Pilates Exercises For Core Strength

Pilates Exercises For Core Strength

We all need a strong core and Pilates is a great form of exercise to strengthen it. Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activities. And if you are looking for Pilates exercises for core strength, then you have come to the right place!!

What Exactly Is “The Core”? 

“The core” is simply the centre of our body that stabilises the trunk while the arms and legs move during functional movements. So whether you’re playing golf, practicing Yoga, running, or sweeping the floor, every single movement will originate from your core, or move through it. Consequently, you have to treat your core muscles as the strongest link connecting your upper and lower body. 

Technically “the core” is a complex system that can include all of the following muscle groups … 

  • Rectus abdominis: Located at the front of the stomach, this is often referred to as the “six-pack” area and is the most well-known of the abdominal muscles!! 
  • Erector spinae: This group of three muscles runs from your neck to your lower back.
  • Multifidus: Located under the erector spinae along the vertebral column, these muscles allow the spine to extend and rotate.
  • External obliques: Located on the side & front of the abdomen.
  • Internal obliques: Located under the external obliques and run in the opposite direction to the external obliques.
  • Transverse abdominis: Located under the obliques and is the deepest of the abdominal muscles that wrap around the spine for protection and stability.
  • Hip flexors: Located in front of the pelvis and upper thigh.
  •  Hip adductors: These are located at the medial thigh and draw the legs into the midline.
  • Gluteus medius and minimus: Located at the side of the hip.
  • Gluteus maximus, hamstring group, piriformis: Located in the back of the hip and upper thigh leg.

Why Is “The Core” Important?

No matter where the movement starts in the body, it ripples up & down and through “the core” like links in a multi-chain system. Weak or inflexible core muscles significantly influence the functionality of your arms & legs and the level of power the body puts out. That’s why it is often stated a strong core can crank up the power!!

Having a flexible & strong core underpins almost every activity we do. It’s quite amazing all the simple tasks we do daily that use our core muscles …

  • Bending to put on shoes or tie your shoelaces
  • Turning to look behind you
  • Lifting something heavy
  • Sitting at a desk for long hours
  • Vacuuming the house
  • Reaching overhead
  • And even simply standing

All involve the core!!

Why You Need A Strong Core

Whilst it’s important to build a strong core, it’s not necessary to obtain a flat stomach, hard or rippling abs!! In fact, overtraining abdominal muscles while neglecting other areas of the body, like the back & hip muscles can increase your chance of injury and experiencing pain. Tight, unbalanced, or weak core muscles can be problematic in themself!! Having a compromised core can lead to more fatigue, less endurance, poor posture, and lower back pain.

A strong core helps keep your body balanced, stable, and move more efficiently. 

How To Get A Strong Core?

Adding specific core strengthening exercises into your training routine is a great way to get those deep core muscles engaged. And one of the best ways of creating core stability is through Pilates exercise. A good Pilates workout can help strengthen all the muscle groups listed above. 

Crunches, on the other hand, have been used for years as the “go-to” core strengthening exercise to build strong abdominal muscles. But, crunches may not be worth the effort as they:-

  • Only focus on surface muscles and don’t touch the deep core muscles.
  • Can cause major problems for people with existing back pain.
  • Often irritate the neck, back & hips.
  • Tend to get boring.

What Is Pilates?

Pilates is a total body exercise, developed almost 100 years ago by Joseph Pilates, to rehabilitate injured WW1 soldiers and later, for strength & conditioning of dancers. It focuses on stabilising joints & controlling your movements using your core muscles so that you become stronger & more mobile. 

The “Pilates Method” is made up of two components – Mat Pilates workouts and equipment-based Pilates moves. Both have their benefits in training not only “the core” but the whole body!! 

It has been demonstrated that a regular Pilates practice can help you move more freely and with a greater range of motion. And, in many cases has been known to:-

  • Improve posture
  • Provide better balance
  • Increase strength & flexibility
  • Reduce back pain

Most of all, Pilates is a perfect training tool to help train the transversus abdominis muscles and build a strong core!!

My Top 3 Pilates Exercises For Core Strength

1. Single-Leg Stretch

Setup: 
  • Lie on your back with your spine in neutral and bring both knees in toward your chest.
  • Bring both knees in toward your chest, place your hands on your shins, and curl your head up off the floor.
The Exercise:
  • Extend your left leg out – keeping your toes pointed & your foot level with your head (off the floor)
  • Bring your left leg back into your chest & extend your right leg
  • Continue alternating sides.
  • Repeat for 10 sets on each side.

2. Criss-Cross

Pilates Exercises For Core Strength - Criss Cross
Setup:
  • Lie on your back with your spine in neutral and bring both knees in toward your chest.
  • Place your hands on the back of your head, keeping your elbows wide, and curl your head up.
The Exercise:
  • Bring your left shoulder toward your right knee as you extend your left leg. 
  • Then bring your right shoulder toward your left knee as you extend your right leg.
  • Continue alternating sides.
  • Repeat for 10 sets on each side

3. The Hundred 

The Hundred
Setup:
  • Lie on your back with your spine in neutral (this is where you keep the natural curves of the spine) your arms at your sides, your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor, and your heels in line with your hips. 
  • INHALE to prepare.
  • EXHALE to engage your abs and lift the feet off the floor to tabletop position (90 degrees at hips and knees – Beginners position). 
  • INHALE to reach your arms toward the ceiling (straight up).
  • EXHALE to lower your arms toward your hips as you lift the head, neck, and tips of your shoulder blades off the mat. Straighten the legs out (as in the picture for advanced option and add a soft ball for extra challenge)
The Exercise:
  • Pulse the arms for five counts (like splashing your arms in a pool) while you INHALE. 
  • Pulse the arms for five counts while you EXHALE. 
  • Repeat for 10 total sets (100 arm pumps).

Want More Pilates Exercises For Core Strength Info?

Please check out the Pilates programs we are currently offering by clicking HERE.

Otherwise, you might like to experience a sample of our Pilates style by giving the following Pilates class a try …

A Quick 30 Minute “Pilates Blast” Workout

A 1 Hour Mat Pilates Workout

Try These 2 Pilates Moves For A Great Abs Workout Article

Alternatively, if you would like me to help you personally on your “Pilates journey”, please give me a call (0410 472 983) or shoot me an email (lthornthwaite@pureyoga.com.au) … I’d love to be of service to you!!