Can we improve athletic performance by using Direction Bias Specific gym Programming? A Clinical Pilates concept


Direction bias assessment (DBA) is a Clinical Pilates (CP) concept found to be an accurate predictor of performance after low resistance matched Clinical Pilates exercises[1]. High resistance training is an integral part of any athletes training plan, though much research is focused on the objective strength changes rather than the functional athletic benefit to the athlete. The purpose of this study was to observe the effect on validated athletic performance measures of 2 types of high resistance exercise programs, one would consider the CP concept of movement preference according to bias and the other would not . The  Direction Specific (DS) group received a matched high resistance program to the athlete’s DBA. The non- Direction specific group  (NDS) received a program that contained a mix of matched and unmatched exercises, replicating what is currently scene is most exercise science and personal training based programming. The athletes in both groups participated over 4 weeks of strength training and 4 weeks of power training according to accepted definitions.


Athletes (age 16-44, Mean = 24.9,N = 41) were recruited from local sporting affiliations via advertisement and allocated to either the intervention group of matched direction specific (DS) resistance training (N=21) or the non-direction specific (NDS) group (N=20).  All athletes underwent DBA before allocation. Participants were required to be actively participating in their sport for a minimum of  3 training sessions per week to be eligible. Efforts were made in the study to keep training volumes the same across groups.  Validated athletic performance measures were taken for 20m  sprint, pro-agility test and 3 hop for distance (3HD). Repeated 3  and eight vertical hops (VH) were measured across both bias and non-bias legs, as was the 3HD test. The measure used for the  3VH and 8VH test was Flight Time/Contact time (FT/CT)  represented as a coefficient and indicator of ability to generate vertical force over a period of time. It was also felt that this  measure correlated well with traditional CP testing of a 5 hop test and would increasingly challenge the athletes ability to produce power in an unstable situation with each hop. Measures were taken at week 0, week 4 following the 4 week strength program and week 8 following the 4 week power program (both DS and  NDS groups). 


After 8 weeks, the DS group had significantly greater improvements in the pro-agility test, 3HD (bias side), 3VH and 8VH  across both legs (p<0.05) compared with the NDS group. 

At 4 weeks, the DS group had significantly greater improvements in 3HD (bias side) and 8VH (both sides) (p<0.05).  

Both groups improved mean scores across all measures across the 8 weeks of programming, except the NDS group which did not improve in 3VH or 8VH measures over the 8 weeks. 


Resistance training in both groups demonstrated improvements in athletic measures following both 4 and 8 weeks of programming.  In both groups the athletes were encouraged to maintain their  

“normal training” so it is possible that improvements in athletic ability were achieved due to ongoing training schedules. However comparatively, DS gym programming demonstrates significantly improved athletic measures in the validated tests of pro-agility and  3HD on the bias side compared to traditional NDS programming.  

Table 1. Mean values of selected significant findings at 8 weeks 

Test Week 0  NDSWeek 8  NDSWeek 0  DSWeek 8  DS
Agility 5.83s 5.52s 5.90s 5.29s
3HD Bias 6.11m 6.28m 5.67m 6.31m
8VH Bias 1.16 1.14 1.09 1.33
8VH NB 1.15 1.11 1.1 1.32
Table 1. Mean values of selected significant findings at 8 weeks.

Given that in CP teachings the bias side is closely correlated to past injury history and reduced performance as it is frequently the non-dominant side [1], preferential improvement of this side would be desirable as a possible source for performance improvement [3] and injury prevention.  

Improvements in 3HD measures have shown to be a valid indicator of 20m sprint improvements [2] combined with improved agility is extremely desirable in an athlete.  

Improvements in agility, power generation in a non-dominant limb  and repeated unstable hopping would be associated with  improvements in proprioception and dynamic stability as has been 

associated with CP-based interventions [1]. 

Improvements in repeated vertical hop power generation will need further research to validate their impact on athletic performance and/or as a predictor of injury. A retrospective analysis of injury history over the following 6 months is planned. 


Attention to an athlete’s DBA can yield significantly improved athletic performance compared to traditional (NDS) programming,  as well as improved power measures on the athlete’s non dominant limb. DBA has been found to be valid [1] and reliable tool [4] following formal instruction and practice. Thereby encouraging its use in the development of resistance programs in athletes and making CP trained professionals a valuable asset to the sports performance industry. 


I gratefully acknowledge the input and expertise from Mr Craig  Phillips whose assistance in determining exercises for bias selection was invaluable. 


1. Tulloch et al. JOSPT, 42(8), 676-687. 2012. 

2. Maulder & Cronin, Phys Ther Sport, 6(2), 74-82, 2005 3. Hoffmann et al. Res S Med, 15, 125-132, 2007 

4. Yu et al. J Bodywork Movement Ther, 19(1), 170-186, 2015

Sam Leslie

Sam Leslie

Senior Physiotherapist
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