November/December 2013 – Unlike most of his teammates, Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett, 26, isn’t carbo loading, lifting weights or going for a jog before home games. As often as he can, he’s doing Pilates with Luann Brusa at TruCore Pilates in suburban Chicago.
At 6’7” and 265 pounds, Bennett isn’t what immediately comes to mind when you think “Pilates student.” And he admits, “flexibility isn’t naturally easy for me.” Though football traditionally places more emphasis on strength than “stretch,” Bennett also knows this is a liability, because a collision sport like football takes a toll on the body even when you’reas big as he is. “I’m a tight end, which is a position on the offensive line that requires both blocking and running. I’m always getting hit, or hitting someone, in every single play,” he explains.
The usual football training regimen running, weights and more weights isn’t always enough to prepare you for 300 plus pounds of linebacker coming at you full speed. “So between getting slammed on the field by huge players and the type of training we do, our joints really get struck down,” Bennett says. “There is also a lot of stress on the lower back. The truth is, anyone who is playing in the NFL is never playing at 100 percent once the season starts, because some part of your body is always hurting.”
Bennett, a Texas native who played for the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants before joining the Bears this season, had been looking for a way to compensate for the brutal pounding his body took every week, both on the field and in the training room. “About five years ago, when I was playing for the Cowboys, I really wanted to find a new way to better my body, and to become more flexible.
“First I tried yoga, but I have ADD, so holding positions for a long time and all that chanting just wasn’t for me,” he recalls. “One day, I noticed a Pilates studio Cindy’s Pilates next door to a boxing gym in Irving, TX, where I worked out with some other teammates.”
One day after a workout, his curiosity got the best of him and he decided to check out the studio, which is owned by Cindy Gegax, a STOTT PILATES® trained teacher. “From watching some of the students do their routines, I knew right then that it was something that could help me,” he says. “I signed up for a lesson that day!”
From the start, he could tell that Pilates was exactly what his body needed. “From the first time that I did it, it just made sense to me,” he says. He also liked that the routines varied every session, depending on what he
needed to work on at that moment and what hurt. “At the time, my knee was bothering me, so Cindy gave me routines that catered to that. My hamstring also had a ‘glitch,’ so she helped me work that out. I really liked having a new routine each time that could be adjusted to my body’s needs, and Pilates became a regular part of my workout.”
When Bennett was signed by the Bears earlier this year, he found another Pilates teacher, Luann Brusa, owner of two TruCore Pilates locations, one in Killdeer and the other in Barrington, IL.
He finds his three to five Pilates sessions a week are the perfect complement to his football training. “To counteract the joint compression caused by weight lifting, I go straight from weights to Pilates as often as possible,” Bennett says. “Luann helps me work on rebalancing and activating my muscles balance is so important for athletes.”