Core Strength

Arti­cle 1.6
Sep­tem­ber 2009, Maui Hawaii

Pelvic Place­ment the “Gen­e­sis of Movement”

Our “core” or trunk is the cen­ter of body move­ment. The pelvis is the core or gen­e­sis of the trunk. When our move­ments begin from a cor­rect and strong pelvic place­ment, all move­ments become more flu­id, stronger, bal­anced and accu­rate. Pilates exer­cis­es focus on the pelvic area from both the top (supe­ri­or) spinal con­nec­tion and bot­tom (infe­ri­or) leg inser­tion. Pilates exer­cis­es address deep abdom­i­nal and pelvic floor mus­cles dur­ing pre­cise move­ments strength­en­ing the “core”.

Begin­ning with the low lum­bar spine com­ing into the top of the pelvis we see the need for sta­bil­i­ty for the largest ver­te­brae of our spine (L1‑5). These ver­te­bras take the brunt of grav­i­ta­tion­al pres­sure, upper body weight and sta­bil­i­ty chal­lenges from the more move­able upper tho­racic spine, neck and the con­nec­tions at the base of the skull. We hear so many times, “My L4 and L5 are out, I am in pain”. The largest nerves of the body run through this lum­bar region of our spine and through the pelvis. We need to sta­bi­lize the pelvis pri­or to any upper body move­ment giv­ing the lum­bar spine stabilization.

The trunk’s core mus­cles are the abdom­i­nal group. This group of mus­cles con­tains four major mus­cles, rec­tus abdo­min­is (“RA”), exter­nal and inter­nal obliques and the trans­ver­sus abdo­min­is (“TA”). The RA is our most super­fi­cial mus­cle exposed as the “six pack” in the front part of the trunk. The RA mus­cle is used for for­ward flex­ion on the trunk and assists the deep­er mus­cles with com­pres­sion of the abdomen. Because the RA mus­cle does not sta­bi­lize the pelvis it does not come into play with back strength­en­ing or sta­bi­liza­tion of the lum­bar spine. Your typ­i­cal “crunch” works the RA but does not chal­lenge “core” or back strength­en­ing. The exter­nal and inter­nal obliques are the abdom­i­nal mus­cles locat­ed at the sides of the trunk. The oblique group does wrap around the trunk to the back and helps to sta­bi­lize the trunk for com­pres­sion, side flex­ion and rota­tion. The obliques are instru­men­tal in rib cage move­ment and assist the deep spinal mus­cles in upper body rota­tion. The TA is the deep­est of the abdom­i­nal mus­cles and is the main pelvic sta­bi­liz­er, our nat­ur­al back brace. The fibers of the TA run in a cir­cu­lar direc­tion around the waist area and com­press the trunk. The front of the TA begins below the rib line wrap­ping around to the tho­ra­colum­bar fas­cia (low back, lum­bar spine area). Pilates exer­cis­es empha­sis this deep TA to engage pri­or to any trunk move­ment to cement the pelvic posi­tion for move­ment above the pelvis (lum­bar spine) and leg move­ments below. The TA assists breath and helps main­tain the shape of the trunk. The (TA) posi­tions inter­nal struc­tures such as the vital organs and intestines.

Oth­er deep­er abdomen mus­cles or “pelvic floor” mus­cles sup­port and sta­bi­lize the pelvis. The obtu­ra­tor inter­nus forms the lat­er­al walls of the pelvis assist­ing sta­bil­i­ty for move­ment beyond the pelvis. The pelvic diaphragm con­sists of two paired mus­cles form­ing the floor of the pelvis. While doing pre­cise Pilates move­ments these pelvic floor “core” mus­cles are acti­vat­ed plac­ing the pelvis in an opti­mal posi­tion for movements.

Anatom­i­cal­ly, the large bone of the upper leg “the femur” inserts into the low pelvis (hip joint). The sci­at­ic nerve runs through this hip joint. Pilates exer­cis­es for the legs use light weight with pre­cise leg/hip move­ments. Pilates exer­cis­es using light resis­tance work the deep hip mus­cles which lead to cor­rect leg (femur place­ment) below the pelvis. This large leg bone must have a strong, sta­ble pelvic plat­form to move from. When the pelvis is sta­ble and strong the femur can cor­rect­ly align mak­ing walk­ing, stand­ing and sit­ting move­ments strong and fluid.

The pelvis is the true gen­e­sis of move­ment. Pilates exer­cis­es done con­sis­tent­ly keeps the “core” of the trunk strong and able to make cor­rect adjust­ments for move­ment above and below. We need strong core mus­cles for trunk com­pres­sion or res­pi­ra­tion. Strong deep abdom­i­nal mus­cles keep the cor­rect posi­tion of our vital organs. Pilates pro­grams, with guid­ance from high­ly trained pro­fes­sion­als make our dai­ly move­ment strong, sta­ble and pain free.