This is a question as Pilates teachers that we get asked a lot! Either that or, how can I get great abs? Well let me start by saying, that I’m not going to list specific exercises here (although there certainly are a few that really target and promote that sculpting effect) but I’d much rather point out that all reformer moves help create a strong core.
When we practice Pilates, we should always maintain the Pilates fundamentals; good basic core connection being one of them. And if you remember that the core is the center of where all movement derives from, then evidently you are always in fact training your core whatever you’re doing.
Another point to remember is that a strong core isn’t created by just targeting the abdominal muscles, there are many other areas that assist in creating and supporting a strong core, such as glutes, back and not forgetting a strong upper body to help stabilize. Essentially we should think of our bodies as a synchronized piece of machinery that all works in perfect harmony. Of course as the all know, that’s not always a reality for most of us, but that’s at least what we’re aiming for!
So, let’s talk more about that all important core connection. Since having my third baby I have become even more aware of my pelvic floor and have sought lots of help to try and reverse the prolapse that occurred after my last birth to a rather big baby! 9.5lbs if you were wondering – yes, ouch! (I’ll do a separate blog on this soon.) On the plus side it’s made me so much more aware of my core connection on a whole and whether I’m doing it correctly. Let’s face it we all can get carried away with a movement, especially in dynamic Pilates and forget to ‘engage’. So it’s really important that we constantly remind ourselves to connect, because that’s the root to creating that strong core (and great abs!).
Yes, some exercises require less connection and some require more, but we should always connect. And if we do this, we will be working more efficiently and effectively strengthening the core muscles in ‘less obvious’ core moves, such as squats and upper body work, which benefit greatly from maintaining that core connection.
So, how do you connect properly? Well, since visiting my women’s health physio, she advised me to ‘engage’ slightly differently to how I’ve practiced for years and years! And I have to say to me, her way makes more sense. So here it is:
- Engage the back passage (as this is indeed where the pelvic floor originates)
- Draw it forwards to the front passage
- And then lift upwards as if you’re creating a smiley face from hip to hip. (A nice visual cue that works for most and this is when you will feel TVA activate)
Give it a try and let me know what you think?
It’s of course when you’re in those exercises that apply more pressure to the ‘core’ muscles (such as anything in a curl up or a plank) that we have to work even harder to engage those pelvic floor & TVA muscles and maintain that engagement not allowing the tummy to ‘dome’.
So, to summarize, all reformer moves are great for the core; aim to be more focused on using your deep postural core muscles in all your exercises, and work on strengthening glutes and upper body too and collectively everything will get stronger.