5 Ways Pilates Helps Divers
Pilates is an art form developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s. Its focus is to strengthen the core of the body — the muscles that support the abdomen and back — while also improving flexibility, balance, and the development of lean muscle.
These specific fitness gains can benefit divers of all ages and skill levels. By implementing Pilates into their training program, divers will become stronger, leaner, and more flexible.
Here are five ways divers can benefit from a Pilates program:
1. Core Strength
You use your core in almost every aspect of diving: walking, running, jumping, flipping and twisting.
Pilates doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment. A simple yoga or gym mat is all you need to start. If you want to enhance the workout, invest in a few simple pieces of equipment such as a flexible band and stability ball.
Strengthening this key area of the body will pay continuous dividends in the quality of your performance. It will help you maintain good posture throughout your dive, from the walk down the board to the entry, as well as make your dive faster and more graceful.
For years, divers have worked on stomach strengthening exercises such as tuck-ups and pike-ups. Pilates incorporates these exercises but also works the deeper, more interior set of muscles that traditional stomach exercises don't engage.
Movements such as the plank and the hundred strengthen many hard-to-reach core muscles, improving overall balance and body awareness—both critical factors to success in diving.
Here is how to perform each:
- Start on your hands and knees. Arms should be straight, but not locked.
- Place one foot back. The leg should be straight behind your body. Move the other foot back to meet the first foot, so that you are balancing on your hands and toes (similar to a push-up position).
- Keep your body flat by engaging your stomach muscles.
- Hold this position for up to two minutes.
- Lie on your back, with your legs bent, feet on the ground and arms by your side.
- Start using short, quick breaths: five in and five out.
- Gently lift your upper body off the mat by scooping the stomach to activate the core muscles.
- Quickly pump the arms up and down using small movements.
- To increase the intensity of this move, lift your legs in the air, keeping them tight with toes pointed. Repeat the process.
Diving requires repetitive movements which can cause injury, primarily to the shoulders, back and neck.
Pilates emphasizes deep breathing as a means to a more effective workout and as an important part of healthy living in general.
The deep inhales and exhales taught in the practice flood the body with new oxygen while simultaneously ridding the body of harmful toxins such as carbon dioxide. Learning how to use breath effectively will enhance all components of your workout and help you stay relaxed come competition.
Pilates not only helps prevent these injuries by strengthening the surrounding muscles, but also can help you recover faster if problems do occur.
Pilates can be effective at preventing or rehabbing injuries because of its emphasis on the core muscles. The core stabilizes and controls all spinal and hip maneuvers; if the back and stomach are solid, it is easier to get a good tight entry and prevent your body from swaying when entering the water at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.
Many of the exercises implemented in Pilates facilitate flexibility by lengthening the muscles and increasing the range of motion in the joints. By increasing the range of motion in your legs, arms and back, you can get into a pike more quickly, rotate faster, and improve in virtually all aspects of diving.
4. Strength Training
Pilates is designed to build strength without bulk. It uses the weight of your body or the tension created by certain pieces of equipment, to build lean, long muscles. Strength training also activates the body's fast-twitch muscles which control your ability to explode off the board or platform and finish your dive well above the water.
5. Balance & Body Control
Pilates will also improve your balance and sense of control. While emphasized in most exercises, your balance is particularly tested when working on a stability ball.
Here are a few exercises that you can incorporate:
- Sit on the ball in an upright position.
- Lightly bounce the ball up and down, squeezing your stomach muscles.
- Lift one leg off the ground and point it straight in front of you. Make sure the ball does not move from side to side, but maintains its slight bounce.
- Switch legs and repeat. Do five sets on each leg.
- On the floor, lie on your back with your bottom pushed up to the ball, and your legs resting on top.
- Gently peel your body off the floor while keeping the ball motionless.
- Squeeze your stomach, legs and bottom.
- Hold for 15-30 seconds.
Adding just 15 minutes of Pilates into your training regimen will make you a stronger, leaner, and more efficient diver. Plus, the breathing techniques and core strength you gain through the exercises will benefit you in ways that reach well beyond the sport.