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Clinical Pilates: Modified for Everyone!

Clinical Pilates is a form of “trunk” control training most of us call “core stability”, not “core strengthening”. The difference between these two terms is often missed in the health and fitness world, or sometimes the terms get mixed up, which is confusing.

Trunk control retraining involves working and co-ordinating our deep “controlling” muscles in a sub-maximal way (not trying as hard as you can!) whilst controlling the movement of the spine and the rest of the body. This means you can control and use your body better when doing functional tasks, such as sitting at your desk or walking around the shops – tasks that often aggravate back pain.

The ‘core’ itself is made up of a canister of 4 muscles; your diaphragm (breathing muscle), transversusabdominus(lower abdominal muscle like a corset), multifidus (deep back muscle linking between each back bone) and the pelvic floor (muscles thatcontrol spending a penny!) When these muscles co-ordinate together you can learn to move your spine beautifully at each back bone level and the muscles that move our hips and shoulders can work from a controlled foundation. Think about the ‘Strictly’ dancers whose spines and bodies move like snakes – they are not bracing their tummy muscles, they are using their core stability to have beautifully controlled, flowing movements! Unfortunately when we have had pain or injuries, how we use the muscles of our trunk gets altered and often causes ongoing problems

Bracing your tummy and back is good for quick, heavy load tasks, such as putting suitcases in a car. Techniques like sucking in your tummy muscles or drawing your tummy button to your spine don’t switch on your ‘core’. They actually switch on the upper abdominals which are not involved in stabilising your spine. This bracing strategy is one most people get taught in classes or by trainers and is more of a core strengthening technique. When bracing, you create a rigid spine, hold your breath and push down through your pelvic floor. This is not holding your ‘canister’ of your core and won’t improve your back pain. It also puts pressure on your pelvic floor and can lead to incontinence.

So, Clinical Pilates is a technique that involves “engaging” your deep controlling muscles gently (not braced), whilst you control the movement of your spine, arms or legs or all together in a functional way. Oh, and you mustn’t forget to breath! The aim is to improve posture and movement by co-ordinating the right muscles to do the job at hand – not working all our muscles together to brace the body, which will make it more rigid and stiff.

Most people are amazed when they realise how subtle and low effort ‘engaging’ their deep muscles. We are targeting our Type I muscle fibres which are the ‘marathon’ type ones. These fibres work slower and with less force than the Type II ‘sprinter’ muscle fibres but in theory can go on working like a Duracell battery! That is why we don’t try too hard or you end up bracing!

Clinical Pilates is suitable for everybody and the benefits of doing it are countless. You can increase mobility, flexibility and control of your body. It can aid relaxation and stress relief. It can reduce back pain and neck / shoulder pain. It can make you move better and improve your balance. You can only achieve these things if you are doing it right and are taught correctly. Clinical Pilates can be adapted to suit any age, ability, size or shape. It is not dependent on how thin you are!

An initial one to one session with your instructor is vital before attending a class. They should assess how your body moves and works, then teach you how to engage your core correctly – the first step in learning to move your body better. Not everyone is ready for class immediately. Sometimes it takes a few weeks to locate your deep muscles and build a little endurance to last a full hour class. If you aren’t doing it right you may be putting yourself at risk of injury or worsening back pain. Bad technique is the biggest reason why people don’t notice any benefits from Pilates.

At QuayPhysio we keep classes small (maximum of 7 people). This ensures you get heaps of individual attention and do it properly. Therefore you get the benefits. 100% of people attending classes at QuayPhysio feel a benefit in their body.

Pilates is technical. With so many things to remember it can initially be off putting. Give it time. To do it well takes months and cannot be achieved in one or two sessions. Think of it as an investment in your body. By doing it once a week you will notice a difference in how your body feels and possibly looks. Do a little bit every day and the results can be staggering.

To make an appointment for an initial one to one assessment today, call us on 01548 852355, email info@quayphysio.co.uk or pop in! What are you waiting for?!?……

Victoria Rendle

About Victoria Rendle

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