Pilates and Powerlifting
Pilates and powerlifting tend to be performed by two very different groups. When most people think pilates, they think about soccer moms in yoga pants exercising on a machine. Whereas powerlifting summons thoughts of extremely large humans picking up heavy things yelling “light weight!” Regardless of the stereotypes associated with these activities, people that participate in them receive an array of benefits. Furthermore, individuals who only participate in one activity will benefit from trying out the other.
Background on Pilates
Joseph Pilates founded Pilates to help alleviate ill health and other physical conditions. Pilates can improve flexibility, muscular endurance, and muscular strength. Exercises in pilates emphasize alignment, breathing, and coordination. These techniques make pilates perfect for corrective exercise as well. For example, some people feel daily discomfort due to inactivity or improper movement mechanics. By performing pilates movements with an emphasis on core strength and breathing, some of that pain can be alleviated.
People can also scale their pilates workouts based on their individual needs. By scaling workouts, pilates is used to improve dysfunction and athletic ability. Athletic movements cause force to be transmitted throughout the core in various angles. This is important because strengthening the core is paramount to athletic success. Pilates can also be scaled back for those who just want to move and feel better, allowing them to perform less advanced movements. Pilates is meant to be inclusive so the majority of the exercises can be modified or replaced based on the goal or skill level.
Background on Powerlifting
Powerlifting evolved from what were collectively known as Odd Lifts. These “odd lifts” were created around the invention of the modern barbell. So the sport of picking up heavy stuff has been around for a really long time. There are three main movements present in the sport and they are squat, bench press, and deadlift. All three of the aforementioned are favorites of a lot of performance coaches because of how effective they are at increasing both muscle strength and size, via positive hormonal reactions in the body. However, people outside of the athletic world should perform these movements as well. The back squat, bench press, and deadlift have all been proven to increase bone density, even in aging populations. So adding these movements to an exercise routine becomes increasingly important as we get older in order to avoid issue like osteoporosis and osteopenia.
Sadly, there are some drawbacks to barbell only training. One of the adaptations of barbell loaded lifting is creating a stiff and rigid spine. A spine that is stiff is able to tolerate more compressive forces – the stiffer the spine, the more the individual will be able to lift. This is technically a good quality with translation to the sport of powerlifting. The drawback is that a rigid spine is one that is unable to rotate. A lack of rotational capacity is what leads to low back pain and an array of other unwanted spine related injuries. This is why coaches like to implement cross training activities or supplemental exercises. That way the spine won’t become so rigid that it can’t rotate.
Why Powerlifting and Pilates Complement Each Other
People who practice yoga and pilates sometimes suffer what is called hyper mobility of the spine. Injuries related to this issue occur because the core and muscle tissue surrounding the spine lacks the ability to become rigid. People who enjoy participating in pilates will actually see a lot of benefits from the adaptations associated with powerlifting.
Many people who avoid barbell lifting do so because they feel it will make them look like the next Arnold Swartzenager. Will barbell loading make you stronger and give you a little more muscle? Yes of course it will, but will it transform you into a bodybuilder if you workout with it a couple times a week? Heck no.
The majority of powerlifting training programs involve barbell loaded movements every time they workout, which we know leads to a stiff spine. Participating in pilates semi regularly will increase the overall rotational capacity of the spine. We know that doing this will prevent our spine from getting too stiff allowing us to avoid spine related injuries associated with that condition. In summation, cross training is an important component of any fitness regimen. Utilize different tools from different styles of exercise based on which adaptations complement each other. Doing so properly will make you stronger and help you avoid injuries in the future.
Jon Brown, owner and trainer at Empirical Fitness