FL teams usually hit the weights as part of their training strategy. But this year’s Super Bowl champs the Kansas City Chiefs also added a surprising stability workout to their regime: Pilates.
In a TikTok video posted by ESPN, Chiefs players complete a reformer and Cadillac Pilates workout with trainer Kahley Schiller. Players complete moves like tendon stretches, machine-supported body weight exercises, and trapeze pull-ups and push-ups.
But how does this low-impact workout help high-impact players pull off explosive movements on the field?
What Is Pilates?
In a typical Pilates session, you’ll complete a low-intensity workout that focuses on stability and flexibility using equipment like a mat, reformers (a bed-like frame that supports movement), a Cadillac (a four-post canopy used for body weight exercises), and barrels (rounded tools used for spine stretches). Many Pilates exercises target your core and the small stabilizer muscles around your joints and tendons.
Don’t let the zen, natural lighting and monochromatic workout outfits at the studio fool you. Pilates is hard work. Take it from the Chief’s players, who are visibly out of breath, sweating, and gritting their teeth through each set.
Pilates has skyrocketed in popularity over the last several years, especially among women. But data reported in the Wall Street Journal show that between 2017 and 2023, participation among men jumped from 16 to 25 percent.
TRAIN LIKE AN ATHLETE
How Pilates Helped The Chiefs Win the Super Bowl
While building muscle and endurance is the cornerstone of NFL training, Pilates training may offer the following benefits.
Injury prevention and rehabilitation
According to the late founder of Pilates—physical trainer Joseph Pilates—the main goal of the workout is to strengthen the mind-body connection. But it can also boost coordination and balance on the field and support rehabilitation after an injury (1).
Repeated tackles and sacks put NFL athletes at high risk for injury. Pilates improves muscle imbalances, promoting symmetry and balance and reducing the likelihood of getting hurt on the green (2).
Improved range of motion
Pilates targets the flexibility of major joints and tendons using both static and dynamic stretches to improve range of motion (3). This improved flexibility may help NFL players improve their quick changes of direction.
One study found that completing two, one-hour Pilates sessions per week for 12 weeks improved abdominal strength and upper spine posture, which is thought to protect against neck and shoulder injuries (4).
A strong core not only improves overall stability, but can also impact coordination and control (5)—essential for executing powerful and precise plays on the field.