10 Ways Pilates Can Improve You At Crossfit
10 ways Pilates can improve you for Crossfit
Even though Pilates and Crossfit may be seen by many as opposite ends of the spectrum the truth is that adding Pilates to your Crossfit program could reap you huge benefits in training.
An analogy that I heard is that ‘You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe.’ That is to say that you can only develop the larger muscles to the point that the smaller stabilising muscles can cope. Otherwise you are at risk of injury in the long or short term. Pilates will enable you to develop those stabilising muscles allowing you to reach new performance levels at Crossfit.
A major focus of Pilates is on correct performance of the exercise to maximise the benefit and results of that exercise. We ensure that the correct muscles are being used. With Pilates we are trying to retrain the body to operate optimally and so cannot afford any shortcuts in technique. This is a shared focus of crossfit. The best way to improve at an exercise is concentrating on technique
Mind body connection
In Pilates we learn to identify exactly what muscles are working. Focus on exactly where we are feeling it in the body. We want to be very specific about it. We learn to contract smaller muscles to stabilise the body which in turn allow us to use the larger muscles more effectively. Developing this awareness for Crossfit will mean that you won’t be concentrating on simply performing the exercise but on contracting the correct muscles in order to complete it and not ‘cheating’ your way through it.
We get to use our body in a different plane of motion in Pilates. It increases our proprioception i.e. awareness of how our limbs move in space. This awareness helps us to perform exercises more optimally and to generate the change we want to see in our body. Incorporating this into Crossfit, in a similar way to point 2, will make you more conscious of where you are feeling the exercise, and enable you to recruit the correct muscles to ensure the exercise is done as effectively and safely as possible.
Understanding what neutral spine is and how to obtain a neutral spinal position are essential in Pilates. In Crossfit an error that you often see is that people are lifting very heavy weight in a position that is putting load on the lower back and the base of the spine, this may lead to back problems later on. If we work from neutral spine it will mean we aren’t at risk of damaging the spine or back, will use the larger muscles (quads, back, etc) better, you will also see quicker gains in your weights and may also enable you to break through that performance ceiling you have been hitting.
A lot of Crossfit exercises have a very compounding effect on the spine. The vertebrae are constantly being compressed. Pilates helps to lengthen the spine. It will take the load off the spine and help to keep it healthy and strong. It will have a restorative effect on the body. Doing this will enable you to reach greater performance goals, reduce risk of injury and to be able to train more often and more consistently.
The core is a common term in the health and fitness and Crossfit world. But it is surprising how few actually know what the core is, how to engage it or strengthen it properly. And in case you’re wondering, no it is not just your abdominals. It is the combination of your transversus abdominus and your pelvic floor. By strengthening these it gives you a stable base from which to perform all exercises. If you don’t know of the transversus abdominus and pelvic floor and are doing any sort of strength training then you need to start doing Pilates as well. The strength to lift more will ultimately be determined or restricted by your core strength. If you have found that you have reached a performance plateau adding Pilates may help you to overcome this.
Many Crossfit exercises put a lot of strain on the shoulders, whether lifting overhead, muscles up, push ups, etc. If you do not have good shoulder control you may be at risk of injury further down the line. By shoulder control this doesn’t just mean the amount of muscle around the shoulder it is the ability to keep the head of the humerus drawn into the glenoid fossa of the scapula i.e to keep the arm bone drawn into the shoulder socket. Better shoulder control puts you at less risk of developing shoulder injuries which in turn means you can continue to train and make gains.
Pilates will help to improve hip stability, knee stability and glute strength. All of which are vital in all Crossfit exercises that involve squats, lunges, box jumps, etc. You can have very strong quads but still have poor glute and hip control. And also included in this is neutral spine that we spoke of before. With better hip stability and glute strength it will enable you to push up stronger and with more control. This is turn will lead to lifting heavier weights. As you progress with weights any deficiencies in technique or stabiliser strength is multiplied. And so the risk of injury becomes greater.
All of the areas mentioned above will make you more precise with your movements. You will feel more in control of the weight, your body and the movement. This in turn will lead to improvements in performance whether this is weight lifted or endurance.
A key principle to both disciplines is to increase our functional strength i.e. performing movements that will benefit us in everyday life rather than being isolated exercises which are purely for the purpose of increasing muscle size. Improving our body awareness, developing a mind body connection and improved stability through Pilates will help to boost your Crossfit gains.
Even though a lot of people would class Crossfit and Pilates as very different disciplines you can see that there are a lot of similarities. And also that incorporating Pilates into your Crossfit regime could have immense benefits for your training.
If you have any further questions on how to get your Pilates training started don’t hesitate to get in touch. Please leave any comments or questions in the the section below.
Pilates Instructor, Personal Trainer, Fitness Coach