Cardio Workouts Vs. Pilates For Athletes: Pros And Cons

Welcome to our article discussing the pros and cons of cardio workouts versus Pilates for athletes. As a professional athlete, it’s important to choose the right workout routine that fits your needs and helps you achieve your fitness goals.

Cardio workouts and Pilates are two popular methods used by athletes to improve their performance and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Cardio exercises are great for improving endurance, burning calories, and strengthening the heart and lungs. Pilates, on the other hand, is a low-impact exercise that focuses on strengthening the core muscles and improving flexibility and balance.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the benefits of cardio exercises and Pilates, and explore the differences between the two methods. We will also provide an overview of the pros and cons of each workout routine, and discuss whether athletes can combine the two for optimal results.

So, let’s find out which exercise routine is best for you – cardio workouts or Pilates?

What Are Cardio Exercises And Their Benefits?

Cardio exercises, also known as cardiovascular or aerobic exercises, are physical activities that increase heart rate and oxygen consumption. They are typically low to moderate intensity exercises that are performed for an extended period of time, such as jogging, cycling, or swimming.

Cardio exercises have numerous benefits for athletes, including:

  • Increased endurance: Cardio exercises can improve an athlete’s ability to perform for longer periods of time by strengthening the heart and lungs.
  • Improved cardiovascular health: Regular cardio workouts can reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels.
  • Weight loss: Cardio exercises are an effective way to burn calories and lose weight, which can benefit athletes who need to meet specific weight requirements for their sport.
  • Reduced stress: Cardio workouts release endorphins, which can help relieve stress and improve mood.

When performing cardio exercises, multiple muscle groups are targeted, including the legs, glutes, and core. Overall, incorporating cardio exercises into an athlete’s routine can improve their overall fitness level and performance.

What Is Pilates And How It Benefits Athletes?

Pilates is a low-impact, full-body workout that aims to improve flexibility, strength and balance through controlled movements. Pilates for athletes can enhance their performance and prevent injury by targeting specific muscle groups, developing core strength, and increasing flexibility.

The main benefits of Pilates for athletes include:

  • Improved flexibility: Pilates exercises focus on stretching and lengthening muscles, which can help to increase range of motion and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Increased core strength: Pilates engages the core muscles, including the abdominals, lower back, and hips, which are essential for stability and balance during sports activities.
  • Better posture: Pilates can help to correct posture imbalances that may develop from repetitive sports movements.
  • Reduced stress: Pilates exercises require concentration and breath control, which can help to reduce stress and anxiety.

Athletes who incorporate Pilates into their training routine may also notice improvements in their speed, power, and agility, due to the increased strength and flexibility in targeted muscle groups.

How Do Cardio Workouts And Pilates Differ?

While both cardio exercises and Pilates can offer numerous benefits for athletes, there are some key differences between the two methods.

Different Types Of Movements

The most notable difference between cardio workouts and Pilates is the type of movements involved. Cardio exercises typically involve high-impact, repetitive movements, such as running, jumping jacks, or burpees. These movements are designed to get your heart rate up and burn calories.

Pilates, on the other hand, focuses on low-impact, controlled movements that target specific muscle groups. These movements are designed to improve flexibility, build strength, and improve posture.

Intensity Levels

Another key difference is the intensity level of each workout. While cardio exercises can be highly intense and challenging, Pilates tends to be more gentle and low-impact.

This makes Pilates an excellent choice for athletes who are recovering from an injury, or who are looking for a low-impact workout that still offers numerous benefits.

Targeted Muscle Groups

The muscle groups targeted during cardio workouts and Pilates also differ. Cardio exercises tend to focus on the lower body, such as the legs and glutes, while Pilates targets the core, back, and upper body.

This makes Pilates an excellent choice for athletes who are looking to build strength and improve flexibility in their upper body and core.

Flexibility vs. Endurance

Finally, another key difference between cardio workouts and Pilates is the focus on flexibility versus endurance. While both methods can improve endurance and overall fitness, Pilates places a greater emphasis on improving flexibility, balance, and coordination.

Cardio exercises, on the other hand, are designed to improve cardiovascular endurance and overall stamina.

Pros And Cons Of Cardio Workouts For Athletes

Cardio exercises are a popular choice for athletes looking to improve their fitness and endurance. Here are some of the advantages of incorporating cardio into your workout routine:

  • Burns calories: Cardio workouts are great for burning calories, making it an effective way to reach your weight loss goals.
  • Improves heart health: Cardio exercises increase your heart rate, which can strengthen your heart and lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Boosts energy levels: Regular cardio workouts can increase your energy levels, helping you tackle your day-to-day tasks with ease.

However, there are also some drawbacks to consider:

  • High impact: Many cardio exercises, such as running and jumping, are high impact and can be hard on your joints, putting you at risk for injury if done incorrectly.
  • Can be repetitive: Doing the same cardio workouts over and over again can become monotonous and may cause you to lose motivation.
  • Not always suitable: Some athletes may have medical conditions that make high-intensity cardio workouts unsuitable.

Before incorporating cardio workouts into your routine, it’s important to consider the pros and cons and consult with a trainer or medical professional if you have any concerns.

Pros And Cons Of Pilates For Athletes

As highlighted in the previous section, Pilates offers numerous benefits for athletes. However, as with any workout routine, there are also some potential drawbacks to be aware of before incorporating Pilates into your training regimen. Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros and cons of Pilates for athletes.


Improved flexibilityPilates focuses on stretching and lengthening muscles, allowing for greater range of motion and flexibility.
Increased core strengthThe emphasis on core engagement in Pilates can lead to greater core strength, stability, and balance.
Low-impactMany Pilates exercises are gentle on the joints, making it a suitable option for athletes recovering from injuries or looking for a low-impact workout.
Reduced risk of injuryBy promoting proper alignment and form, Pilates can help prevent injuries caused by muscle imbalances or weakness.


While Pilates can be a great addition to an athlete’s training routine, it may not be the best fit for everyone.

  • Low intensity: Pilates is generally considered a low-intensity workout, which may not provide the cardiovascular benefits some athletes are looking for.
  • Not sport-specific: While Pilates can help improve overall strength and flexibility, it may not directly translate to improved performance in a specific sport.
  • Requires instruction: Many Pilates exercises require proper form and alignment, which may be difficult to achieve without the guidance of a qualified instructor.

Despite these potential drawbacks, many athletes have found Pilates to be a valuable addition to their training regimen. By improving flexibility, core strength, and overall body awareness, Pilates can help athletes perform at their best and reduce their risk of injury.

Can Athletes Do Both Cardio And Pilates?

Yes, athletes can benefit from doing both cardio exercises and Pilates. While cardio is a great way to improve cardiovascular health and burn calories, Pilates focuses on building strength, flexibility, and balance, making it a great complement to any workout routine. Combining the two methods can help athletes achieve a well-rounded fitness level and prevent injury.

However, it’s important to balance the intensity and frequency of both workouts to prevent overtraining and injury. Athletes may want to alternate between cardio and Pilates or incorporate both methods into their workout routine on different days of the week.

Here are some tips for athletes looking to combine cardio and Pilates:

  • Start with shorter sessions of cardio and Pilates to build endurance and prevent fatigue.
  • Adjust the intensity of each workout to prevent overworking specific muscle groups.
  • Warm up properly before starting any workout and cool down afterwards to prevent injury.
  • Listen to your body and adjust your routine accordingly if you feel fatigued or experience pain.

By combining cardio exercises and Pilates, athletes can achieve a balanced and effective workout that targets both their cardiovascular and muscular health.

Pilates or Cardio Workouts: Which is Better for Athletes?

Both cardio workouts and Pilates offer numerous benefits for athletes. However, when it comes to deciding which is better, it really depends on the individual athlete and their specific goals and needs.

Cardio workouts are great for improving cardiovascular endurance, burning calories, and toning muscles. They are also easily accessible and can be done in a variety of settings, including outside, at the gym, or at home. However, cardio workouts can be high-impact and put stress on the joints, which may not be suitable for athletes with certain injuries or conditions.

Pilates, on the other hand, focuses on building core strength, improving flexibility, and enhancing balance and posture. It is low-impact and can be gentle on the joints, making it a good option for athletes who need to take it easy on their bodies. Additionally, Pilates can be a great way to prevent injuries and improve overall body mechanics.

Ultimately, the best option for athletes is to incorporate both cardio workouts and Pilates into their routine. By doing so, they can enjoy the benefits of both types of exercise and create a well-rounded fitness regimen that targets all areas of their body. Whether done on separate days or combined into the same workout, a combination of cardio and Pilates can help athletes achieve their fitness goals while minimizing the risk of injury.

So, whether you’re a runner, swimmer, or weightlifter, both cardio and Pilates can be beneficial for your training. It’s up to you to decide which is best for you and your unique needs.

FAQs About Pilates For Athletes

As Pilates gains popularity among athletes, many have questions about this workout method. Here are some frequently asked questions:

Is Pilates Safe for Athletes?

Yes, Pilates is generally safe for athletes. However, it’s important to consult with a qualified instructor and your doctor before starting any new workout regime. This is especially important if you have injuries or medical conditions.

What Should I Expect During a Pilates Class?

During a Pilates class, you can expect to perform exercises that focus on improving core strength, flexibility, and posture. The class may include the use of special equipment, such as a reformer or a stability ball. Typically, movements are slow and controlled, with an emphasis on proper form and alignment.

How Often Should I Do Pilates?

The frequency of Pilates workouts depends on your individual goals and fitness level. Generally, it’s recommended to do Pilates 1-3 times per week for optimal results. However, some athletes may benefit from more frequent sessions.

Can Pilates Help with Injury Prevention?

Yes, Pilates can be an effective way to prevent injuries. By focusing on core strength and improving flexibility, Pilates helps athletes move more efficiently and with better alignment. This can reduce the risk of injury during workouts and sports activities.

Can Pilates Help with Athletic Performance?

Yes, Pilates can improve athletic performance by increasing core strength, flexibility, and balance. In addition, Pilates can help athletes prevent injuries, recover from injuries faster, and improve overall body awareness and control.

Overall, Pilates can be a valuable addition to an athlete’s workout regime. By improving core strength, flexibility, and posture, Pilates can help athletes move more efficiently and reduce the risk of injury. Talk to a qualified instructor and your doctor to see if Pilates is right for you.

Donna Finnie

Donna loves to share her passion for Pilates with others. She is a fully qualified instructor who believes Pilates is for everyone, regardless of age, as it can truly help to increase strength, flexibility mobility and athletic performance.

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