March 30, 2022
The core muscles comprise deep muscles in your abdomen, back and pelvic floor, all of which support efficient and safe body movements. When your core is strong, your whole body is properly supported, which frees up your other muscles to do their jobs properly. Pilates utilises a variety of abdominal exercises to improve the strength and endurance of your core muscles.
Although most Pilates exercises are focused on strengthening your core, core strength is not the only end goal. In fact, Pilates exercises can also increase flexibility, posture and energy levels. Perhaps one of the best benefits of Pilates is its positive effect on connecting your body and mind through six key principles: centring, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow.
The first thing to understand is that all exercises, in fact, all movements work your core, which is a collection of muscles that work in harmony to stabilise your body through movement. When your core is working at its best, you’ll move with ease. If you need to wake up your core, here are some of the best exercises to get you started:
For every Pilates movement, there is an accompanying breathing technique. The main muscle to activate when using the breathing techniques is your diaphragm. If you’re not breathing deeply into your diaphragm, your core isn’t going to work optimally.
Start by lying on your back with your legs bent. Inhale through your nose, directing your breath deep into your lungs allowing your upper abs and lower ribs to expand. Then, exhale through your mouth, softening your rib cage and allow your tummy to gently flatten. As you breathe, you might not feel your core turning on strongly, and that’s ok. Breathing will start to gently reset your body and connect your core at a low level.
Once you’ve practised breathing, it’s time to work on balance. A good balance challenge will wake up your deep core muscles.
When you’re ready, move onto your hands and knees. Begin lifting one arm and the opposite leg, making sure to use good control by squeezing your core. Slowly lower your arm and leg and switch to the other side. Repeat for several repetitions.
Stand with a strong posture, facing a wall. You should be far away enough to fully extend your arms while keeping your shoulders relaxed. With your fingertips on the wall, bend your knees so your knees are over your toes. Lift your heels and go to the balls of your feet, feeling your inner thighs engage. Then, remaining on the balls of your feet, straighten your legs. Then, stay tall as you lower your heels to the floor. Be sure to keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement to maintain your balance.
After you’ve woken up your deep core with balance work, it’s time to work them out to increase their strength.
Flip on your back. Lift one leg to the tabletop position — bent at a 90-degree angle with the knee above the hip. Now gently zip up your tummy, making sure to use your core and not your back, to lift your second leg to the tabletop position. Repeat the action, alternating your legs up and down, while making sure to keep your spin, hips and upper body calm and stable.
While still lying on your back, lift both legs to a 45-degree angle. Curl your head up and stretch your arms down by your hips, palms down. Pump your arms up and down as you inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds. Repeat the breathing pattern 10 times while pumping your arms up and down. For an extra challenge, you can try this with exercise with straight legs floating at an angle that works for you.
Although these exercises are specifically designed to strengthen your core, it’s important to remember that core exercises don’t end here. Your core should be working, to some degree, with every movement that you do. So, when exercising, remember to think about and activate your core for a safe, powerful workout.
Village Pilates offers reformer and mat classes, which can complement each other and we also offer personalised studio sessions. Why not book an appointment to see what the rage is all about!
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