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49ers’ Javon Kinlaw says pilates has helped him find ‘supreme confidence’

49ers’ Javon Kinlaw says pilates has helped him find ‘supreme confidence’

LAS VEGAS — Javon Kinlaw just might talk you into taking up pilates.

Look at what those exercises did for his 6-foot-5 frame that, when healthy, can be among the 49ers’ most imposing on the NFL’s No. 1 defense.

Three seasons into a career marred by knee issues, Kinlaw envisions a renaissance, that he’ll be such a “freak” that “the world is going to see” what he can do.

Coaches and teammates have sung his praises all offseason and training camp, during which he — this is important — has not missed a practice. Sunday’s preseason opener at the Las Vegas Raiders could bring more kudos his way.

The last game he played told a different story. Kinlaw was pushed around by the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game’s 31-7 disaster. Then he immediately went back to work.

“I wasn’t able to play as low as I needed to. That’s why I went to the lab and focused on my body mechanics,” Kinlaw said after Friday’s joint practice at the Raiders’ facility.

He booms with confidence — he wore sunglasses for Friday’s media session at the Raiders’ indoor facility — and that has a lot to do with the little things he has gained from pilates workouts.

“I focused on a lot of mobility, a lot of stability and a lot of body mechanics,” Kinlaw said. “I tried to make myself a better athlete and it’s paying off (with) leverage, getting off the ball, taking a bigger first step, playing way more explosive and violent. If my pad level comes down, nobody can stop me.”

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 18: San Francisco 49ers’ Javon Kinlaw (99) celebrates as he walks off the field following their 24-16 win against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

He made a few discoveries at Encore Pilates in Willow Glen, where he worked with Jennifer Owens.

“It’s really making you work the small muscles,” Kinlaw said. “A lot of pilates studios don’t emphasize keeping a neutral spine. We do a good job of emphasizing a neutral spine, just fine-tuning the small muscles, no big movements. We make the small movements that make the small muscles kick in, and you really feel that on the field, so shout out to her.”

Listed at 319 pounds since arriving in 2020 as the 49ers’ top draft pick (No. 14 overall), Kinlaw said he is now 305 pounds. Pilates also has done wonders beyond his physical well-being.

“Mentally, it let me know I have small muscles to use along with the big muscles,” Kinlaw said. “I can tap into a different power source than everybody else. That’s what it’s all about right now.”

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 4: Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz (11) looks to throw under pressure against San Francisco 49ers’ Javon Kinlaw (99) in the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

Kinlaw says he works daily on his knee to avoid further issues, after playing only 10 games over the past two regular seasons combined, plus the playoff trio last year. The 49ers did not exercise the 2024 fifth-year option of his rookie contract, so he is a pending free agent.

The 49ers signed Javon Hargrave away from the Eagles to pair with Arik Armstead as the starters on the interior defensive line, dropping Kinlaw into a reserve role in their rotation, but one where he is studying and admiring those ahead of him.

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“‘Grave is a special player, with his change of direction, natural leverage, nobody can stop him, and he’s able to work edges too and slice people up,” Kinlaw said. “And Arik is just a wrecking ball.”

While Kinlaw said his increased mobility and mechanics will pay off in a pass-rushing presence, new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said he loves watching how a man as big as Kinlaw can “phenomenally” pursue plays 30 to 40 yards down the field.

“He had some great plays this week,” Wilks said Friday. “He was very explosive coming off the ball. He did a great job on stunts inside after we talked about it last night. He’s executing the game plan.”