laps.
Overall Body Mobility
Developing flexibility and mobility throughout the body is also crucial for a swimmer. For example, if aswimmer lacks mobility in the shoulders, it will make their breaststroke much harder.
A swimmer also needs mobility (and flexibility!) in the hips so that they can effectively kick and get further. Take the breast stroke for example, the legs need to be in turn out and ideally have maximum range of motion. Without that range, they will not move through the water as quickly, therefore increasing their time. The great thing about Pilates is that it works the muscles while lengthening them, creating that wonderful balance the body needs and craves for it to move the way it should!
As you can tell, Pilates can contribute immensely in improving swimmers skill level. Not only are there mat exercises you can do, but Pilates offers a variety of different equipment that will continuously challenge you in different ways. For example, there is the Reformer and Stability Chair that will challenge your overall strength and stability (especially with a moving platform/pedals), there is the Jumpboard that will help improve the push off from the wall by strengthening thighs glutes, calves and also work on foot articulation, and not to mention, a variety of props that will increase the challenge or change the dynamic of the exercises to ensure your body is always being challenged while advancing your progress.
Check out our YouTube channel for exercises you can do to improve your swimming time, endurance and even maybe technique!