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How to Train Elite Athletes with Pilates

Having elite athletes as clients presents a series of unique and fascinating challenges.

How can you effectively condition someone who is already in prime physical condition? How can you work within an existing training regimen? Though the list of potential questions is as endless as the number of individual athletes themselves, we’ve compiled a short list of points to consider when working with someone who makes a living from being in top condition.

Why Pilates?

For elite athletes, Pilates offers increased flexibility, assistance in rehab post-injury, and a focus on building the deep stabilizing muscles of the core, leading to a stronger base for all athletic activity and balance throughout the body. As a result, athletes can withstand rigorous training regimes and ultimately improve their golf drive or baseball pitch, prevent or recover from injury and maintain an optimal weight for their activity of choice.

Long-term Athletic Development

One concept that sports trainers are embracing is LTAD—Long-term Athletic Development. The training progresses from general to specific and from simple to more complex. The lighter resistance and multi-angular training makes Pilates perfect for LTAD as well as anatomical adaptation, which focuses on developing muscle memory and patterning. This usually occurs in the preparatory or pre-competition phase of training for an athlete.

Improve Range of Motion

Traditional strength training will help develop the muscles required in a specific sport, but may not address the stabilizing muscles around the joints or torso. Often, one muscle is identified and exercises designed to isolate that muscle, usually in a single plane of motion. Pilates exercises can be more complex than traditional moves—use them to recruit a larger number of muscle groups to strengthen the same muscles from many angles and in a variety of different ranges of motion.

Work with the Coach

An elite athlete who is working with a coach will already have a training regimen in place, and it is essential that you connect with this person to discuss this regimen, as well as overarching training goals. By consulting with the coach, you can ensure that the Pilates exercises you choose for your client are a complementary part of his or her overall training.

Strike the Right Balance

Balance in Pilates is key, but with an elite athlete, balance may take on a different meaning. Because of the repetitive nature of many sports, elite athletes may develop a necessary muscular imbalance in muscles in order to facilitate a particular movement, for example, throwing a 90km/hour pitch, or driving a ball down the fairway. As a fitness instructor, your job is not to teach the pitch or the swing. Leave that to the pros. Your job is to look at the components and strengthen all the necessary areas. Once again, consulting with the client and his or her trainer is the key to developing a complementary, beneficial practice.