The words “tighten,” “engage,” or “activate your core” are a regular part of a Smart Barre and Pilates class. But do you really understand what your instructor means? If you think “core” is interchangeable with “abs,” you aren’t alone. Many think “engage your core” equates to “suck in your belly.” While it’s true that your abs and obliques are part of the equation, your core encompasses so much more. All the deep muscles that attach to the spine and pelvis make up your core, including your hips and lower back. And while a tight, toned tummy is a happy bonus, core work isn’t just about getting that “six-pack.” It’s about functional fitness. Walking, picking up your children, carrying your groceries, exercising, or even sitting behind a desk all day rely on a strong, solid core. Without it, lower back pain, poor posture, and other issues may occur, especially as you get older. An article on ideafit.com states, “Pilates research findings reinforce claims that Pilates is effective training for healthy aging, as it addresses specific needs like fostering functional independence, reducing fall risks, and maintaining bone density and cognitive fitness.”
Our goal at Smart Barre and Pilates is to help you lead your best life both in and out of the studio. Our fitness experts carefully and intentionally design our classes to help you strengthen, lengthen and tone your entire body, emphasizing the deep core muscles. In a typical 45-minute Power Pilates class, you can expect at least 8-10 minutes of concentrated center core and oblique movements, but it doesn’t stop there. Your core is still hard at work even when you aren’t executing a plank to pike or twisted elevated crunch. Every exercise on the SmartFormer, from Side Lunge to Skater and Serve The Platter, requires some serious core stabilization to help you control the movements, maintain your balance, and protect your lower back from injury. The same is true for our Smart Barre classes, where your core keeps your body in proper alignment while you move through the targeted shaping and sculpting exercises like Smart Curtsey or Smart Curls.
A strong core is one of your best lines of defense when it comes to aging, as it reduces your risk of injury from falls or strained muscles as you go about your daily activities. The best part? It’s never too late to start reaping the benefits! Join one of our Smart Barre & Pilates classes and learn how we can help you build your core muscles and your confidence. It isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it! Click here for our intro specials and check out our Instagram for Form Fridays where we offer video tutorials on some of our favorite core strengthening and total body toning moves. See you in the studios!
Plank Like a Pro to Strengthen Your Core Between Classes
Did you know you can work on your core strength in between your favorite studio classes? The plank is one of our favorite and most effective “do anywhere” core exercises that use only your body weight.
First, lie on your tummy and place your hands on the ground underneath your shoulders. Next, lift your body off the floor with your shoulders aligned with your elbows and wrists, and your belly button pulled up towards your spine. Direct your gaze a few inches in front of your face to keep the spine neutral, and engage your quads and glutes to keep the hips level. Finally, breathe deeply, inhaling and exhaling as you hold the position for 20, 30, or 60 seconds.
Once you’ve mastered the form and can hold it correctly for 60 seconds, take it up a notch by incorporating variations like single arm or leg extensions, knee drops, or shoulder taps. With regular practice, you’ll be planking like a pro in no time!