As a rugby player one of the most vulnerable areas for common injuries is the spinal area, due to the effects of our hard-hitting sport. I want to focus on the little niggles that can occur on a regular basis for rugby players, especially in the back. These can be caused by anything from an awkward landing, bad tackle or just general wear and tear due to the physicality of the sport.
So, besides from ensuring correct and safe technique during tackles and scrums, plus coaching on landing safely, what else can we do away from the playing field to strengthen and maintain spinal health?
The answer is in Pilates….
Now let’s be honest, no rugby player would initially have envisaged training placing themself within the calm of a Pilates class (although they’re becoming increasingly popular amongst the pros), when they could be powering through a tough weights session.
However in the long term this concept may be the difference between enjoying a few extra years of playing the sport, or having to spend training nights and game days on the sofa, unable to engage in rugby.
Pilates is the most effective way of promoting spinal health, and in particular developing the inner muscles of the core and neutral alignment of the spine. By promoting correct alignment of the spine and symmetry of the back this will also decrease the risk of general wear and tear on the spine and in particular, on the intervertebral discs.
Pilates will also develop the strength and flexibility within the shoulder girdle and hips, resulting in improved support around the spinal area, which again decreases the risk of injury.
One of the final and potentially most important benefits of regularly taking part in Pilates is how it builds awareness of the body’s position and movement, therefore reducing unnecessary stress on the spine.
There are also many other benefits to Pilates but these are the main focus points for spinal health.
So, next time you visit the gym, take a look at the class timetable and give Pilates a try.
The great thing about this method of exercise is once you have the movements and technique perfected, these exercises can be performed anywhere, anytime.
So if you feel a little uneasy saving and maintaining the health of your spine within a gym class environment, perform the exercises on your own. Your spine and rugby career will thank you later.
Want one more incentive to take part in Pilates? I can guarantee you that every professional player will be taken through a full routine of Pilates (at least once per week if not much more) by a trained instructor, focused around recovery, maintenance and development.