There seems to be a thing happening at the moment. Everyone wants abs. But it seems they want them for Instagram and not for all the incredible benefits that come with a strong core. One thing that this desire for abs does is makes us forget the core is an intricate and complex thing that is a lot more than simply the 6 pack that you can see in some people. There are a number of different sections to our abdominal and core muscles, which all work together to keep our bodies safe, strong, and supported.
We’ve always been on the pursuit of a strong core, not because of the aesthetics of it, but because of the changes that happen in the whole body. And how do we achieve this? Through regular pilates. Pilates (more so than yoga) works the core specifically and deliberately. Especially some of the deeper core muscles that are impossible to see, but crucial to health and mobility. And if you add pilates reformer classes to that, your core has to work in overdrive!
Here are some of our favourite benefits of a healthy and functional core.
The function and mobility of your whole body improves
If you think about the torso for a moment, it’s where a lot of our movements come from. Forward bending, backward bending, twisting, and moving laterally side to side. Obviously there are a lot of muscles, joints, and structures involved in these actions, but each of these will engage a different type of ‘core’ muscle. And if they’re weak or tight, or both, problems can arise in your ability to move in different directions well.
The body is clever, if it’s not moving how it’s meant to, it will make-do and alter the movement pattern. This means that while you might not notice it, your body is having to work harder as it doesn’t have the core to support these movements and will rely on dysfunctional movement patterns. Over time, these new trained ways of moving, that are less efficient can lead to injury and strain as well as reduced performance and range of movement.
Taking the idea from above, if our body is making adjustments based on weaknesses and tightness, this is going to reflect heavily in our posture. Rounded backs, dipping into our lower spine, twists – all of these issues can stem from a weak or imbalanced set of core muscles. To be able to stand tall, even, and supported over long periods of time, we need our core to be functioning at its best. Again, over time posture issues can result in further wear and tear of the body.
Reduces the risk of back pain
When we have a weak core, sometimes what can happen is we get tight in our lower back muscles at the same time. If you think this through, your lower back will naturally start to shorten and your mid section at the front will lengthen and you can end up with quite a curve in your low back. This is extreme. But shows the way the front and the back of the body really work together. So support the spine, we need to create strong healthy muscles around it to keep it exactly where it’s meant to be. And the core is one of the most important elements of this. As are the glute muscles (which also get a killer workout in pilates by the way). When we talk about the core here, we don’t just mean the abdominal muscles that run along the front of the stomach area (abs), but the deeper more supportive muscles are also incredibly important, which is why full body movements using the core and a range of different core exercises (not just crunches) is important and beneficial for spine health.
It will help the rest of your body perform well
It makes sense that if you spine is happy, you have good posture, and you have good mobility and function, your body is going to be pretty happy right? Right. When the body moves and behaves how it’s designed to we can move better, free ourselves from pain and limitation, and improve our all round health and happiness.