Top 5 Pilates Exercises… for Runners!

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With the start of the 2016 Olympics looming ahead of us, we look at how Pilates training may be incorporated to provide an event-specific improvement in performance.

This blog will look at 5 Top Pilates Exercises for Runners.Jessica Ennis  Why would Pilates help?

As we know, Pilates is a multi-faceted method of exercise that challenges practically every region in the body.

Pilates is predominantly used as a means of strengthening, improving control of actions, increasing flexibility where required, as well as encouraging efficient use of breathing during movements.

As a result, Pilates has the ability to be tailored to assist with any sporting activity in order to help improve performance and reduce likelihood of sustaining injury.

Pilates and RunningMo Farah2

In order to achieve your maximal running potential, there are numerous components that need to work effectively.

This may include;

– Possessing adequate muscle strength, power and endurance
– Effective use of breathing
– Sufficient stabilisation via core musculature
– Efficient coordination and timing of movements

Running is a highly varied activity, ranging from short distances to longer, endurance based events. Yet there are a number of Pilates exercises that may be adopted to help supplement traditional running training and improve performance.


Before you begin any Pilates exercise, it is important to adopt your starting position by considering the key principles of Pilates:

– Deep core activation
– Head position
– Shoulder blade position
– Pelvis position
– Breathing

Below we have listed our Top 5 Pilates Exercises for Running, that may be useful for bolstering any styles of running.

img_7131Exercise 1 – Alternate Lunges

Works – Glute Max, Hamstrings, Abdominals
Requires – Control, Hip flexor length, Power

Step by step:

– Maintain Pilates ‘Starting Position’

– Take a large stride with your left leg, placing your whole foot on the floor

– Allow your knee to bend so it is directly above your foot and ankle, while the alternate knee lowers to just above the floor

– Maintain the position for a brief second before pushing up through your left leg to return back to the starting position

– Repeat using alternate leg


– Keep upright at all times and don’t allow your trunk to lean forwards
– Try to control the movement as you lower down into the crouch, and then power back up when returning to the starting position


Try ‘Jumping Alternate Lunges’, in which you can jump from the crouch position on your left leg into the same position on your alternate leg (emphasising the control on the way down and the power on the leap)

Exercise 2 – Clam Shells

Works – Glute Medius, Core muscles
Requires – Hip strength and endurance, Control, Technique

Step by step:

– Adopt clam position (side lying, hips and knees bent, ankles together) and maintain Pilates ‘Starting Position’

– Slowly allow you uppermost knee to move upwards, while keeping your ankles together and maintaining your hips above one another (don’t allow hips to fall backwards)

Slight hold then slowly return to starting position and repeat


– Ensure pelvis and lower back stays still throughout
– You should feel the ‘burn’ in your bum muscles (behind your hip), if you feel it elsewhere then check your technique is correct before continuing


Try ‘Level 2 Clam Shells’ by adjusting the starting position so that both ankles are situated together at around six inches off the floor, and maintaining this position throughout.


Exercise 3 – High Knees to ‘Kick Off’

Works – Hip flexors, Hamstrings, Glutes
Requires – Hip flexor flexibility, Sequencing of movement, Power during take off

Step by step:

Adopt Pilates ‘Start Position’ in standing

Bring left hip up towards chest as high as possible

After brief pause bring foot down towards ground before kicking out backwards and bringing your heel towards your bottom

Repeat on same leg for 1 minute before changing sides


– Try to keep your trunk in the same upright position throughout
– Place the emphasis on controlling the upwards movement of your knee towards chests, before powerfully pushing through towards the floor and backwards
– You can allow your forefoot to contact the floor on the way through to mimic a running stride


Try adding in alternate arm-swings during the movement to further improve patterning. Or add ankle/wrist weights to increase resistance.

Exercise 4 – ‘I’s ‘Y’s and ‘W’s

Works – Scapula muscles, Rotator Cuff, Lat’s and lower trap’s
Requires – Chest expansion, Scapula control, Shoulder stabilisation

Step by step:

Adopt Pilates ‘Starting Position’ in standing

 Slowly elevate both shoulders together so that they are reaching towards the ceiling (this is your ‘I’ position!)

After a pause at the top, bring your arms apart so they are at a 45° angle (‘Y’ shape)

 From this position allow your elbows to come in towards your sides as far as comfortable to form a ‘W’ shape

 Return back to the starting position and repeat


– Concentrate on maintaining head/neck position, neutral pelvis and core activation throughout
– When moving from the ‘Y’ to the ‘W’ position, imagine each shoulder blade is being tucked into the opposite rear pocket of your trousers to allow full range of movement


Try holding a resistance band between each hand and maintaining the tension in the band when moving between positions. For a more advanced technique, attempt to complete the same exercise in prone lying with your head, neck and shoulders lifted slightly from the mat, while maintaining the Key Principles throughout the movement.

Exercise 5 – Shoulder Bridge

Works – Glutes, Core muscles, Erector spine, Abdominals, Hamstrings
Requires – Control, Hip/pelvis stabilisation, Core strength, Hip flexor flexibility

Step by step:

Adopt Pilates ‘Starting Position’ in lying

 Bend your knees and bring your heels towards your bottom, so that your feet are resting on the floor around 1-2 hands lengths away from your hips

 Slowly begin to peel up your tailbone from the floor by pushing down through your feet and then allow the rest of your pelvis to follow

 Lift up until you reach your limit and then hold in this position while ensuring that your hips and pelvis remain as steady as possible

Begin to lower back down towards the start position, ensuring your tailbone is the last place to make contact with the floor

 Repeat the exercise again


– The control of movement is essential- don’t try to bring yourself up or down too quickly
– If you feel that the exercise is targeting your hamstrings (more than your glutes), then try to bring your feet a little closer to your bottom


When your pelvis is up at the top try to slowly lift onto your toes with your left foot (whilst keeping the alternate foot in position) and then slowly back down again. Repeat on the alternate leg.

A further progression would see you lifting your leg out so it is outstretched in front of you and holding in this position, ensuring your hips and pelvis remain in position throughout and don’t drop downwards.

So there you have it, our top 5 Pilates exercises for runners! If you’re a runner and you’re interested in starting Pilates, check out our Physiolates service for runners!


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