Pilates Exercise: The Benefits of Core Strength

Recently a friend of mine I had not seen in a while came over for a coffee  (and a cake…oops!) Her GP had advised that she should do Pilates to improve her core strength and help the pain in her lower back. Her conversation included this question “So…I have been told to do Pilates for core strength…but what exactly is my core and why is it so important?”


Well, what a good point I thought – and perhaps such knowledge is very easily assumed. My friend and I went on to have a jolly good chat about our cores and the merits of building its strength, starting with the point that the core underpins everything we do, whether that is swinging a golf club or spring cleaning the house. The core is made up of muscles that include our internal and external abdominal and oblique muscles, as well as the muscles of our back, pelvic floor, hips and diaphragm. The movement and functionality we need to move either originates in the core or moves through it, hence the reason that core strength is absolutely essential for everything we do in daily life such as:

  • Everyday activities: Bending to put on shoes, dressing, bathing, picking up small children or something from the floor, turning to look behind you in the car, sitting in a chair, or simply standing still are just a few everyday actions that call upon our core strength.
  • Work and tasks: Work that includes lifting, carrying or twisting, are obvious activities that rely on core strength. Yet there are others that may be less obvious, such as sitting at a desk for hours huddled over a computer, sitting or standing all day, driving long distances.
  • Sport and recreation: Golfing, racquet sports, biking, running, swimming, baseball, sailing, volleyball, kayaking, rowing and many other athletic activities are all reliant and powered by a strong core which in turn reduces the risk of injury.
  • Housework and DIY: Decorating, cleaning, pruning and weeding, mowing the lawn, hammering, reaching overhead or in awkward spaces are all examples of activities where movement we take for granted demands strength come from our core. It is only when we start to get the odd ache and pain in the joints or lower back that perhaps we take a bit more notice.
  • Balance and stability: Our core muscles help us to stabilise so that we can move safely in any direction with control, or stand in one spot without losing balance.
  • Good posture (my favourite): Weak core muscles definitely contribute to slouching and poor posture where we ‘fill out our waistbands’ with our body. Good posture, lengths and defines our silhouette, allows us to stand up straight, feeling wide and open and relaxed across the chest, with the head in a natural position and our eyes looking straight ahead. Good posture reduces wear and tear on the spine, helps us to breathe more deeply, project confidence and reap the full benefit from all the effort we put into exercising.

Going back to my friend….. After our coffee and cake had settled nicely, we did of course end up lying on the floor of my lounge practising a couple of exercises to strengthen her core (my terrier Hugo was highly amused)!  I am happy to say that she has now promised to sign up to a good Pilates class nearby to where she lives. In the meantime she is going to be practising the simple but effective Pilates Abdominal Curl.


Pilates Abdominal Curl


If you want to have a go at Pilates Abdominal Curl yourself, just have a look at the instructions below. You can practice it almost anywhere; in the comfort of your own home, in the park, on the beach…or, as I am, on the deck of our boat! 


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  • Lay flat on the floor flat on your back.
  • Bend the knees so that they are at an angle of approximately 45 degrees.
  • The knees should be hip width apart and the feet should be parallel and in line with the knees
  • Place your hands behind your head and keep the elbows in peripheral vision


  • Take a deep breath.
  • On your exhale slowly lift the chest and head away from the mat, keeping the head heavy in the hands so that you do not pull on the neck and head.
  • The waist should be long with the pelvic floor ‘zipped’ and the lower abdominals drawing down towards the mat and ‘scooping’ towards the ribs – your core connection.
  • At the top of the movement take another breath in and out focusing on deepening your core connection so that the abdominals do not dome upwards.
  • Lower the body down to the mat to your starting position.
  • You can repeat this 6 – 10 times.

This entry was posted in News and posted on July 14, 2017