Why These 3 NFL Receivers Do Pilates
Pilates has become popular among professional football players looking for an edge. The Washington Redskins and the Pittsburgh Steelers have both incorporated Pilates into their training regimens. Like yoga, Pilates can improve flexibility, balance and strength.
Also like yoga, Pilates emphasizes elongating the muscles and creating space between the joints, while simultaneously building stability. Increased range of motion can help prevent injury and promote career longevity. Especially for those in highly mobile positions, like wide receivers, Pilates can facilitate more efficient movement on the field.
Leading by example, the following NFL receivers are using Pilates to their advantage, some as a complement to their weight training, and some as their primary method of strength training.
Back in 2007, performance coach Tom Shaw recruited Pilates instructor Sarah Picot to work with his NFL Draft hopefuls, including 6-foot-5, 240-pound receiver Calvin Johnson. He wanted to supplement all of the hard work they'd been doing on the field with something that might relieve muscle tension and tightness.
"[Picot] knew more about flexibility than we did, and we learned the more flexible you are, the faster you're going to be," Johnson told Sports Illustrated at the time.
Johnson was among the players who were very receptive to Pilates. He worked with Picot primarily on core strength, muscle efficiency and balance, and hip and hamstring flexibility.
"People look at Pilates as sort of a girls' exercise," Picot told SI, "You can ask one of those men I worked with . . . how much we kicked their butts. They were shaking, they were sweating, they were uncomfortable. And then afterwards they felt calm, relaxed, loose."
Back when Nate Burleson was with the Detroit Lions, he got hooked on Pilates as a way to counteract all the tightness he was experiencing from lifting weights. From his very first session, he felt a "tremendous" difference in the way his body was feeling.
"Lifting just makes you tight," Burleson told CBS Detroit. He also said that Pilates had not only made his muscles more flexible, it also benefited his ligaments and tendons with more "give."
"What most guys are doing now, they're using it as a preventative measure, so it's almost like 'prehab' in a sense," Burleson continued. "Most guys, especially if you've been in the league for a while, your off day is a subtle work day. You're doing some type of work to keep your body as loose and limber as possible."
Coming off his NFL rookie season, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks posted a photo to his Instagram of himself suspended upside down on a Pilates reformer machine.
Cooks was enthusiastic about his Pilates workout, captioning the post "Great session today! Working on all aspects of the body!" Rest assured, he'll be back for more.