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Jun 27, 2017

Incorporating the Use of Pilates Reformer in Professional Soccer Players


The nature and the demands of the sport constantly challenge soccer players to fight muscle imbalances that often lead to injury. By constantly using the same muscle groups, especially around the body’s midsection and about the hip joints, soccer players need daily preventive and ongoing treatment routines and strategies to address such issues. This is precisely why the use of a Pilates Reformer can be of great benefit for professional soccer athletes.

Posted by: KSherry

Incorporating the Use of Pilates Reformer in Professional Soccer Players

 

The nature and the demands of the sport constantly challenge soccer players to fight muscle imbalances that often lead to injury. By constantly using the same muscle groups, especially around the body’s midsection and about the hip joints, soccer players need daily preventive and ongoing treatment routines and strategies to address such issues.  This is precisely why the use of a Pilates Reformer can be of great benefit for professional soccer athletes.

Perhaps, the greatest feature of the Pilates Reformer is its versatility. With its use, you can address many different aspects of a player’s potential problems: mobility, flexibility, strength, coordination, and even balance. The overall type and quantity of exercises and routines are essentially countless. And the overall goal in most activities that are done on the Pilates Reformer is to encourage proper core and spine stability while promoting mobility or generating greater ranges in the extremities that can eventually be used functionally out on the pitch.

 

How Can the Pilates Reformer be Implemented with Soccer Players?  

The idea about using the Pilates Reformer first came to mind when sharing ideas and concepts with colleagues at previous clubs. Having similar needs regarding ways to address various forms of muscle imbalances and dealing with daily symptomology with the players, made the thought of using this device very appealing. In our experiences, it has always worked to keep things very simple. Rather than coming up with exotic exercises and over-the-top treatment strategies, providing the players with simple ideas and staying focused on basic biomechanical concepts have proven over and over to be key to maintain the overall health of the athletes. Indeed, the Pilates Reformer is such as basic piece of equipment, most players are able to use it and can perform their individual programs on their own- once they are shown how to adjust the resistance and become familiar with the various attachments that are available. Furthermore, the Pilates Reformer targets and isolates those muscle groups around the core and hip girdle that are so important for the overall performance for soccer players.

In our club, we implemented the use of the Pilates Reformer in multiple capacities. It is not only used with those players who are not active and are currently in rehab, but it is also used with fully active players daily. The Pilates Reformer was integrated as part of the daily preventive and individualized programs for those players who are particularly in need of addressing biomechanical dysfunction; for instance, players who lack hip joint mobility, specifically hip extension, hip internal rotation, and have poor hip abduction strength. One of our players who has ongoing chronic hip pathology states: “With the way that my hips are, the reformer helps me get ready to go out onto field every day.” While research may not fully demonstrate that lack of hamstring flexibility may lead to potential injury, for those players who are always complaining of hamstring “tightness”, we also incorporated a hamstring routine using the Pilates Reformer. Another important category of players who are given routines in the Reformer are those who, though may have proper core strength, their neuromuscular ability and core coordination as well as rotation stability may be lacking or need improvement.

We have also incorporated the Pilates Reformer to initiate muscle activation. We have a good number of players who utilize the reformer as part of their warm up. It is an excellent way to do so, as it is very dynamic and the players can engage multiple muscle groups while promoting increasing amounts of mobility prior to transferring to the pitch for training. In addition, many of those players return post training and use the Pilates Reformer as a cool down tool. Call it a stretch, mobility, regeneration, etc, these players come in and do another round of exercise after training is done. One of our younger players recognizes the value of the reformer as part of his recovery routine: “I really like the reformer. I wish we had more so that when we do a recovery session we can incorporate it as a team.” We have encouraged to add a bit more of resistance in certain exercises post training which can serve as a method for strength gain as well as greater mobility achievement.  

From a rehabilitation stand point as it is for prevention, the Pilates Reformer encourages eccentric contractions, and therefore its use and subsequent advantages and benefits are paramount for the overall health for our players.

 

Players’ perception of the Pilates Reformer

While we as medical providers often utilize the Pilates Reformer for players as part of their rehab prescriptions or their daily regimens, one of the most impressive things that we have seen with it, is that many of the other players often ask about what the Pilates Reformer is all about and if it can benefit them. In fact, we have noticed that there is usually a line of players waiting to use it. The players share information about the Pilates Reformer among each other and you can even hear them mention how they would like to purchase their own unit for their personal use.

We are fortunate at our club to have players from many parts of the world and who have played in many leagues, some at top level leagues. It is fascinating to have some players who have had experiences with a Pilates Reformer and have used it under other sports medicine staffs in the past. They are very happy to know that we also have it and employ it in many ways. One player who came to us from the EPL who used a Pilates Reformer at his previous club is a big advocate of it stating: “I love this machine. I feel that the amount of mobility that I get after doing it allows me to go out to the pitch and be ready to train.” Conversely, we have players who have never seen or used such apparatus, yet, they have become huge fans of it and have found that it has helped them with their physical issues as well as their increased performance.  

 

By:

Mario Cruz, DPT, SCS, ATC

Head Athletic Trainer

Atlanta United F.C.

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