Strength and Stability and Pilates…. just breathe

Strength and stability go hand in hand but one does not necessarily guarantee the other.  This is a strange statement to make but it is true in all aspects of life.  Without stability there can be no real strength.  Yes, many people embark on an exercise programme working all the moving muscles – developing well toned arms and legs, and appear to be strong.  What are often neglected are the stability muscles – those of the torso – the abdominal and back muscles – the deep core muscles. When there is stability then there is true strength.My mantra to clients is posture first, movement next.  When postural alignment is correct then the movement that follows will be correct.   Incorrect posture leads to the body making compensations which will result in poor performance and possibly injury.  Relying on brute force may provide short term results but lead to long term problems.

When training a client the first couple of sessions are spent on finding the deep core muscles and making sure that an awareness of postural alignment is established.  When these factors are in place the body is ready to add more load and the exercises become more challenging.  Pilates exercises are done without equipment and executing the exercises is reliant on the bodies own strength and stability.

When the stability muscles are engaged and correct postural alignment is taken into account movements that follow are efficient and functional.

One special element that pilates instructors teach is breathing, a very simple yet difficult skill to learn when exercising.  When using the breath correctly during exercise the core stabilisers are engaged.  Often during exercise a person holds his/her breath at the time that the most effort is being exerted and then at the end of the movement a “forced” exhalation is made.  This is incorrect and leads to creating tension in the body and bracing rather than stabilising during exercise.

The next time you train take a moment to observe your breathing pattern.  Make a concerted effort to inhale between movements – keep this a gentle small breath that comes in through the nose and then exhale while you are making the movement – a long slow exhalation that lasts as long as the movement and is gently released through the mouth.  When you are comfortable with this take note of where the breath goes.  The exaggerated exhalation should be used to connect to the core muscles thereby assisting with postural alignment.  The inhalation should be used to oxygenate the muscles and fill the lungs but should not cause the abdominal region to expand.  This is important – the in-breath must remain in the lungs with the ribcage opening up to the sides and the out-breath coming from the pelvis helping the diaphragm muscles to contract and allowing the lungs to empty.  Keep both the inhalation and the exhalation relaxed.  Making breathing part of the exercise sets the pace and rhythm which gives your body time to also maintain postural alignment which leads to greater stability and the ability to build strength.

Happy breathing.

Brigitte Aubery
083 303 7732