September 2009, Maui Hawaii
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.