Core Strength and Pilates
Oonagh McDevitt May 2018
Your core is broadly anything falling between your hips and your neck - but the most important muscles of your core are your deep internal abdominal muscles - these are what Joseph Pilates called your 'powerhouse' and your 'girdle of strength'. These act to stabilize - in fact it stabilizes your entire body, helping to give you a center of gravity whether you’re at rest or moving your limbs.
In Pilates, all movements have their starting point at your core. Take for example a simple lift of the leg - this requires the tummy muscles of your core to be pulled in to start the movement. This allows you to lift the leg with control and efficiency. If on the other hand you lift your leg without engaging your tummy muscles you may find that the rest of your body is activated (for example your upper back, shoulders, neck, and chest) to enable the leg to be lifted. This is less controlled, less efficient, and could cause injury.
In your everyday lift you are will generally draw upon your core strength when you move for example when you walk, sit, or exercise. Because many of your body’s movements originate from your core, working to improve its strength will enhance your posture, spinal alignment, and stability.
Strengthening the core can help address weak, tight, or unbalanced core muscles, and helps:
- alleviate back pain: weak core muscles increase the risk of back ache and injury, due to inadequate spine support. A strong core can help reduce discomfort, improve mobility and improve spinal support in cases of acute and chronic back pain;
- improve posture: strong core muscles help you stand tall with your limbs in alignment. It can also decrease your risk of disc herniation and vertebrae degeneration;
- improve balance: poor balance can be improved by strengthening your core;
- reduce injury: with a strong core, daily tasks are less likely to result in injury, and it less likely that you’ll overtax other muscles;
- enhance sport performance: most sports rely on core strength for performance. Your core is the link between your upper and lower body, it is what allows a golfer to swing the club to strike the ball, a footballer to move at speed and kick the ball, a cyclist to remain stable on the saddle and power the pedals, and a swimmer to rotate their torso and kick their legs. A strong core also enables the body to be more energy efficient - through the body recruiting only those muscles necessary for a particular movement. As a result, with less muscles working, the body can last longer before having to refuel.
With Pilates exercises, all movement starts from your core - this results in increased core strength.