The importance of Core and the role Pilates can play in helping Triathletes

The importance of Core and the role Pilates can play in helping Triathletes

Triathlon, both the events, but especially the training, puts an enormous load on all the major joints of the upper and lower body. In particular, the lower back, pelvis and hips struggle to cope with the repeated, constant loads placed on these joints and can break down leading to both short term, but more commonly, long term injury.

As a physiotherapist, seeing a common range of injuries with triathletes for the last 17 years, the most common being lower back disc bulges, pelvic instability and tears to the lining of the hip joints. The best protection you can give your joints to prevent or at least minimise the injuries to these joints is to improve your ability to control your core and improve its endurance.

Pilates is a great tool to work on your core stability, especially reformer based Pilates, which I have been using for 13 years, however, the choice of exercises needs to be specific and targeted for the best results, just like any form of training. Tailored Pilates exercises are always the best, however, here are 3 Pilates exercises you can do at home to improve your core stabilisers to get you started.

Basic exercise for Transversus Abdominis

This is a great exercise for working on core stability that does not put excessive load on the lower back and is safe for most athletes.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent

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  • Draw you stomach muscles in, just below the belly button (This activates the transversus abdominis). The client should be able to maintain a small arch in their back (This is important, because flattening the back activates the power muscles, and actually inhibits the transversus abdominis muscle from working)

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  • Lift your leg into the air, take it out straight and then out to the side, maintaining control of the transversus abdominis muscle.

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When you feel the abdominal muscles bulge, instead of that drawing in action, the client has lost clomid control and that’s where you should limit the exercise for the client (eg if they lose control when taking the leg out to the side, stop at that point, don’t make the exercise any more complex)

  • To add complexity, lift the arms up into the air. As you take the leg out straight and out to the side, lift the arms over the head.

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  • To make the exercise harder, place a weight into the hands. This increases the load on the transversus abdominis without adding too much strain on the lower back

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Superman – Hip Extension in 4 point kneel

This is a more direct exercise for the multifidus muscle, the direct stabiliser of the lumbar spine. You will still use transversus abdominis during this exercise; however the main focus is multifidus

  • Start the exercise on your hands and knees in 4 point kneel

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  • Make a small arch in the lower back, and squeeze the back muscles together in the lower back (This will be a sensation more than a movement and you should be able to feel these muscles become bigger and tighter) This is activation of the multifidus muscle.

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  • Draw your stomach muscles in below your belly button to activate transversus abdominus and lift your leg straight up into the air. Hold for 5 secs, then bring it back down again.

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  • To make the exercise harder, take the leg out to the side as well and hold for 5 seconds.
  • To further progress this exercise, lift the opposite arm straight up into the air at the same time.

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  • If you feel that the client can not maintain activation of the multifidus muscle during any of these exercises, the exercise is too hard, so go back to the previous level of the exercise (eg if the client can not maintain activation of multifidus when lifting the arm in the air, stick to just using the leg only.

Instil Confidence in Athletes not Reliance on the Practitioner

Instil Confidence in Athletes not Reliance on the Practitioner

One of our Exercise Physiologist’s, Kyle, recently read an article by Adam Meakin’s (Physiotherapist) called ‘All that is wrong with Sports Physios’

Adam explained that a therapist conducted endless hours of massage, joint alignment and acupuncture on an elite athlete prior to competition. This routine of hands on treatment was done religiously and recommended by this therapist.

The athlete’s perception of her own performance was based around this approach. She believed that if she didn’t get the massage or joint alignment prior to competition it would have hindered her ability to do her best. This of course, is not the case. The recommendations given to her from her therapist seemed the best approach in her mind, but how was she to know any different?
It is now known that massage and stretching can hinder performance rather than enhance it. Stretching and lengthening a muscle can cause instability of a joint (couple that with unpredictable and powerful contractions) and may cause injury.

It can be argued that as a result of this way of thinking, this therapist is not providing the “best practice” for the patient and could be classified as negligent. If she had been assessed appropriately, given specific strength exercises and mobility as well as educated on how she can be in charge of her own training it would empower the athlete rather than allowing them to become reliant on a therapist’s hands to help their performance.

We see this in elite sports all over Australia and although the trend is changing slowly there is still a reliance on rub downs and stretching. It is an age old habit that has been instilled from us from a young age and so of course it must be good, right? Research proves otherwise. Unfortunately, behavior is tough to change hence the importance of writing this article.
Adam explains that many athletes believe they need to get ‘this poked, that cracked, or that taped’ before a race and if they don’t it will in some way have a detrimental effect to their game or competition. No one in amateur sport is living by this ritual and so the elite are obviously getting this terrible information from somewhere or someone.

The same approach should also be for the general public. Whether you are seeing your Physiotherapist for a back injury or your Exercise Physiologist for chronic disease management. They should be educating you on how you can take control of your own ailments. There should be a plan in place to treat, train, and manage on your own. To have the confidence that your body can do what is was made for with the correct approach.

Our 13 week program is there for a reason, it is well known that compliance and adherence to an exercise program are often the main hurdles to long term improvement. MD Health has implemented the 13 week program based on how long it actually takes to make physiological changes to your musculo-skeletal system. Some people may need more or less time. After this we want to encourage you to go ahead on your own. Some people prefer to keep attending our sessions and see even better results. Some manage quite well on their own at a gym or home and only come back if they have a niggle or new injury. Again, we try to help educate you to manage on your own; we believe you have the power to do it. Plus, no ones hands can not make your muscles stronger.

By Beth Chiuchiarelli
Exercise Physiologist