Developed a century ago by Joseph Pilates – a self defence instructor and avid skier, diver, gymnast and boxer – Pilates is a form of overall strength and conditioning used in the development of strong core muscles, which also focuses on breathing, toning muscles, balance, alignment (posture), and range of motion (flexibility).
In other words, during Pilates, you strengthen and stretch muscles, lengthening muscles that are short, and strengthening muscles that need to be stronger. The exercises help with coordination, recruiting lots of muscles at the same time in one exercise. It enhances functional movement due to the coordinated exercises, and concentration on the core muscles groups.
Overall, Pilates focuses on the deeper muscle groups, or ‘local’ stabilisers -(the muscles responsible for stabilising the body during the movement ). One of the most well known but often undertrained of these groups is the TVA or Transverses Abdominal muscles. This deeper core muscle is located between the belly button and pubic bone, wrapping around your torso and into your lower back . Forget your ‘six pack’, the TVA is the key muscle group to train for flatter, more toned abdominals.
As a rule, the “local stabiliser” muscles control joint movement, and sustain the stability of the joints that can often be damaged through repetitive and high demand training. Pilates works deep into muscle strength, not superficial, leading to more effective control, neural recruitment of the muscle, and assists with injury prevention and rehabilitation.
Pilates helps to develop awareness of your body, through controlled, smooth, and targeted movements. It also focuses on good postural alignment before each exercise, which reduces the amount of unnecessary strain on the muscles and joints, helping you perform each movement to the maximum benefit. After a Pilates class, it’s not uncommon to feel aligned and walk a little taller.
Finally, the emphasis on breathing helps with focus, relaxation, and powering up precise movements. During the practice you need to think about what you are doing physically, and mentally. Pilates promotes a full mind body integration, the two cannot be separated.
What I really love about Pilates is it’s ability to bring all the key principles of the practice into my everyday life, and the ripple effect into my other sports.
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