My good friend, Sylvia is an expert in Pilates. We hang out quite a bit and even though we’re a country apart, we try to see each other every month or so. When we do, we usually hit the gym together. I’m a gym rat so we’ll follow along with my routine most days then follow up with some Pilates moves. Let me tell you, it’s equal punishment: I kill her with resistance training and she kills me with Pilates. It’s a love/hate relationship we have going.
I asked Sylvia for a blog post about how Pilates is an effective exercise for tightening the core. Take it away Sylvia…..
We’ve heard the term “Core” referenced in countless articles and especially in fitness workouts. It’s often been defined as abdominal exercises that’ll flatten your stomach and give you ripped abs. Better yet, it can be referenced as 6-pack abs. But it goes a lot deeper than that.
Now, they have it partially right.
Let me explain, to work the “Core” actually means the balanced development of the superficial and almost always forgotten deeps abdominals muscles that stabilize, aligns the movement of the trunk of the body (I refer to it as the foundation of the body) and the back muscles. The core stabilizes the pelvis and spine. So if we think of a weak back then it’s fair to say lack of Core strengthen is the culprit.
It goes far beyond just the superficial abdominal muscles. What I mean by superficial is the rectus abdominals (the line you see down the middle of the stomach) the external oblique’s (the fan like muscle above the side of the rib cage).
No matter how many sit ups we do a day you still may not be hitting the deep abdominal muscle needed to effectively strengthen the core.
A strong core accounts for a balanced body. Why is a balanced body important?
Well for one very important reason, and that is to prevent injuries. When the core is strengthened then the body evenly distributes weight bearing and protects the back. When the pelvis and spine are balanced there is less strain throughout the body.
So we aren’t just talking about the rectus abdominals, internal and external obliques. It goes deeper from the trunk to the torso…Specifically the Erector spinae, Gluteus Maximus, Hip adductors, hamstring group to name a few. Some experts may disagree but one of the Benefits of Pilates is the foundation of deep core work.
All Pilates moves stem from deep abdominal work and equal engagement of the trunk and torso. Basically full bodywork. In simplest terms, Pilates forces engagement of more than just the abdominal muscles.
You may be thinking what makes Pilates ab exercises so important.
Here are 3 reasons:
- Deep abdominal work, which includes recruiting the transverse abdominals to aggressively strengthen the core.
- Incorporating Pilates exercises to any workout increases stability, endurance and full range of motion of movements.
- Most importantly, helps to prevent injuries, there is less strain on the joints with Pilates and when practicing Pilates it forces the body to work as a whole.
One extra reason for you…Strength…Yes it will increase your core strength 10x’s faster than doing hundreds and hundreds of sit-ups or crunches.
I cringe when I see people working their abs and I see the one bad habit: individuals tucking their chin down into their chest when they are doing an abdominal exercise, this screams out to me “My core is weak”, what makes me say that? Well when you are yanking and pulling at the back of your neck and tucking your chin down you are working on straining the back of your neck and tensing the shoulders instead of really working the core.
It’s no wonder why neck pain develops after doing hundreds of abdominal exercises. The good thing with Pilates ab exercises is there aren’t hundreds of repetitions of one exercise and no tucking of the chin or yanking on the back of the neck.
Pilates ab exercises focuses on true abdominal engagement and when done correctly there is absolutely no need for any neck pulling or strain in the back of the neck or shoulders.
Not to mention the hip thrusting, that’s also an issue addressed when practicing Pilates, there is no Hip thrusting. Keeping a neutral pelvis helps to ensure a proper balanced strengthen and muscle development.
Working the abdominals with Pilates moves strengthens the core as the prime benefit but the other is a lean, toned, flat tummy.
It’s a Win-Win either way by practicing Pilates and adding it to your fitness routine. You get sleek toned abs and a truly strong core that’ll help with pushing your fitness goals to the next level.
Here’s one of my favorite Mat Pilates Ab exercise….
Keep mindful thought of the following:
- Keep your rib cage drawn in
- Attempt to not tighten up your hip flexors when your legs are in the tabletop position.
- Engage your inner thighs while the legs are up
- Keep your belly button drawn in towards your spine
- Let your head fall heavy in your hands, firmly interlace your hands behind your head; your goal is to prevent strain in the back of the neck.
- Keep your elbows back; you want to be able to see them only in your peripheral vision.
- Make sure you breathe!
If you want more from Sylvia, you can check out her program HERE.