Pilates Principle: The Core

What is the Core?

One of the most talked about fitness goals is having a strong core, but what exactly does that mean?  More importantly, how do you obtain it?  Many commercials would depict glistening, rock hard abs as the core, but there’s much more to it than that. 

The abdominals actually consist of four different muscle groups.  You have the rectus abdominis that we know as your six pack, your external obliques, internal obliques, and your transversus abdominis which is your deepest layer of abs.  Putting emphasis into working each layer is vital in helping support the spine and healthy movements throughout the day.  In Pilates, all of these are components to each exercise in addition to the diaphragm and pelvic floor.  All of these fully make up what is defined as the Power House.  It takes time and practice to learn how to turn on these muscles creating mind body connection and a stronger support system for the entire spine and hip complex.

Learning how to properly activate all of these muscle groups is just like knowing how to correctly pack up a fragile item ready for shipping.  As imperative as it is to strengthen the abdominals, there are other major muscle groups that support the entire spine and pelvis.  Inner thigh muscles and glutes aid in bubble wrapping the hips and low back, while the muscles surrounding the shoulder blades protect our most mobile joints in our body, the shoulders.  Creating more awareness to these muscles, and having them actively working, promotes better posture and overall mobility to the entire body.

Knowing which muscle to work is important, but also training the body to gain flexibility is necessary in maintaining proper balance and symmetry.  A person is only as strong as they are flexible.  Pilates focuses on increasing range of motion in order for clients to move safely and with little effort.  Gaining this type of awareness of the body creates core strength and reduces risk of injury.  If any specific muscle group is overly tightened, the rest of the body won’t be able to properly function and will begin to compensate.  This can be found when overtraining the same muscle groups again and again. It’s best to focus on what your body needs and craves every day, while varying your workout regimen.

Having a “strong core” has taken on many definitions, but it should not be limited to picture perfect abs.  Instead, it includes all the supporting muscles that help protect the spine, pelvis, and the rest of the bones and joints of the body.  It also means creating proper balance between strength and flexibility along with full mind-body control.  The goal is to learn how to work out smarter—and not necessarily harder.  This is what it means to have proper core strength. This is what it means to be Pilates strong.