Pilates and MMA

This month’s CORE theme is Pilates for Athletes. Each week we’ll be featuring a story from the Athletes’ perspective and the influence Pilates has made on their lives.

Chelsea Chandler is a 27-year-old American mixed martial artist from Stockton CA. She competes in the Bantamweight division of the Invicta Fighting Championships (Invicta).

“I had always been involved in sports, but I got the “fighting bug” when I was in college at Miami,” she says. “While at Miami my family and I went to Thailand for a year and I tried martial arts there, loved it, and then came back and finished school.

After I got back to Stockton, I started MMA training at the Diaz Brothers Academy. At first, they were saying ‘hey you’re not bad.’ But as I continued training it changed to “hey, do you think you want to fight professionally?”

Uh, yes, she did.

Over the last two and a half years she currently has four fights under belt, winning three. But she wants to fight more. “Training is so hard when there are no fights scheduled, it’s easier when there is something on the books. I’m fighting toward a goal.

And train she does. She starts with a fast-paced morning ride on the elliptical. This is followed by an hour of boxing and pad work, then a deep kickboxing workout, and then 5-6 rounds of pad work.

She does this 2-3 times per day six days per week. Think about that.

The obvious thrill of being an MMA fighter is matching your physical skill and “in the cage” acumen against other high-level fighters. The downside is pretty obvious, too. “Oh, man, broken orbital bones, broken toes, broken noses, dislocated shoulders, torn ACLs, neck and back injuries – the list goes on and on,” she says.

That’s where Pilates comes in.

CoreAlign and EXO Chair

Nancy Tenoglio is a veteran employee and Master Instructor for Balanced Body and the owner of Park West Pilates in Lodi, CA.  In 2016, Chelsea came to Nancy after her first fighting injury and worked to get her back on the mat as soon as possible.

In 202O, Chelsea returned to the studio with an ACL tear.  That is when their work began in earnest.  Chelsea has been coming to the studio four days a week to train and work on her recovery ever since.

“In her professional and athletic career, she has suffered numerous injuries,” says Nancy.  The two have been working on exercises that correct her foot, knee, and hip alignment, coupled with strengthening the quadriceps and hamstrings post-surgery.  They are starting to add balance and more dynamic movements into her programming while maintaining this corrected alignment.

Nancy is amazed at how quickly Chelsea’s body remembers a movement pattern once it’s corrected.  She always wants to know what muscle we’re working on and the focus of the exercise.   “Chelsea always has her serious game face on when working out.  We will complete one exercise and immediately she’s asking me ‘Now what?’”

Chelsea is accustomed to punching bags, sparring, and other more dynamic exercises in her MMA training regimen. “Pilates is a slower-paced, more precise form of exercise that is allowing her to keep training and stay fit during her rehabilitation,” says Nancy.

“Chelsea brings the same dedication and focus to her post-surgery recovery that she would in a fight.  Working with an elite athletic body, that is so fine-tuned and watching how quickly she heals, is astonishing.  It is this determination and dedication that is going to make her a success.”


Balanced Body thoroughly believes that movement can change people’s lives. We are the leading resource for Pilates and mindful movement equipment, information and education for fitness centers, studios, rehabilitation facilities and home enthusiasts.

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