Now that the most anticipated tournament in European rugby is well underway and we are all embracing that 6 Nations buzz, many of us wait with bated breath while some of the worlds greatest players are going head to head to win the title, and the question arises once again as it does every year – which players are in the best physical shape and just how are they doing it?!
As an infamously high-contact sport, the resilience of players must be almost bionic as enduring broken bones and torn ligaments, amongst a whole host of other ailments comes with the territory of being a professional player. Between tackles, mauls, rucks and line-outs over the course of a season, rugby is demanding on the body, to put it mildly.
So how are some of the worlds most respected players working to stay injury free and match fit? You guessed it – reformer pilates! When we think of the biggest names in rugby, I think that its fair to say that most will imagine training sessions to include gruelling sessions lifting enormous weight, however how many of us have ever pictured Johnny Sexton trotting off to reformer pilates?
It isn’t just the man of the moment who has made reformer pilates a staple in his fitness program, but teams like Leinster, The London Irish and Warwickshire are all incorporating pilates into their training schedules and reaping the rewards.
So why are our favourite rugby stars fawning over reformer?
Pilates is the most effective way to promote spinal health and to develop the inner muscles of the core and neutral alignment of the spine while also developing strength and flexibility of the shoulder girdle and hips to provide extra support for the spine and therefore to decrease the risk of injury. Practicing pilates lengthens the muscles and as such prevents shortened muscles which are far more susceptible to pulls and tears and works to prevent injury before it occurs.
The reformer uses the resistance of springs to give the whole body a full workout and retrains the smaller (local) muscle groups to provide better support and stability to take pressure off of larger muscle groups (global muscle) and improves performance by training the body to work uniformly for better speed and focus on the pitch and less time spent off as a result of injury.
So if you’ve made it your resolution to up your game on the pitch this year and want to develop strength, co-ordination, flexibility and mobility, you might just want to make like a pro player and get on a reformer!