March 10, 2015

Pilates: The Core of it

Pilates : The Core

And Training All the Elements

Pilates and the core have received so much attention and new practitioners in the last decade; many people have found great relief from back pain and other ailments by starting to practice Pilates, and many use it as an adjunct to sporting performance.

I’m all in favour of this, especially as a Pilates instructor. And I also think we have to stop every now and then, and give perspective and qualification to the framework of our endeavours.

Firstly, there is the aspect of ‘the core’ having two elements – an internal element and an external element.

‘Internal core’ includes the small muscles which make up the deepest three layers of the abdominals  – the internal and external obliques, and the tranvsersus abdomens (TA). These, together with the pelvic floor muscles and the small spinal muscles control the lumbopelvic movement.

The external core includes four slings or chains of muscle which actually act to compress the pelvis and transfer force appropriately through the body.



This picture shows the anterior oblique and longitudinal slings.           There is also a posterior oblique (Lats and opposing glut max and   lateral hamstring) and a lateral sling (glut medius and opposing adductors).




The second aspect that is important to establish in considering how and why we train the core is how much stiffness you need for function and performance. For example, a weight lifter will need to create more stiffness where a runner needs more fluidity.

A person who is already a very stiff tissue type (“I never could touch my toes – couldn’t even get past my knees as a teen!”) and who has back pain, may need to be encouraged to engage in more mid range movements and self massage, including deep breathing exercises and avoiding excessive stiffness that can be created by something like Pilates alone.

So, we must consider all of these aspects when prescribing core training, and do so within the individual framework of the patient or clients’ body – are there historic or current injuries, degeneration or congenital postures.


Monica runs Pilates and Functional Fitness classes – for more information, check the website:

Core fitness, Core strength
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