Pilates draws in lots of interest from newbies because they’ve heard it’s a fantastic way to train their core—and having a strong core is key for eliminating low back pain and flattening your abdominals.
What many don’t realize is that there are several core muscles in the human body. There’s the abdominal core, which has five commonly recognized lumbo-pelvic core muscles: diaphragm, psoas, multifidi, pelvic floor and transverse abdominis. Additionally, your shoulder has core muscles, your knees, as well as your hips and every single joint in your body.
Core muscles are your body’s whisper muscles. These are the muscles located deepest in the joint and fire in an anticipatory response to movement. They ensure the joint flows through a neutral range of motion, whichever direction you are moving. To some degree, they are firing all the time. We call them whisper muscles because the sensation is very subtle and quiet.
They are quite different than other muscles more commonly recognized such as your glutes, lats, biceps and hamstrings. These larger muscles work more to move a joint, rather than stabilize it. They produce a strong sensation that you can obviously feel when they fire, so we call them yelling muscles.
Because you r whisper muscles work differently than your yelling muscles, training them is different as well. Typically these muscles are best activated in low loads, using a closed kinetic chain (meaning your hands or feet are touching something) and slow movements with a proprioceptive challenge (think balance).
Look for a Pilates instructor who understands that muscles feel and behave different depending on their role in mobility or stability. At your first session, be sure to check your expectations at the door—you’re workout will likely be different than the traditional, high-intensity, sweat-fest you may be used to.