How Pilates Helps Build a Strong Core & Why It's Important
Pilates has long been known for strengthening the core and for good reason, strengthening your core is vital to long-term spinal health, good posture, and injury prevention. On top of this it's important to learn to activate and work your core effectively rather than doing 100's of sit-ups and hoping that'll do the trick, this is where a good Pilates practice comes in.
Why do I need a strong core?
Most importantly, a strong core prevents injuries and improves posture – most minor back pain can be alleviated through a consistent Pilates practice. It also allows you to do your favourite activities with ease, which leads to a better quality of life.
What is a strong core?
Your core is so much more than your abs – which is why, if you're just focusing on simple crunches and abdominal exercises, you're not reaching optimal strength. Your core includes a large group of muscles that extend well beyond the visible 6-pack, as it includes all the muscles that support your spine and good posture:
rectus abdominis – the "6 pack" that is most visible
internal obliques – helps control movement of the diaphragm when breathing and assists external obliques in lateral movement
external obliques – responsible for lateral side bend
transversus abdominis – the "corset" muscle – when activated, it pulls a protruding abdomen inward to achieve a neutral, properly aligned spine
multifidus – tiny, thin muscles that surround the spine
quadratus lumborum – connects the pelvis to the spine
erector spinae – a group of muscles that run the length of the spine on either side of the vertebral column
pelvic floor – works in conjunction with the deep abdominals and diaphragm to control pressure within the abdomen
How do I know if I have a weak or strong core?
Take a Pilates class and see if the exercises are difficult! All joking aside, you probably have a weak core if:
You experience lower back pain regularly
Your backside arches outward while your belly protrudes forward
You have difficulty balancing
You have poor posture
How long will it take to build a strong core with Pilates?
You'll notice a difference in your body within a few classes because you will likely feel sore in places brand new to you! This has much to do with the fact that Pilates activates stability muscles that are rarely used. You will also be more aware of where your body is in space.
Over time, you'll start to feel that exercises that were initially difficult become easier because you're stronger!
Will the core work I do in Pilates help me lose weight?
Technically, on its own, not really – studies have proven that even after six months, weight mass was not drastically reduced. However, physical appearance was significantly improved, as was body awareness, posture, and lower back pain. It isn't necessarily about how your body looks. Pilates will help you feel stronger in everything you do, whether it's gardening or weightlifting.
Pilates helps build lean muscle, which burns more calories at rest. It also increases stamina by strengthening stabiliser muscles. It even improves performance in other exercises, including weight training and cardiovascular activities.
How can a beginner get started with Pilates for strengthening the core?
Booking a few private sessions is a great way to ensure you are on the right page and allows you to bring up issues specific to your body and goals.
Alternatively, attend a foundation mat class and be prepared to learn a few new things in a group situation if that's your goal going forward.
Pilates is a great way to strengthen your entire core, helping you live a long, happy, healthy, and well-aligned life.
Please note: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.