The core is much more than your ‘tummy muscles’, or this idea of pulling in and up with your tummy muscles; or the illusive 'scoop' which you might have heard said but I don’t particularly like as a term because I think its very easy to misinterpret.
Think of your core as a group of muscles that extends much further than your tummy or abs. It includes everything in your midsection. When they are working in unison or harmony, they keep the body stable when moving – from simple things like walking or bending down to more complex Pilates moves!
Pilates helps strengthen the core to give us ease in everyday movements. Below are the core muscles it's most important to know about.
Let’s begin with the one I think we’re most familiar with. Your Rectus Abdominus, also known as your abs or your six pack. This is a long, flat muscle that runs all the way from your pubic bone to your ribcage. Its main function is to help move the body between the ribcage and the pelvis.
Next up is the External and Internal Obliques. These are either side of the Rectus Abdominus and these muscles help twist your torso and bend side to side. The internal obliques are smaller and deeper and sit underneath the external obliques. These are often referred to as your waist muscles.
Then comes the Transverse Abdominus. This is the one I call your corset muscle because it wraps around the torso all the way from the ribs to the pelvis. It helps stabilise the spine, keep your organs in the right place and support the abdominal wall.
The Latissimus Dorsi or ‘Lats’ run along each side of the body from the shoulder blades to pelvis. If you do my classes, you’ll hopefully recall me asking you to draw your shoulder blades down and squeeze under your armpit to engage your side body. This is to get into the Lats which play a big role in stabilising the spine.
And finally, the Pelvic Floor and the Diaphragm. I like to think of these as the floor and ceiling of the Core.
The Pelvic Floor is responsible for holding all your pelvic organs in place – so its super important! I know it's most commonly talked about in terms of pregnancy and childbirth but it's important for men too. There is a whole separate video about this but essentially, I imagine the Pelvic Floor as a hammock that runs from back to front.
The Diaphragm is involved in the mechanics of breathing. It sits below the lungs under the ribcage. Put as simply as possible, when we breath in the diaphragm lengthens and lowers allowing the lungs and ribs to expand. When we breath out, the diaphragm contracts and lifts to help expel the air from the lungs. The body does this automatically but by using the breath correctly when exercising it encourages engagement through the upper abdominal and core muscles.
So that's a brief overview of the most important core muscles to be aware of for your Pilates practice. I hope that helps you get more from your practice going forwards.