As a rugby player, one of the most common injuries and side effects of the rough, hard-hitting sport we all love is to the spinal area. In this piece, I'm not looking to focus on major injuries but instead the little niggles that an awkward landing, bad tackle or just general wear and tear of physical sport can cause.
So, besides from ensuring correct and safe technique in the contact areas, plus coaching on landing safely from the tackle, 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 here, no hard-hitting, rugby player wants to be seen in a gentle class of Pilates when they can be upholding their machoism by powering through a tough weights session. (well that used to be the case but not so much anymore...)
In the long term, this concept may be the difference between enjoying a few extra playing years or having to spend training nights and game day laid up on the sofa, unable to engage in rugby.
Pilates is the most effective way of promoting spinal health, and in particular, of 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 of the shoulder girdle and hips, meaning improved support around the spinal area again decreasing 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 bodies 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, even if just once.
The great thing about this method of exercise..?
Once you have the exercises perfected and technique on point they 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 at least once per week (if not much more) will be taken through a full routine of Pilates by a trained instructor, which focuses on recovery, maintenance, and development.