Why you need a strong adaptable core
The aim of a Pilates Core workout is to strengthen your core. Your core is made up of the pelvic floor muscles , the deep abdominals called your transverse abdominis, small muscles in your back called multifidus and the diaphragm. These muscles all collaborate in a pressurised system to help give you stability and protection to your trunk – like a corset hugging your body. Weakness or an overtly tight core can result in back pain, incontinence, injury particularly to the lower back and hip region and cause further imbalances and complications further up and lower down.
You can start to strengthen your core through a Pilates core workout by deliberately engaging your pelvic floor and deep abdominals and then start adding load and challenge by doing certain Pilates exercises.
Pilates core workout (or abs)
How to engage your pelvic floor muscles
Start by lying on the floor with knees bent. Place hands on your pelvis. Exhale and gently tighten your back passage (anus) and front passage (urethra). Under your hands you might feel a tightening in your lower abdominals – that’s your TA kicking in. If you can’t feel your lower abs then try to tighten your lower belly by tensing the area between your hip bones. A bit like drawing your hip bones together or tensing your belly to your spine. Hold the engagement and release and try not to hold your breath. x 8
Don’t spill the water – Toe Taps
The start of a Pilates ab workout involves lying on your back with knees bent. Imagine you have a full bowl of water resting on your lower abdomen. The game is not to spill the water. Engage your core and lift one leg at a time bringing your knees over your hips and your shins parallel to the floor. As you lift each leg make sure you don’t spill the water. Holding the legs up, now try to lower one leg at a time and see how far you can lower your foot to the floor without spilling the water and bringing the leg back up. Lower the other leg and keep alternating. X 10 each side
Curl ups/Sit ups/Crunches
Next up in your Pilates ab workout are curl ups, sit ups or crunches so lying on your back, hands clasped behind your head with your elbows still in your vision. You have the full bowl of water resting on your lower abdomen. Engage your core lightly, bring your chin slightly to your chest and lift your chest up using your upper abdominals and keep your eyes focussed on your pelvis. Lengthen back down. Try not to spill the water and avoid using your arms to pull your head and chest forward. X 10
Oblique curl ups
Lying on your back and curling up as before. Now what you have to do is turn your torso towards your left hip without spilling the water, come back to the centre and turn your torso to the right hip returning to the centre. Maintaining the curl up, keep repeating the rotation -really think about lifting your right side of your ribcage to the left hip and then your left side of your ribcage to the right hip. Allowing your back to roll from side to side without spilling the water! Now you must really be feeling your Pilates for abs workout. X 8 each side.
An oldie but a goodie. Start on all fours. Hands below shoulders and knees below hips. Think about your spine being elongated from head to tailbone. The Bowl of water is resting on the back of your pelvis. Engage your core. Feel like you gently pull your mat apart and push the floor away with your hands. Extend one leg at a time tucking your toes under for support. Try not to spill the water as you straighten your legs. Hold the position feeling a strong tension in your abdominals. Bring one knee at a time to the floor back to the start position. Repeat again and hold for longer each time challenging yourself and perhaps timing yourself to see how long you can plank for. Watch out for any tension and discomfort in your lower back. If that happens do a cat stretch and try building up to this exercise by following previous ones listed here.