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Pilates: For the Everyday Person to Elite Athletes

Many people think Pilates is targeted only towards non-athletes, however we know that many adults may benefit no matter their physical strength or capabilities.

Even elite athletes find it difficult to correctly activate and strengthen their main core muscle, the transversus abdominus (TA). As a result, low back pain or other injuries may occur.

As we are in the middle of winter (and mid-AFL season!), I was interested in an article I came across which investigates lower abdominal motor control in elite AFL players with and without low back pain.

The study consisted of 43 elite AFL players aged between 18-31, which were split between two groups:

  • Those with current or previous low back pain
  • Those without current or previous low back pain

Participants underwent an MRI as they drew in their abdominal walls by contracting their main core muscle, the transversus abdominis (TA).

The study reports:

“Elite footballers with low back pain did not perform the muscle test for the TA muscle as well as footballers without low back pain”

“Although still able to function at a high level and fulfil performance criteria demanded by their sport, the elite footballers with current low back pain possessed a reduced ability to draw-in the abdominal wall in the lower region of the abdomen compared with asymptomatic footballers.”

So what does this mean for people with low back pain?

A Physiotherapist at Move for Better Health can assess whether this type of treatment and rehab is appropriate for you. If you currently suffer from low back pain, it would be beneficial for you to undergo an assessment with one of our highly qualified physiotherapists, where they can potentially teach you how to activate your core muscles correctly.

Our Equipment Pilates group classes are perfect for those looking to learn how to control their core and TA, as well as those wanting to build general strength and muscle endurance.

Through our Equipment Pilates group classes, participants are taught:

  • Breathing control – using your entire lung capacity to ensure the oxygen gets to the base of your lungs
  • Core control – being able to maintain neutral spine and active your supportive inner core muscles
  • Rib cage placement – maintaining the abdominal connection between your lower rib cage and pelvis to ensure your ribs remain soft and spine neutral while you exercise
  • Shoulder blade movement and placement – allowing the correct muscles around your shoulder blades and upper back to perform the work to maintain correct shoulder blade positioning when you exercise
  • Head and neck placement – ensuring that you are recruiting the correct muscles around your head and neck and they remain in optimal alignment when you exercise
  • Hip and knee alignment – ensuring that your knee remains in line with your foot and hip to ensure correct muscles are used for exercise and translating this into correct walking and running technique and posture in everyday life.

Not only are these elements important during exercise, but with practise, they should also transition into your everyday life. So, if you find the exercises difficult initially, with practice they should become easy and feel natural.

Complementary to our Pilates studio offerings, we also can facilitate the option of transferring to Gym classes if you need to work more on your general strength and fitness too.


Hides, J, Hughes, B, Stanton, W, 2011, ‘Magnetic Resonance Imaging assessment of regional abdominal muscle function in elite AFL players with and without low back pain’, Manual Therapy, pp279-284.

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