What is Pilates, and can it really help Brandon Sutter?

With just a few weeks remaining before training camp gets underway, Vancouver Canucks forward Brandon Sutter revealed he’s been doing pilates this offseason. Can this actually help him?

The Vancouver Canucks have had a busy offseason and have loaded up their forward depth. With a surplus of forwards, someone will almost certainly have to be moved out from the big club. Last year it was Sam Gagner who was shocked to find himself in the AHL, and many fans have tabbed Brandon Sutter as the man to either get traded or otherwise moved before the 2019-20 Canucks season gets underway.

Since arriving to the Canucks after being traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sutter has struggled to stay healthy. Sutter played just 20 games in his first season with the Canucks and appeared in 26 last season. In his only 80+ game season with the Canucks in 2016-17, Sutter had 17 goals and 17 assists.

The main thing Sutter has struggled with has been just that; his health and staying in the Canucks’ lineup. This offseason, as revealed by The Province’s Ben Kuzma, Sutter began doing pilates and is looking forward to a healthy bounce-back season as a result of his new workout routine.

When this story broke, some Canucks fans began to mock Sutter’s new workout choice and continued to call for the 30-year-old center to be traded. But I didn’t want the conversation to end there. Just what exactly is pilates and can it really help Sutter remain healthy?

If you’re like me, you’ve heard of pilates maybe once or twice, but don’t know much about it. I’ve never tried pilates myself, and I personally don’t know anybody that has done it before. After far too many hours spent reading and learning about the workout, and seeing more than a couple of ads pop up on my social media urging me to buy yoga mats, I feel like I have a good understanding of what pilates entails.

Pilates was developed in the early 20th century by a German physical trainer named Joseph Pilates, whom the workout is named after. It entails a series of stretches and poses that all target and strengthen your core, but some stretches are designed to strengthen the arms and legs.

Pilates focuses a lot on concentration and technique, along with breathing. Because of this, many people believe it to be beneficial for mental well being, and in a game as gruelling as professional hockey, mental toughness is almost just as important as physical toughness.

Sutter isn’t the first pro athlete to give the workout a try, either. Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees says that the Yankees have a couple of pilates machines in their training facilities, and Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale said that he likes the ability he has to increase the difficulty of the workout or be able to do an easier workout on days he’s not feeling 100%.

Over on the hardwood, Lebron James, James Harden, and Dwyane Wade have all praised the workout and it’s benefits to keeping their muscles relaxed and loose. Some other players in the NHL who do pilates are Tyler Seguin, Auston Matthews, and Phillip Danault. Sutter clearly isn’t the only one who thinks this workout can massively improve his ability to stay healthy.

For Sutter, who suffered a separated shoulder late in October of last season, followed by groin problems that came seemingly out of nowhere in February; stabilizing his core, arms and legs should be of the utmost importance this offseason.

Now Sutter just wishes he had started the workout ten years ago:

“A whole different thing than I’ve done before and now that I’ve started it, I wish I would have done it 10 years ago because it has helped a lot. It’s all functional movement and based on the inner thigh and core. It’s just very specific for exactly what I need and now that I’ve done it, in the future I’ll do it more and spend less time lifting weights.”

Sutter will be hoping to not only stay healthy but improve his level of play. In 2016-17, the only Canucks’ season Sutter has played more than 80 games in, he led the team in faceoff percentage with 54.3%. The Canucks penalty kill was already improved with the addition of Jay Beagle last season, but having a healthy Sutter who is playing at his highest potential would be extremely beneficial for the Canucks’ penalty-killing units.

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If Sutter’s new workout does prove to be as beneficial as he thinks it will be, maybe some of his other oft-injured Canucks teammates such as Alex Edler and Chris Tanev will give the workout a try for themselves. Could pilates be the antidote that keeps the injury bug away from the Canucks?

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