If I look at my initial notes for any of my athlete clients, almost every single one has listed flexibility as a goal they wish to achieve through Pilates. And flexibility is definitely a key component of performance improvement and injury prevention. But flexibility without stability is a fast track to the DL.

Some of us are born with excessive range of motion in a joint but anyone can develop hypermobility. Any stretch routine should focus on creating pliable, agile muscles and be accompanied by exercises to strengthen the structures that support the joints.

Many classic “hip openers” such as a deep low lunge, straddle stretch or pigeon pose, are an example of stretches that may feel good, and provide a feeling of release. However, without including stabilizing exercises to work the gluteus medius and minimus, the cartilage and ligaments that support the hip joint can end up stressed, leaving the hip vulnerable to injury. Exercises such as kneeling side kicks in Pilates, Warrior III pose in yoga or simple lateral band walks are just a few examples of exercises that engage the glutes and can help increase hip strength.

Excessive stretching without balancing flexibility and strength, hinders performance and can put the athlete at risk for injuries just as muscle imbalance, tightness and inflexibility does. Many Pilates and yoga classes can help improve range of motion, joint stability and core strength which are all essential to peak performance and injury prevention.

Tips for choosing a safe and effective flexibility program:

  • Look for a facility and/or instructor with advanced knowledge of anatomy, an understanding of the principles of strength training and experience working with athletes.

  • Many sport performance programs/trainers now partner with, or provide Pilates and Yoga classes on site that compliment training programs.

  • Instructors should be comprehensively trained in their modality with a minimum of 400 hours.

  • One on one instruction, especially when just beginning a flexibility program, can be extremely beneficial and provides a personalized approach.

  • Choose a time and day that compliments your training schedule. Pilates and Yoga are supplements to strength training, not a replacement.

  • Always listen to your body. Challenge yourself without pushing yourself into poses or positions that feel painful.

  • Pay attention to how your body responds to the session. You should feel relaxed but energized rather than fatigued or sore.