Monday, November 21, 2011

Pilates and understanding Pilates


Human Movement is a graceful, perpetual spontaneous movement that should have the freedom to express. Our body is made to perform continuous movement for survival and locomotion. Pilates is one of the body conditioning techniques that amplifies and reinforces this continuous movement with grace. This technique was developed by Joseph Pilates during the First World War. He continued to enhance and refine the system over the next 50 years until his death in 1967. These exercises consist of over 500 stretching and strengthening exercises. There are few principles that are followed when executing Pilate’s based exercises. They are unique in its own sense but integrate with each other to create a mind and body awareness. The principles of centring, precision, lateral breathing, flow and focus form the base of this body conditioning technique [3,4]. Pilates in comparison to traditional weight training focuses on the powerhouse (the core). Here the core defined is the intricate muscles that support the spine, specifically, the lower back. These exercises help in lengthening and strengthening the muscles of the spine. The exercise focuses on core stabilization that strengthens the centre of the trunk and with progression making it more dynamic that minimises any unwanted movement in the core.

Modernization is the number one culprit in creating imbalances in our body; these imbalances are further reinforced by our sedentary lifestyle. Our body has a neutral alignment that enables us to execute optimum movement in our day to day activities that requires the activation of the core. So an efficient movement in the extremities and with maximal strength would require the proximal attachment to be fixed or stabilized. However, the neutral alignment gets restructured and creates imbalances in our body. A weak core will result in the body not being stabilized in a movement and the quality of the movement in the distal body part will be compromised and damage will occur proximally as well.  As a result, the movement affecting the extremities will generate greater movement at the proximal attachment. Specifically, the spine will suffer from wear and tear that can lead to increased stress upon the joints and concomitant degeneration of the spinal joints [3,4]. Increase in the curvature of the spine will result in the spine being less efficient in bearing the weight of the body. The apexes in the increased spine curvature would experience more stress and turn into the weaker points in the chain of vertebrae, eventually, leading into degeneration of the spinal column [3,4]. Proprioception forms an interactive link between the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, inhibition of these deep propioception because of pain or habit could lead to compensation in movement pattern. This results in slowing down the process of healing because of unproductive biomechanics. Pilates works on retraining and this assists in improving movement patterns. Pilates involve close chain kinetic exercises that may provide the necessary compressive and decompressive forces to foster nutrition to joints [5].

The change in neutral alignment depends upon the position of the pelvis. Pelvis movement will occur with relation to the movement of the spine and in relation to the thighs. Muscle that attaches from the trunk move the pelvis at the lumbosacral joint and the muscles arising from the lower extremity attaches the pelvis at the hip joint. The position of the pelvis will basically determine the posture of the spine. Anatomically, the spine sits on the base of the sacrum and any change in the pelvis will cause a change in the spine. The spine has to then compensate for the pelvis that is out of alignment, this eventually increases or decreases the curvature of the spine [3].




Lengthening affect of Pilates

Pilates focuses on addressing the musculature around the pelvis region, it focuses on lengthening the spine. Lengthening of the spine results when an individual stands taller and the spine is free of any compressive forces on the joints. Regular Pilates based exercises helps in attaining a neutral pelvis and this change will affect the change in the lumbar curvature. Execution of Pilates based exercise requires an individual to tuck his/her belly in. This automatically creates a lengthening affect in the body. A tight lower back region will be stretched with hip mobility and core stability movement this will eventually affect the curvature of the lumbar and invariably have an effect on the thoracic curvature. This is because of the multiarticulation process on the spinal column [3,4]. Additionally, Pilates’s improves the structural integrity of the abdominal muscles. The strengthening of the multifidus, transverse abdominis and the perineal muscles are important in stabilising the spine [2,3,4].

Does it change body composition and increase lean mass?
Pilates are closed chain kinetic exercises that incorporate the activation of all major muscle groups and could be used in rehabilitation. Research has suggested that Pilates improve truncal (core) flexibility and they didn’t find any changes in LBM (lean body mass) and any body composition change. A one hour session per week resulted in a significant improvement in flexibility [2]. It could be sensible to include Pilates once or twice in a week to improve flexibility and assist in the lengthening affect of Pilates. They could be supplemented in a weight training program to improve the overall dynamics of an Exercise program.

References
[1] Bernardo, L. (2007). The effectiveness of Pilates training in healthy adults: An appraisal of the research literature, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 11, 106 – 110.

[2] Cullingan, P.J., Scherer, J., Dyer, K., Priestley, J.L., Guingon-White, G., Delvecchio, D. & Vangeli, M. (2010). A randomized clinical trial comparing pelvic floor muscle training to a Pilates exercise program for improving pelvic muscle strength, International Urogynecol Journal, 21, 401 – 408.

[2] Herrington, L & Davies, R.(2005),  The influence of Pilates training on the ability to
contract the Transversus Abdominis muscle in asymptomatic individuals, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 9, 52 – 57.

[3] I.Jeffrey. (2002). Developing a Progressive Core Stability Program. National Strength & Conditioning Association, 24, 65-66.
[4] Muscolino, J.E; Cipriani, S (2004).  Pilates and the ‘‘powerhouse’’ – I, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 8, 15 -24.

[5] Muscolino, J.E; Cipriani, S (2004).  Pilates and the ‘‘powerhouse’’ – I, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 8, 122 -130.

[6]  Segal, N.A.; Hein, J; Basford, J.R. (2004). The Effects of Pilates Training on Flexibility and Body Composition: An Observational Study, Arch Phys Med Rehabilitation, 85, 1977 – 1981.

[7]  Sekendiz, B., Altun, O; Korkusuz, F. & Akin, S. (2007). Effects of Pilates exercise on trunk strength,
endurance and flexibility in sedentary adult females, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 11, 318-326.

[8] W.B.Kibler; J.Press & A. Sciascia. (2006). The Role of Core Stability in Athletic Function. Sports Medicine, 36, 189-198.


Frank Mapranny,
Fitness Head,
Your Fitness Club



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