The core is a term used to describe the central portion of the human excluding the arms, legs, neck and head. From a conditioning and fitness standpoint the core refers to the musculature that surrounds and supports the spine while also assisting with posture.
The core musculature includes the pelvic, transverses, abdominals, internal and external abdominals, rectus abdominis, erector spinae and the diaphragm. These muscles work in concert to maintain proper posture and assist or stabilize in virtually all bodily movements. If core musculature is weak it is generally only a matter of time before lower back pain develops which will greatly inhibit the ability to function normally. Additionally the generation of power for most athletic activities originates through the core.
Focusing on posture, spinal alignment, flexibility, weight reduction, physical activity, reducing stressor and tension can all reduce risk of back pain and injury. One way to ensure we address these areas of concern is to develop or participate in activities that focus on the core. One such activity is pilates.
Pilates is a physical fitness system that uses the mind to control muscles. Pilates focuses on core strength and spinal alignment while stretching, strengthening and balancing the body. Pilates does stress the musculature at an intensity level high enough to be considered a form of resistance training; however, pilates is anaerobic because it does not tax the cardiovascular system enough to provide aerobic benefits.
While practicing pilates, it is important to focus on controlled breathing, body alignment, quality of movement and muscle contractions. Deep breathing associated with pilates can help to strengthen the lungs and improve circulation. Pilates strengthens both back and abdominal muscles, and like yoga helps to develops a powerful mind/body connection.
Additional benefit realized through systematic practice of pilates include improved posture, better balance and a stronger core. Bone density and joint integrity can also be enhanced due to the anaerobic nature of the movements, while the overall benefits of practicing pilates can expand into other areas of life as well.
Originally pilates was only practiced on a pilates device equipped with springs and cables. Today, however, pilates is performed on floor-mats (mat pilates), therapy balls, with resistance bands and combined with yoga to create variations of the original form. Trying an alternate form of pilates will provide diversity while still providing parallel benefits to the original form. Pilates is certainly not the only way to improve core strength but it is certainly an adequate alternative.
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Human Anatomy and Physiology by Shier, Butler and Lweis