Pilates Contribution to Elite Athlete Success by Simon Forthun

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The Glasgow Commonwealth games are an opportunity for many to appreciate sporting performance at the highest level. Speed, power, range of effortless movement and mental toughness are on show. Just performing at the games requires intense preparation pushing the limits and risking injury. Elite athletes from many sports have turned to Pilates to help their performance.

Young people doing Pilates exercises

A fundamental objective of Pilates is optimal posture and spinal & pelvic alignment which can prevent or reduce low back pain, hip and knee strain and improve shoulder girdle stability and overall balance.Pilates is about stabilizing with and moving from the core—abs, back, glutes, inner & outer thigh. Pilates is a whole body exercise modality that lengthens and strengthens muscles while building a uniformly developed and balanced body.1This approach to exercise focuses power to come from the core and protects joints from strain and impact. The body is more able to perform movement consistently and prevent injury to joints.

The key principles of Pilates focus on integration of breath, flexibility, strength, control, and precision and body awareness. Elite athletes recognize these “skills” as critical to any sport or functional movement.1Elite athletes may find their body type is unable to achieve their desired performance and turn to Pilates to fill the gap.Australia’s Cate and Bronte Campbell who recently won silver and bronze in the Glasgow Commonwealth games 50m freestyle both recording personal best times acknowledged pilates contribution to their performance. The sisters have been taking pilates classes with dancers from the Queensland Ballet for three or four months to develop a better spring off the blocks. “Our pilates teacher is a ballet dancer and she’s teaching us how to jump like ballerinas so we’ve been working on our starts and trying to improve them as much as we can,’’ Bronte said.


Victoria Pendelton metro.co.uk

Victoria Pendelton, British track cyclist says “I’ve been doing Pilates for more than a year, and for me, it’s been a real breakthrough in managing back pain and building my postural muscles.”(July 2012 issue of Marie Claire) Like a lot of cyclists, Victoria suffers from lumbar spine issues from spending numerous hours hunched over the handlebars. Those whose job is at a desk or computer often have the same issue.1

Charlotte purdue

Charlotte Purdue purerunner.co.uk

Charlotte Purdue English representative in the 10,000m track event at the Glasgow games typically runs over 100kms per week. Charlotte regularly does pilates as part of her training to build up core endurance, spinal stability and improve posture.

Diverse group of friends having fun at the gym

Pilates is part of many elite athletes training regimes and contributes to the performances we enjoy watching at events like to Commonwealth games.

1Elite Athletes in 2012 London Olympics Credit Pilates for Improved Performance and Injury Reduction – Core Fitness by Jana


Pilates Week 12 – Back Extension with Knee Raise

Back Extension with Knee Raise


Starting with the foam roller under your mid back, your head gently supported by your hands, raise you right leg towards you nose as you inhale and then exhale to lower.


Then as you inhale extend your upper back over the foam roller, exhale as your return to the starting position inhale as you raise your left knee towards your nose and exhale as you return to the floor.

Repeat 5 times for each leg.

Pilates Week 10 – The Side Lift

March is a beautiful month in Australia, we get the last of summer and there is a couple of great long weekends.  This long weekend is now a long week off for me and I am pretty excited because the weather is going to be some great beach days, one of my favourite things about this time of year and having a week off is that the beach is ever so quiet because the kids are back at school.

There is something about exercise at the beach, one of the things I love about pilates is you can do it anywhere, anytime once you know the basics.  On that note just a gentle reminder to make sure that you are practicing your pilates with a trained instructor at least once a week so you make sure that you are learning the right technique.  Integrity with your technique will help you grow stonger, leaner muscles quicker and move on to more advanced exercises sooner.

Today’s exercise is part of the side lift series, it will help you build strength in the sides of your abdominals, your inner thighs and help you build balance and control.  This series will take place over the next few weeks.

Lie on your left side, with your left arm stretched underneath you following the same line as your torso.  Place your right hand on the mat in front of you for support.  Your legs are stacked on top of each other.

Breathe in to prepare, as you breathe out lengthen both legs as far away from your hips as far as possible, and then lift them a few inches off the ground.

Keeping your legs together, breathe in as you lower both legs until they hover just above the floor.  Repeat ten times, and then swap to the other side of your body.


Pilates Week 9 – Shoulder Bridge on Foam Roller

Another one of my favourites on the foam roller as it takes a little more co-ordination.  This one is good to work those hamstrings.


Lying on your back on your mat put your foam roller under you feet.  Stabilise your shoulders and inhale.  Stabilise you pelvis and spine in neutral and the lift your hips up off the ground.   Creating a bridge position from your shoulders to your knees.  Inhale as you hold the position nice and balanced.  Then as you exhale lower you hips back down towards the floor, inhale and then as you exhale repeat.

Repeat 5 times.

Pilates Week 7 – The Foam Roller Pec Stretch

An amazing day on the water today, the beach was full of sunseekers and it was really hot, we had a beautiful sail and all I wanted to do tonight was just come home and stretch.

Light breezes mean there is not a lot of movement in fact you hold a position for some time while trying to catch what little breeze there is and make sure you maintain boat speed.

So tonights exercise is more of a stretch than an exercise on my favourite piece of small equipment “The Foam Roller”, it is the blue thing I am lying on.  I love it so much most of my pilates clients also own one because we use them every class and they love them too.

So when you buy your foam roller if you don’t have one already here is the stretch.

006Sit at the top edge of your foam roller and gently roll back onto it so your lying on it long ways with your head at the top.

Find your balance and breathe in and out 5 times.

Next open you arms out wide and gently drop them down to each side just above your head.  Gently release them as close as you can to the floor and feel a nice stretch and opening in the fronts of your shoulders and pec area.

Breathe in and out 5 times and then gently roll back up off the foam roller.

Even if you do nothing else after a day hunched at your desk I guarantee this will make you feel lovely.

Cheers & Happy Stretching


Pilates Week 6 – The Side to Side

After a day out on the bay sailing my little laser I am keenly aware of how lucky I am to have found Pilates.  If not for practicing this form of exercise for the past 8 years I would not be able to enjoy the thrills of hanging out on my laser to keep it from tipping over.  My back just would not have allowed me to do this before.  So even though I am tired and weary here is this week’s exercise for those of you who are keen to keep up your own practice.

The Side to Side

Goal: Strengthen the sides of your abdominals.

Step 1.

Lie on your back, with your legs lengthened straight up towards the roof and squeezed together.  Stretch your arms out to your sides, aligned with your chest, palms face down.  Visualise your chest as a lead weight enabling you to move only the lower half of your body freely.

Step 2. Breathe in to prepare and as your exhale lower your legs to your right.  Inhale and as you exhale bring your legs back to the centre.

Step 3. Breathe in and as you exhale lower your legs to the left.  Inhale and as you exhale bring your legs back to centre.


Repeat five on each side.

Pilates Week 5 – 4 Point Kneeling with Leg and Arm Raise

Week 5 here we are and I thought this week I would share a very simple exercise but yet when done mindfully can be very challenging for the quiet little cores muscles that I like to think of as you shy introverted types.  If your muscles had personalities that’s who they would be.  The ones who hold you up all day long and don’t necessarily wish to be seen and certainly don’t steal the lime light, and are the first to sneak away when things get loud and boisterous, that is when you superficial muscles or mobilisers take over, you know the personalities that make things happen, that’s them the big muscles that on a well toned athlete you actually see when they move.  Anyhow enough of my ramblings let’s tackle this exercise and see if you can feel your core stabilisers working softly holding your body stable will you lift and arm and a leg at the same time.

4 Point Kneeling with Leg and Arm

Goal: Core stabilisation

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Step 1.  Start in a 4 point kneeling position.  Hands underneath shoulders and knees under hips.  Draw your navel to your spine and inhale.


Pilates Week 2 - 2013 017

Step 2.  As you exhale extend one leg behind you, moving nothing but your leg, keep your torso stable with your stomach muscles, inhale and as you exhale gently lower your leg back to the floor.  Inhale and then as you exhale lift the alternate leg.  Lengthen you leg out as long as you can behind you pointing your toe, but keep your torso nice and stable.

Pilates Week 2 - 2013 018Step 3.  After you have done 5 leg lifts on each side, now add in your arm lift as the same time.  So gently lift you left leg and your right arm at the same time.  Remember to keep your navel drawn in towards your spine and inhale to prepare and then exhale and you extend the arm and leg.  Repeat 5 times on each side.