The aim of regular Pilates practise is to promote good posture and stability, and we achieve that by strengthening your core. When we talk about the core, we’re not referring to just the stomach muscles, it goes much, much deeper than that!
The core of our body is in fact the front, side, back and internal muscles that surround and hold up your spine, support your pelvis and contain your abdominal and reproductive organs.
A strong core is essential for good posture, improving balance and stability, increasing athletic ability and maintaining continence and sexual pleasure. It is the powerhouse for your body!
Four of the most common signs of a weakened core are:
- Back or shoulder blade pain – Indicating you’re slouching or using the hip flexors to sit upright
- Arched lower back – Glutes and hip flexors are taking the brunt of posture control
- Loss of balance – Your core isn’t supporting your upper body sufficiently
- Digestive and continence issues such as wind or bladder leaks – Loss in pelvic floor strength.
Exercises to strengthen your core between classes
Let’s start with the deepest muscles in the core, the pelvic floor. During your Pilates class I will ask you draw up your pelvic floor, tuck your tail bone and engage your stomach muscles to about 10%. You can do this by tightening those muscles as much as possible before slowly releasing them until they are gently engaged.
A simple exercise to do is the pelvic squeeze. You can do this every time you’re at traffic lights in the car, sitting down for a cup of tea or in the adverts of your favourite TV programme. It doesn’t have to take long, it just has to be regular and sustained.
- Draw up your pelvic floor muscles as if attempting to stop the flow of urine
- Add an extra squeeze at the top
- Hold for a count of two and release. Repeat 10 to 15 times – Daily!
You should notice results after a couple of months.
Weak back and stomach muscles can mean your hip flexors are doing the work of maintaining the sitting position. For people who work at a desk this can cause great strain and pain in this area as they tighten, in turn pulling the top of the pelvis forward and creating lower back pain.
Make a definite effort to check your posture while sitting for work, stand up regularly or even work standing if you can.
Try the perfect Pilate pose while at your desk:
- Tilt the pelvis forward and back until you find neutral
- Draw the navel towards the spine
- Engage the pelvic floor slightly
- Slide the shoulder blades down the back
- Position your chin over your collar bone, not jutting forward over your lap!
You will inevitably let this go, so you could try setting a timer for every couple of hours, or making an effort to return to your desk in this stance whenever you leave for a comfort break.
Time for bed!
Yes, I’m suggesting exercising in your bed (alone)! And this one is the closest to an exercise you’ll get in class…
- Lie flat on your back in bed, no covers
- Bend your knees with feet flat on the floor like you’re about to go into Bridge
- Then, go into bridge – but keep your body straight, without bending your back
- Slowly, without changing the angle of knee-bend, raise one heel and lower it back down
- Alternate lifting for 10 times on each side (20 in total).
You can have the covers on if you like, but it will add a bit of extra weight 😉
If you do even one of these exercises regularly, you’ll find your progress in Pilates class is much quicker. You’ll be stronger, less fatigued and suffering less discomfort (or preventing the possibility). Any questions? Message me now or book a trial class to find out more and get yourself on the path to strength and wellness.