As a Pilates instructor, people often ask me, “Will Pilates help me lose my stomach bulge?” Unfortunately this isn’t just a simple yes/no answer. Yes, it will certainly give you greater muscle definition. However we cannot neglect to mention the impact of diet. A bad diet will hamper even the most religious Pilates students efforts to tone their stomachs. So whilst Pilates will assist you in developing a stronger toned core, what you must remember is that one Pilates class will not counteract that bottle of wine or greasy burger you had for dinner.
What Pilates will do, irrespective of your diet, is improve your strength, range of movement and posture. If followed with a good diet will also provide you with a much improved or toned physic.
What is our core?
Our core includes our pelvic floor, multifidis and transverse abdominals. I like to think of part of the core being like a capital T. When we activate our core correctly, our pelvic floor lifts up, providing the base of the T and the transverse muscles thin out creating the top of the T. Our multifids attach directly onto our lumbar spine of our lower back, and without the support of the pelvic floor, would take most of the strain when we lift and move.
So why is it important to develop a strong core?
A strong core provides a solid foundation for your body to move. It helps protect our lower back from strain, and improves our posture and dynamic stability.
“So how often will I have to do Pilates to increase my core strength?” – I hear you ask.
For most people, the fastest results are seen with regular weekly practice, with two to three sessions being the ideal number. The mastery of core strength can take a little bit of time as the motor pathways and neural connections are retrained to fire appropriately. Each individual goes from a level of unconsciously incompetent, to unconsciously competent.
If you are struggling with the concept of activating your core, you should ask your instructor for some homework. Like with any new skill, with greater repetition you will develop more control.
Here are Pilates Wellness Australia’s top 5 exercises to practice to develop core activation.
Traffic light test:
Next time you are stopped at traffic lights do this. Exhale and think about drawing your navel deep to your spine, and at the same time think about your pelvic floor lifting. Continue to practice until the light changes.
Imagine that you are trying to get into a tight pair of pants. As you exhale focus on drawing the navel toward the spine and your hips together. Inhale and release and repeat for 20 .
Whilst standing, place your finger tips inline with the top of your hip bone, then move you finger 2 cm across in the direction of your navel. Inhale to prepare, than exhale visualising your pelvic floor as an elevator moving from the ground floor to level 5. You should feel some muscle activation where your finger tips are resting.
With all of these cues it is important to focus on maintaining the natural curve of your spine therefore you should not be flattening your back into the car seat or bed. This again takes some conscious effort but the reward of a healthier and happier body are well worth the effort.