Why Soccer Stars From the UK are Turning to the Mat

Why Soccer Stars From the UK are Turning to the Mat

Soccer is widely recognized as one of the toughest sports on the body. The combination of aerobic and anaerobic movements works the joints and muscles hard, and has often led to career ending injuries. As players try to prolong their careers many are embracing the benefits of mat-based exercises such as Pilates and yoga.

Pilates 4 Sport informs that most soccer injuries are sustained around the knee due to twisting actions and are a result of overuse or playing with slight injuries without recovery. Pilates is one of the most effective exercises to strengthen and protect vulnerable joints such as the knee and is used as a prevention exercise as well as a recovery exercise by many clubs. It also works the core and is a great supplement exercise to the usual soccer training sessions that focus on stamina and agility. 

According to the health site Pilates Near You, professional soccer players such as Real Madrid and Wales star Gareth Bale has invested heavily into improving his performance through Pilates. The site noticed that after adding Pilates to his workout Gareth Bale’s “physique began to improve and a look at him now shows a player in peak physical condition.” The game of soccer has changed considerably in the past decades and the required fitness level of a player is now a lot higher than ever before. This is not only due to the speed of the game but also the scheduling. A player such as Gareth Bale will be expected to play all year round for both their domestic and national teams. With less downtime soccer players are more prone to injury.


Another Welsh soccer player who has embraced and in many ways led the way to the mat is Ryan Giggs. Welshman Giggs is seen as the golden example that mat-based workouts like Pilates and yoga combined with a soccer training programme can prolong a career. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Giggs explained how yoga helped him get over constant injuries. “You can feel it working and you can feel the benefits straight away. My body feels so much better having done the yoga. I still get the odd hamstring strain, which you are going to get playing football, but it wasn’t about curing the problem, but making it less frequent. I wish I had done it from the start of my career.”

While Giggs may have wished to start earlier, it clearly did him a lot of good and he retired at the age of 40 while still playing top tier soccer for Manchester United. Whether Bale can replicate that success has been asked many times by digital publications such as football website Betfair in their article Gareth Bale or Ryan Giggs – who is the best Welsh talent? The site notes that while Bale has the talent to become a more prolific goalscorer he will find it hard to match the longevity and success of Giggs. Whoever comes out on top, both players have greatly benefited from embracing the mat and incorporating Pilates and yoga into their training. They have also been catalysts to bring Pilates and yoga across to professional sports teams with both exercises now regularly used by Premier League teams to help combat injuries and increase the chances of prolonging playing careers.