Pilates 411 - Part Two

20 November, 2017

The Ten Principles That Should Be in Everyone’s Fitness Program
by Diane Peterson

In Part One we covered a bit of Joseph Pilates history, and how his take on mind body fitness, 70 years ahead of the times, allows you to get 100% out of your fitness program.

Here’s a recap on those 10 principles:

  1. Breathing
  2. Core activation
  3. Neutral spine or other optimal starting position.
  4. Abdominal strengthening
  5. Lumbopelvic stability
  6. Strengthening and mobilizing the spine
  7. Scapular stability and mobility
  8. Correcting alignment
  9. Release work
  10. Stretching

Now let’s break these down into bite sized pieces.


Breathing use one of the biggest muscles of the core, the diaphragm. Breathing techniques can be used to decrease stress, lower or raise blood pressure, improve aerobic capacity and calm the mind and spirit. Daphragmatic breathing, lateral breathing, one-lung breathing and sniffing breath are all techniques used to produce a variety of responses.

Core Activation

Many folks mistake core work with abdominal work. These are not the same. The core is responsible for respiration and stabilization. Abdominal work is pretty much what it says. A crunch is an ab exercise. A plank is a core exercise.

The muscles that are part of the core are: the transversus abdominus (TA), pelvic floor, diaphragm, and mulitifdi and other rotatores. The TA and rotatores create a sort of corset and laces around the pelvis and low back. The pelvic floor and diaphragm seal off the top and bottom. When you inhale, the diaphragm distends and takes up all the room in the body cavity, creating stability around the pelvis, hips, and low back area. When you exhale you tighten the pelvic floor producing the same stability.

Neutral Pelvis and Finding the Optimal Starting Position.

Studies have shown that the best position for the spine to work in is neutral, not in a pelvic tuck as once believed. This is your spine with its own natural curves. It won’t be the same as your buddy exercising next to you. It’s unique to you. To find your neutral, lie flat on your back. If you connect your two front hip bones and pubic bone into a triangle, it should be parallel to the floor. Now the trick is to find that placement when you are on all fours, sitting, prone, or even lying on your side. I tell my side-lying students to lift their rib cage off the floor so that their waist curve is the same on the top and bottom. Many exercises are extremely challenging in neutral. Imprinted spine and using padding to support neutral are ways to work until participants increase their strength.

Abdominal Strengthening

This includes the rectus abdominus, Internal and external obliques. Exercises include variations of curls, reverse curls, criss-cross, and lateral flexion work.

Lumbopelvic Stability (LPS)

LPS is related to core and abdominal strength but it includes all the muscles that attach to the pelvis and spine through the action of the four main subsystems. If you’ve had your Ortho-Kinetics, you may remember those four subsystems. The red one is the Posterior Oblique System. The yellow is the Anterior Oblique System. The green is the Lateral System and the blue is the Deep Longitudinal System. These systems criss-cross the body and stabilize the low back, pelvis, hips and spine.

Increasing Spinal Mobility and Strength

Every single activity from sports to driving a car involves movement of the spine. If the spine loses mobility in any direction, movement becomes uncomfortable and can lead to pain or injury. We move the spine in four main directions; flexion, extension, rotation, and lateral flexion.

Scapular Stability and Mobility

The shoulder is one of the most anatomically complex joints in the body. Because of its multidirectional nature, and need for stabilization when pushing and pulling, it is prone to injury and dysfunction. One of the culprits is weak rotator cuff muscles. These four muscles and the scapula keep the upper arm bone working properly in the shoulder girdle. Strengthening these muscles allow the body to do things like stabilize during a plank and have the mobility to do a pull up.

Correct Alignment

Have you ever tried to operate a piece of equipment when the parts aren’t put together properly? I have a Dyson vacuum. I use it for everything, carpets, hardwoods, stairs, ceiling fans, and my bunny pen. I have to constantly pull it apart and put it together a different way to vacuum any one of these areas. If I don’t get all the pieces put back properly, I will get a very little or no suction at all. I can’t do the work.

Your body is much the same way. We line up bony landmarks to make sure every movement is done in the most efficient way to produce the most optimal posture. A detailed assessment used to create a truly personal program addresses postural anomalies.

Release Work and Stretching

Besides strength, the body also needs release to create balance. Strengthening on one side of a bone structure actually stretches the opposite side. Other types of stretching include: static or holding stretches, dynamic or moving stretches, contract and release stretches, and my personal favorite myofascial release or foam rolling. I had never heard of foam rolling until I came to Island Fitness. After a four month period of, let’s face it, excruciating pain, I calmed most of my postural tender points. Now, I am tender only after heavy workouts, hiking or diving. Foam rolling is now a regular part of my bodywork, as is massage and strain-counter strain.

You can see how these 10 Pilates Movement Principles should be a part of every program. If you have been coming to a gym or doing organized fitness for a long time, you’ll notice not much was made of this type of focus until the past 15 years or so. Joseph Pilates was ahead of his time. We are fortunate enough to have a fully stocked Mind Body Studio that has all of the equipment that Joseph Pilates designed for his workouts. My husband always says, “Use the right tool for the right job.” And that’s what we’ve done.

Pilates exercises are best done on Pilates equipment with a trained instructor. Schedule a session today with Loretta, Jordan, Carol or me to see how Pilates can turn up the heat on your workouts.

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