Now, even though we work essentially at joint level, of course we cannot ignore the muscles. No matter their size and function, they all need love and attention. And Pilates is dedicated to them all. But the ‘big guns’ as I like to call them, those that lie just below the skin, such as our quads in our legs, our biceps on our arms and our abs usually often demand our attention the most, like a confident child. Whilst our deep pelvic floor muscles tend to be sitting quietly in a corner…
When we talk about the abdominals people usually think of the 6 pack muscle – this big muscles is our Rectus Abdominus, the paired abdominal muscle that runs down your front. It’s doing the very important job of defying gravity and holding you upright. So, when we work it and with it the deeper muscles below, in exercises such as the Curl Up, we are essentially working with the mobilisation of the spine, to help aid your posture, keeping you beautifully aligned and upright in sitting and standing. Not aiming for a flat tummy.
So, let’s just break down that Curl Up…
AIM: To mobilise the cervical spine
Starting position: Relaxation position with your neutral pelvis and spine, feet planted firmly on the floor, hands behind the head in a ‘hammock’ of support
First movement: Inhale, and as you exhale engage the deep lower abdominals and slide the head back along the floor and take a small chin tuck – leave room for your Christmas satsuma to avoid over flexing the neck – and slowly wheel the spine up off the mat. Allow the upper Abdominals to react rather than clench which will stop you being able to move!
How far do I go?
Your pelvis will want to tilt here out of neutral, tilting the lower spine upwards to trick you into thinking you are going further at the top end – resist! Keep that pelvis heavy and neutral. Go as far as you can before you feel you want to move the pelvis – and hey presto, you are working the upper Rectus Abdominus to lift the top of your off the floor!
And then what?
Take a breath in and slowing return the spine, one vertebrae at a time to the mat, before repeating.
So…just working the Rectus Abdominus then??
Well, of course not. It is essential that you engage the pelvic floor, with all that downward pressure as you lift the body. You are working all those muscles to keep you stable in the pelvis and legs, to maximise efficient movement at the top end.
And remember, it is definitely not a sit up!
Remember: These instructions are to read and to support your Pilates in a qualified teacher led class environment. If you are practising at home remember no exercise should be undertaken without clearance from your medical practitioner.