The What, Why and How of Pilates Core Strength
If I asked you what Pilates was about, I bet your first answer would be “core strength”, and you’re not wrong.
But what about if I asked you what “core strength” actually means.
Could you answer that?
Do you know what muscles make up the core?
Do you know how to activate your core?
What about what core strength can help with?
Allow me to explain…
What Is The Core?
The core muscles are a group of muscles which lie deep in the body, close to the skeleton, that provide stability and support to the body. These muscles work together with other more global muscles to help us stand and move and to control our bodies in space. Some of the specific muscles that make up the core are the pelvic floor and the transversus abdominis. Here’s some more information about these muscles:
The Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles located in the pelvic region. When these muscles are strong, it means that they have both a strong activation and the ability to switch off and relax. Strong pelvic floor muscles prevent incontinence (which is the loss of bowel and bladder control), supports the weight of the pelvic organs (like the bladder, bowels and uterus), and assists with sexual function.
The transversus abdominis (AKA the TVA) is the deepest abdominal muscle. It attaches from the spine and wraps around the middle of the body to attach at the front of the belly. Think of the TVA like an abdominal corset supporting the spine and enabling free and supported movement.
Why is Pilates Core Strength Important?
To optimise human movement (and to move freely without pain), strength training is crucial. Ideally, we should build up strength in both the deep stabilising muscles of the body (the core) which provide stability to joints like those within the spine, and also build strength in the more powerful muscles which help with big movements like running or jumping. Building up core strength can help with the treatment and prevention of low back pain, can improve posture, and help with rehabilitation of injuries within the spine, hips and pelvis.
Pilates Core Exercises
When beginning pilates, I recommend starting with activation of the core muscles. Here’s how:
Find a comfortable position either seated or laying down.
Then, take a deep breath in and as you exhale, engage your pelvic floor muscles. If you don’t know how to do this, imagine you are busting for the toilet and holding on from both passages - this action should engage the pelvic floor muscles.
As you engage the pelvic floor, see if you can also engage the TVA by drawing the belly button in towards the spine.
Continue doing this with your breath - inhale and relax, and exhale and activate.
Repeat this 15 times.
Once you master the activation, you’re ready to build on that with other exercises. You’ll see workouts on Go Chlo Pilates with exercises like curl ups, planks, roll downs and bird dog - all of which activate the core as well as other muscle groups.
Here are some of my favourite core workouts on Go Chlo Pilates:
This pelvic floor and breathing video is a guided practice to active your pelvic floor. Great for those who are new to core activation.
One of my favourites - this core activation video is great to deepen the core connection and integrate core activation into other exercises.
When you’re ready up build that core connection, this video is ready to challenge you! Begin by setting yourself up on the mat and build that core and abdominal burn!
Pilates Core Workouts on YouTube
Want to try some of my free YouTube videos? There is a whole playlist of core focused classes over on my YouTube channel.
Ok core superstars, I’ll see you on the mat!