(Todays post is going to be in English as requested on Facebook).
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I am going to write a little bit about a training form called pilates and its benefits for Martial Artists & Fighters.
A lot of us fight-fans have seen the videos of welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre doing gymnastics; and the various UFC-countdown movies where you can see other professional fighters do all sorts of strength & conditioning work with balance balls, gymnastic rings and other equipment and methods that challenges the core-muscles and balance.
Because almost every movement you do in Martial Arts starts in your core – which are the muscles surrounding your center; stomach, lower back and hips. These parts are where the most muscular activation comes from once you know the right technique for punching, kicking or throwing your opponent.
Your core, in the center of your body, connects your limbs together. So if you have a weak core you can never produce any significant amount of power in your fist or foot. Likewise: if your middle-section gives in during wrestling; your opponent will take advantage and throw you like a dummy!
So this is why a lot of high-level fighters put in extra work on their core musculature; especially the inner (stabilizing) ones by purposely starting off balance in your movement. One of the best ways to train this is in my opinion by doing traditional pilates.
The exercies in pilates always require a combination of strength and balance – which means that if you are weak in one area you will be off-balanced in that direction. In this way you get a kind of feedback on where your weakest links are which is gold worth! Because ”you are only as strong as your weakest link”.
So what does a typical pilates session look like?
Imagine 50 minutes of non-stop moving; putting your body in awkward positions, using straps and moving sleds to unbalance your left and right sides (in order to make you activate the inner core muscles to keep a straight and proper form) while pushing, pulling and squatting. Oh yeah - and throw in some mobility exercises in between while you catch your breath. This is pilates.
GSP (as we saw in the link above) chose gymnastics as his way of training the core and getting a deeper knowledge of the body with the motivation that ”if you take an elite athlete from every sport and let them do each others sports – the gymnast will probably do best”.
And the explanation for this is body awareness.
Instead of throwing dumbbells around or limiting their movements in machines the gymnast works with their own body. Just like pilates. And by putting your mind into your movements you get a deeper understanding of how your body functions. By changing levers, using one arm/one leg at a time it can also get really heavy for anyone interested in training those explosive muscle fibers.
For me pilates is like gymnastics without the flips/pirouettes – strictly focusing on the core strengthening and mobility aspects. Also by using a unique kind of equipment; but other than that it is very similar.
I’ve been doing pilates for about a year and a half (on and off) - and after my first experience (after about 3 months of strict training followed by a break) I recognized an increase in my punching power. I felt my fists were more connected to my core, and the muscle chains working tighter together to produce power while boxing.
It has also taught me how to dig deep in the exercise I am performing to find the feeling of which muscles are working, and be more aware of how my body parts functions together. This is an excellent thing to know for every athlete, no matter the sport. But don’t think pilates is a method strictly for athletes and fighters – it could be even more rewarding for the office worker and other less active persons.
In today’s society we are sitting down on chairs so much, which is a very unnatural position, hunching over a desk or keyboard. We sit on the sofa, by the dinner table, in front of the computer… Regular people could benefit a lot from pilates by developing a better posture, healthier backs and avoid joint pain.
But before you call the closest pilates-center you should be aware that there’s a difference between traditional and modern pilates. I am writing about the authentic, traditional stuff – and I imagine that a lot of gyms use the word ”pilates” in their marketing even though it is far from the real thing.
So make sure you are getting the old-school method as it was taught by the founder. If you are located in Stockholm I can highly recommend Pilates Scandinavia where you will be taught by real professionals.