Can pilates help me work on my core strength?

a person lying on the back with a large blue balloon in the hand
Can pilates help me work on my core strength? Hearst Owned

Pilates is not only having a moment, it's also one of the best fitness classes to build strength in your core.

Aside from everyone from Harry Styles to Kate Hudson jumping on the Pilates wagon, research by ClassPass also reported that Pilates was the most popular workout of the year with reservations for Pilates bookings up 92 per cent.

So, why can Pilates be so effective for the core? 'It strongly focuses on the strength and endurance of the deeper core muscles that contribute to spinal and pelvic strength and control, predominantly the transversus abdominis, pelvic floor and deep spinal back muscles among others,' Claire Mills - Physiotherapist and founder of CoreLDN tells Women's Health.

'Pilates exercises target the global muscle slings that work across the pelvis and body, the anterior, posterior, longitudinal, and lateral slings. This means that Pilates strengthens the core from the inside out and the 'centre' of the body, that is the pelvis, of which all movement in the body stems,' she goes on to add.

Aside from getting that six-pack, how else can having strong core muscles help our bodies? 'Strengthening your deeper core and postural muscle system alongside your global power system will help to keep your body balanced, can transform your posture, muscles and prevent injuries such as lower back pain and improve fitness and sporting performance. The slow and controlled nature of the exercises will also optimise strength and toning.'

Clare goes on to say that to make significant changes to muscle definition and tone she advises taking a 'minimum of three classes a week, at least 6-12 weeks before you want to see results.'

What core moves should I concentrate on?

Claire takes us through 4 moves to start you on your core pilates journey.

Hundreds

What is it? Lie on your back and connect your deep abdominals by cueing a zip tailbone to belly button and bring your legs up in the double tabletop position (or legs extended for an extra challenge). Maintain this then lift your head and chest with your arms by your side. Keeping this position, pulse your arms in time with your breath, breathing in for pulses and out for 5 pulses. Continue for a hundred pulses.

Why do it? An abdominal exercise that challenges the endurance and control of your deep, upper and lower abdominals maintaining your breathing. Often when you are weak in your abdominals you will brace and hold your breath so this exercise really challenges your endurance and control.

Plank leg lift

What is it? Start in a high plank with your hands directly under your shoulders. Keeping a neutral spine, exhale and lengthen and lift one leg off the mat. Inhale to lower. Alternate sides, keeping the back and pelvis still and hips in line with the floor.

Why do it? Great deep core integration with global strength and upper/ lower body.

Criss Cross

What is it? Lie on your back and connect your deep abdominals by cueing a zip tailbone to the belly button and bring your legs up in the double tabletop position. Maintain this then lift your head and chest with your hands interlaced behind your head keeping your elbows wide. Exhale as you bring your left shoulder up and over to the right side of your pelvis as you extend your right leg. Inhale to control back into the centre and change over to the other side keeping control of the pelvis.

Why do it? This exercise works all of the abdominal layers and challenges the control across the midline targeting your obliques whilst having to maintain control in your deep, upper and lower abdominals. The key is to do the exercise slowly and controlled and not use momentum or swing the pelvis.

Superman/ bird dog

What is it? Kneeling with your hands under shoulders and knees under hips in a box position with a tabletop back. Exhale as you extend the right arm and left leg out whilst maintaining a tabletop back and keeping your hips in line with the floor. Inhale to return. Either hold/ work on one side or alternate sides.

Why do it? A great exercise working the whole body, integrating the core with shoulder and hip stability - the focus is to keep control of the back and pelvis as you reach out your opposite arm or leg.

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