Our core muscles are deep stabilising muscles that provide a strong foundation to all movement in our bodies. The foundation core muscles include the Transversus Abdominus and Pelvic Floor Muscles. These work with the abdominal and back muscles to stabilise and support the spine. Sitting at a desk all day or repetitious movement can cause weakness to these core muscles, which in turn leads to muscle imbalance and injury as the spine and key postural muscles are unsupported.
The Transversus Abdominus (TA) Muscle is located in the lower abdominal region, deep beneath the visible abdominal muscles. It wraps around the mid-section like a corset, starting and ending in the lumbar spine in the lower back. This enables the TA to stabilise the lower back and core muscles and as a bonus it will flatten the abdominal wall when activated, giving a nice flat tummy. Indicators of a weak TA include lower back pain, a bulge in the abdominal wall and forward rotation of the pelvis, causing an excessive inward curve of the lower spine (lordosis).
The Pelvic Floor Muscles span the bottom of the pelvis from the tailbone (coccyx) to the pubic bone (front to back) and from one sit bone to the other (side to side). These support the internal pelvic organs, providing greater bladder & bowel control. When these muscles are weak there is often back pain and loss of bladder control.
When doing Pilates, we refer to the combination of the Transversus Abdominus and Pelvic Floor muscles as the ‘T-Zone’, so named for the image of a T-shape that we draw across the hips and down to the pelvis as we focus on this region.
In addition to the T-Zone, the Gluteal and Abdominal Muscle Groups are key to the stabilisation of our centre. While there are large and obvious muscles in these groups that all would be familiar with, it is often weakness in the smaller, less utilised muscles such as the Gluteus Medius, Minimus and Psoas that cause imbalance and injury, reduce effectiveness of movement and hinder endurance. It is for this reason that we focus on and isolate some of the smaller muscles in a number of Pilates exercises, such as the Clam series.