A strong core is essential for swimming and often overlooked in training. In swimming, every movement you make originates from the core—kicking, pulling, rotating, and even gliding. This is where Pilates comes in. Core strength and stabilization are at the heart of the beginning, middle, and end of every Pilates exercise. Olympic swimmers Dara Torres, Ian Thorpe, Natalie Coughlin, and Dana Vollmer believe in the power of Pilates. Here’s why you should too:
Become a more mindful swimmer. Pilates emphasizes the mind-body connection. By taking the time to breathe and connect to your center, you will see improvements in the pool. Plus, learning how to control your breath with deep exhales fires up your core and supplies oxygen to muscles, which powers your stroke.
Prevent injuries. When swimmers have a weak core, they tend to overcompensate by putting extra stress on their back and shoulder muscles. While doing so may mask inefficiencies, it can lead to overuse injuries like muscle strains or rotator cuff tears. Pilates works on balancing these imbalances so you can maximize the power generated from your back, shoulders, and legs without overusing them to a point of injury.
Improve body alignment and streamline position. Pilates works on extension of the spine and limbs. An essential part of swimming is maintaining a streamline position to improve efficiency. When you get tired while swimming, your technique is often the first element to break down. Your body becomes misaligned and your become inefficient. By working on strengthening and lengthening the spine in Pilates, it becomes more natural to hold a streamline position while swimming.
Build speed. Swimming utilizes all of the body’s muscles simultaneously. Your core is your center. In all four competitive strokes, a stable core will enable you to leverage your larger muscles to move through water more quickly and efficiently.
Boost recovery. Swimming is a repetitive sport, and you can find strength in mixing up your routine. Pilates is not all about feeling the burn. You will stretch overused hip flexors, rotate your spine, and work out the aches and pains from your tough training regimen. The goal is to leave feeling stretched and ready to tackle your next workout.