Core Strengthening

February 19, 2011

It All Began with a Man Named Joseph: Pilates

The past decade has seen a resurgence of Pilates and other forms of core exercising. Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates (1880-1967), who created his own system of rehabilitation training in the 1920s. The primary beneficiaries of his method were returning soldiers and professional dancers. Just over a decade ago, Joseph Pilates' training methods went mainstream and, although there have been some modifications, the basic tenets he set down have been preserved. The concept of the Pilates method is an exercise system that focuses on improving strength and flexibility without creating a lot of bulky muscle.

Lost in Translation: Abdominal Muscles

When aerobics took off in the 1960s and then strength training picked up momentum later on, some of the essential facets of fitness were left behind. Since core strengthening isn't about flash and pizzazz, it went by the boards. People were far more interested in bulging biceps and washboard abs than they were strengthening the stabilizing muscles of their bodies. After all, who sees them? The stabilizers and core muscles are buried beneath other muscles. Take the transverse abdominis, for example. This critical muscle group hides under your six-pack (if you have one) and holds the entire area under your navel in a tight grip. It's the transverse abdominis that is keeping you upright and it protects your reproductive organs as well.

On the other side of your transverse abdominis you will find your erector spinae - haven't heard of that one either? This group supports your back. And, by the way, you have a whole group of muscles in your pelvic region that work together with both the transverse abdominis and the erector spinae to give your trunk stability so you can flail your arms without falling over. Who would have believed it?

A Strong Core Means Fewer Injuries

If your core is weak your body doesn't function optimally and it has to draw strength from other muscles that may not be particularly designed for the function they are called to perform. Twisted knees, pulled shoulder muscles and back pain are only a few of the fallout injuries that occur as a result of a weakened core. You may not be chronologically old, but if your core is weak, you'll walk like you're a very old person. If your core is strong, you'll stand and walk strong and your entire body will function much more effectively.

Traditional abdominal exercises (think crunches) are great for developing visible muscle, but you're far better off working those deep muscles that are at the core of your body. Pilates and the use of stability balls are just two of the many ways you can strengthen your core muscles. Check out what's available at your fitness center or online.

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