Pilates for Triathletes

Triathlon training is time consuming as it is, so why spend time doing Pilates?

IMG_9377  IMG_3045  IMG_3375

Triathlon is considered one of the most challenging endurance sports. Triathletes require mental and physical stamina, postural control and kinaesthetic integrity.  It is not only about the mileage…

Pilates works on your powerhouse, the CORE of the body by enhancing strength, flexibility and control, key aspects for aspiring triathletes. Specifically Pilates works on your transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus, erector spinae, obliques and gluteals.

Pilates allows you to simultaneously improve your core without gaining undesirable bulk and weight yet tones pure muscle.  Increasing core strength results in better posture, increased power efficiency and output and potentially reduces your risk of injury.  Pilates isolates and integrates muscles groups which assist functional movement patterns improving alignment of the pelvis giving you a stable base of support.  Consequently postural awareness and balance control reduce the risk of low back pain and other potential injuries.

IMG_9371  IMG_9666  IMG_6180

Swimming: Similar to swimming, Pilates is performed at a deliberate pace and utilises specific breathing patterns therefore translates well into the pool environment.  Neck flexibility and spinal positioning are also key to a good swimming technique, in addition streamlining is paramount to speed and reduced drag.  Specific Pilates exercises can improve streamlining leading to an effortless and efficient stroke pattern.

Cycling: Often leads to dominant leg development and less core and upper body muscular development.  Core strength is key to reducing the levels of fatigue and getting through those long rides.  Pilates improves muscular imbalances, alignment, core and upper limb strength enhancing pedal stroke and power output.

The kyphotic (hunched) posture that is required for cycling is less than desirable, prolonged periods in this position can potentially lead to injury if preventative corrective measures are not utilised.  The posture allows for excessive forward flexion of the lumbar spine, forward rotation of the hips and pelvis and often there is a shortening of the neck muscles too due to looking forward during riding.  This posture is one of the leading causes of low back pain in cyclists.  Shortened hamstrings and neural issues along with Itb/gluteal/piriformis injuries are often seen in both cyclists and runners. However, there is evidence to suggest that Pilates can improve and prevent low back and other common injuries by improving core, restoring postural alignment and muscle imbalances.

Running: It’s all about economy and efficiency – it should be smooth and effortless.  The repetitive movement of specific muscle groups during running can result in muscular imbalances.  Pilates can improve muscle flexibility which can not only prevent injury but lead to improved stride length potentially giving you the ability to run faster and longer!  Pilates also works on your breathing which is integral to a good running technique.

Tri Specific Exercises



Focus: hips, thighs, buttocks (side-lying feet either on the ground or slightly lifted). Open hips to 45 degrees, slowly return together.

Repeat: 3×10 each side

(to increase difficulty add a resistance band around the knees)

Swim with Resistance Band

 swimmingFocus: spinal position and alignment/balance, buttocks, hamstrings, upper limbs. Start in four point kneeling slowly take opposite arm/leg away from body in a straight line (watch spinal position do not allow your back to arch).

Repeat 3×8 each side (to increase difficulty add a resistance band)


Leg Pull in Prone

leg pull

Focus: spinal aligment, transverse abdominus, upper limb strength, scapula control. Assume a plank position slowly lengthen one leg back and lift a few inches off the floor without losing spinal alignment (do not allow you back to arch).

Repeat: 2×10 (alternating sides)

One Leg Stretch

 one leg stretchFocus: spinal position (including deep neck flexors), transverse abdominus, pelvic floor, thighs, hips. Spine should not be too arched or too flat on the floor, legs start up at a 90degree angle, extend single leg away from the body making sure the back does not arch

Repeat: 2×10 (alternating sides)

Triathlon photos © http://www.darrochphotography.com

Pilates photos © www.pilatesplusphysio.co.uk