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The Core Essence: Cueing for Effective Engagement in Pilates


Balance, core, and grace: A symphony of Pilates practice with a stability ball.
Harnessing inner strength with every curve: Pilates with a stability ball

In Pilates, the core muscles are revered as the powerhouse, orchestrating movement, balance, and posture. A well-trained core facilitates the harmonious interaction of muscles and joints, laying a solid foundation for a controlled, precise, and fluid practice. Among the myriad of muscles we engage, cueing the core effectively is paramount to unlocking the full potential of Pilates exercises. This post delves into the importance of the core and the subtle art of cueing for its optimal engagement.

Understanding the Core in Posture:

The core, extending beyond the abdominal muscles to include the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis, and others, is pivotal in maintaining a neutral spine and good posture. Different postures and Pilates movements engage varying muscle groups, yet the commonality lies in the indispensable role of a well-trained core. It's the cornerstone that supports the pelvis, shoulders, and the entire skeletal structure, enabling fluid yet controlled movement.

Cueing Techniques for Core Engagement:

Verbal Cueing:

  • Simplicity: Employ clear language, like “draw your navel towards your spine” to cue transversus abdominis engagement.

  • Imagery: Use imagery such as visualising “a corset cinching around your waist” to evoke a deeper understanding.

Visual Cueing:

  • Demonstration: Offer precise demonstrations to visually guide practitioners.

Tactile Cueing:

  • Guided Touch: With permission, provide tactile feedback to aid in alignment and muscle engagement.

Proprioceptive Cueing:

  • Resistance: Utilise resistance equipment such as therabands to enhance proprioceptive awareness and core engagement.

Adaptation in Cueing: Traditionally in Pilates, cueing often involved a dual focus: drawing the navel to the spine and engaging the pelvic floor simultaneously to foster robust core engagement. However, research in the late 1990s brought forth a nuanced understanding, suggesting that cueing these engagements one at a time could be more effective. It was observed that there is a natural co-contraction between the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor, which can be encouraged more naturally by cueing one and not the other. This insight helped in evolving the cueing techniques to ensure a balanced core activation without over-contracting the muscles, thereby aligning the practice with a deeper anatomical understanding.

For individuals with a dominant rectus abdominis due to fitness-type abdominal work, cueing the pelvic floor engagement can often be more effective. This ensures a balanced core activation, allowing the transversus abdominis to engage without the over-dominance of the rectus abdominis, thereby promoting a more balanced and effective core engagement. Continuous Learning:

Cueing is a nuanced skill that evolves with experience, feedback, and continuous learning. Engage in workshops, learn from peers, and stay abreast with the latest research to refine your cueing techniques, ensuring they resonate with the anatomical and functional demands of each Pilates movement.

Conclusion:

Masterful cueing for core engagement is a hallmark of proficient Pilates teaching. As we refine our cueing techniques and deepen our understanding of the core's pivotal role, we empower our practitioners to explore the breadth and depth of Pilates with a strong, stable centre, fostering a transformative journey towards enhanced posture, movement efficiency, and body awareness.

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Jennifer Grumbley
Jennifer Grumbley
Nov 03, 2023

Re: Inner Core

A feedback mechanism I find useful, to identify whether you are engaging your (pelvic floor) transversus abdominis. Place your fingers on your hipbones- the ones pointing up to the ceiling. Then slide your fingers inside your hip bone, pressing down into the muscles inside your hip bone. Then pull in your abdominals (TA) x 2. Do you feel the muscles contracting under your fingers? Keep the fingers there, and now pull up your pelvic floor muscles X 2. Do you feel the same muscles contracting? Don’t worry if you can’t feel your PF muscles: you will eventually become aware of them, as you should find the same contraction happening under your fingers: it’s a co-contraction betw…

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