If I’m doing Pilates, I am strengthening my core, right? Most likely, the answer is yes, but there are ways to get even more out of your classes and really maximise your results. With Pilates, like most things in life, the more you put in, the more you get back and this is particularly true when trying to target specific muscle groups.
Here are Han’s top 5 tips to getting the most out of your classes and building a super strong core:
The only way to build core strength is to be able to breathe through your exercises. If you are holding your breath, you are technically bracing rather than really engaging these muscles. Aim to exhale on the effortful movement to help with control, timing and effective muscle contraction. If you need to slow down to get the hang of this, that’s a good thing. Slow and controlled movements will target the endurance muscle fibres of the deep abdominals you are aiming to strengthen.
2. Relax your other muscles
Try to relax your neck, shoulders, jaw, glutes and inner thighs as you practise your core exercises. As soon as you master this you will feel your abdominals work a lot harder! By holding tension in other areas, you take away some of the effort where you want it. Check in every now and then during your class to make sure you haven’t tightened up again and eventually you will find this more natural.
3. Start with the basics and revisit them regularly
Pilates is like a skill, so we need to practise regularly to improve. Even the most experienced Pilates instructors will continue practising the basics. By completing some of the more simple core strengthening exercises, you have the chance to really focus on your technique and that deep muscle connection. If you’re new to Pilates, or returning after a little break, it’s important to build your strength and control gradually so that you are using your core effectively when you get to the more challenging exercises.
4. Follow my cues
Listen out for a cue that clicks for you. The cues are there to help you to engage correctly and really feel your muscles work. Try to visualise what I am saying and see if you feel something differently. There is a reason I do not stop talking during my classes and that is because the right cue can make a world of difference to your practice.
5. Make sure you’re in the right position
Position is so important when it comes to core strengthening. The reason for this is that our bodies will try to find the path of least resistance and use muscles that are the most easily accessed. This might mean that you use your hip flexors, neck muscles or lower back rather than your core abdominals. The position of your hips, pelvis, spine and shoulder girdle can all play a part in which muscles you use during your class, so listen to my set up and then follow the cues throughout to really work your core.
Although Pilates and ‘core strength’ go hand in hand, if you follow these tips I guarantee you will feel a big difference. If you’re unsure or need some extra help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to email@example.com or DM @ourpilates to speak to Han directly.