When the Washington Nationals signed Matt Adams, we were encouraged to hear from his college baseball coach, Jeff Messer, that “Big City” was in the best shape of his career and Pilates was the main reason behind his new and improved body. What we learned was Adams had gone through a body transformation that has been a work in progress that he started with his Pilates instructor Kim Wallis in St. Louis.
Wallis explained that the main difference between Pilates and yoga is that Pilates uses equipment to assist or resist the movements. Pilates can also be done off the equipment, or using small equipment such as bands, gliders and rings, using the same principles. She said that Joseph Pilates who founded the discipline definitely took inspiration from yoga poses but the movements can be more dynamic.
Wallis began teaching Pilates when she moved to St. Louis in 2001 and had the opportunity to work with an NHL player recovering from knee surgery and a few NFL players whose yoga teacher moved out of state. They liked the results and passed her name on to more pro athletes who were struggling with chronic injuries or post-rehab and then she started to get athletes who were 100% healthy. Fast forward a few years and her clientele now consists of mostly athletes, athletes’ wives and athletes’ girlfriends. Many of her current athletes are also interested in injury prevention, corrective exercise, and sport specific programs to improve performance. She eventually began working with pro teams including the former St. Louis Rams, St. Louis Blues and the St. Louis Cardinals. She has clients all over and in a variety of sports. Her hashtag is #JockYoga, and it is a real thing.
“In addition to my Pilates and strength and conditioning certifications — Jock Yoga is actually a trademarked method that a friend in Toronto developed and I did my yoga training under him,” Wallis said.
So you’re probably wondering how a large human like Matt Adams got into Pilates. We were too and Wallis told us that she met Adams at Spring Training in Jupiter, Florida with the Cardinals, and he began Pilates during the 2016 season. He was so intrigued with the changes he felt and saw in his body and performance that he stayed in St. Louis to train with her in the off-season. Her programs include both physical and mental components and are customized to each athlete. He lost almost 40 pounds and 13% body fat and continues to improve his body composition while not sacrificing strength which is a key distinction.
“I’m definitely proud of the work he did and continues to do,” Wallis said. “His success is a result of his commitment to the program and his desire to keep getting better. The confidence that athletes gain from seeing what their bodies can do when they put all the pieces together of exercise, nutrition, recovery, mental conditioning — absolutely has a positive impact on their performance.”
A positive impact on performance is the key. A good mental state is another key. Feel good — equals — perform good. At this writing, Matt Adams has an OPS of 1.031 which is the best of his career for a player who has a career .797 OPS average. Adams has shown more patience at the plate and the willingness to go the other way to the opposite field. Adams feels he can certainly ignite another hot streak at any time.
“He is in a good place,” said Jeff Messer who was Adams college coach. “He looks locked-in and shown better patience.”
When Matt was traded early last season to the Atlanta Braves, Wallis helped him get settled in Atlanta and set up a Pilates Reformer in his apartment. She would come in town frequently to work with him, and they would do FaceTime sessions when she wasn’t there. It shows Matt’s dedication as this is a on-going lifestyle.
Part of the program is that Wallis creates travel programs for all of her athlete clients to do on the road even if they don’t have access to equipment.
“Now I’m with him about every other week in D.C. or on the road but he has routines to go through when I’m not there,” Wallis said. “The Nationals have been extremely communicative and supportive of the work that Matt’s doing.”
While Kim Wallis isn’t working with any other Nationals players, she is open to taking on more clients. She said that most athletes aren’t looking to start a new program during the season unless they’re struggling with or rehabbing an injury but when guys see a teammate having success with the program it definitely piques their interest.
“Going back to spring training and working with Kevin Long,” Adams said has helped him especially hitting lefties. “Opening up [my stance] a little bit. Helping me see the ball better out of the lefties hand. Picking up spin early on. A lot of credit goes to Kevin on that.”
When a player is showing immense improvement, we always want to find out why. Sometimes it is age progression and sometimes it is a mechanical tweak. Often it is just a mirage and a player regresses back to the mean. In Matt Adams case, it appears that this improvement is real and sustainable based on his new and improved body where he is able to swing free and easy and add to that his new mechanical tweaks he has made with working with hitting coach Kevin Long.
We’ve also commented on Adams nimbleness and speed. It has helped considerably on defense and below is a video of Adams robbing a home run:
Some of the basic benefits of Pilates include improved posture/alignment, core stability, balance, flexibility, and better body awareness. Pilates promotes efficient movement, basically reconditioning of the body to move like our bodies were designed to. Joseph Pilates studied the movement patterns of babies and animals and how they initiate effort from their center or core. This certainly looks like something all athletes would benefit from.
Below is an article that Kim Wallis wrote that may help explain more: