Pilates is NOT, thankfully, a core workout!
Every couple of years we seem to get a whole new set of rather fashionable words which everyone in the know “must” use. Otherwise you risk not being “in”. So sometimes when a possible client calls in and says: “well, I would like to strengthen my core” my eyes roll back, high pressure steam comes out of my ears and I sort of turn a shade of purple… what a STUPID word to use… and what a way to totally miss what Pilates is. Well, at least in my view… which is, of course, 20/20.
First of all the word is some what misused; like when talking about the Sun or the Earth, core refers to their very physical center, not unlike that of an apple, which shares with human beings the fact that their core is also rather inedible: guts, left over food and shit (sorry I couldn’t help myself: my humor genes are obviously defective) Your stomach muscles are way closer to your surface.
Secondly, and way more important (and less obnoxious from my part), to say that “Pilates is a core workout” is not only a pathetic marketing line, but it is highly inaccurate, denotes no knowledge of the method and best of all, THANKFULLY, is not true. But hey, it is fashionable!! can’t help but use the word, can’t you? Like the ones who use the “in 30 sessions you will have a new body” and, ehem, ehem, did they deliver?
Is like saying that cooking is just about chopping ingredients, music is playing scales, getting married is only for making children… we do use our stomachs, back and all hip area muscles but to equal that use with stating that using the core is the idea behind the method is simply atrocious. Is like throwing away 98% of the method. Yes at least 98% -if you push me 99%- of the method is annihilated: you are supposed to start by using your Powerhouse but to perform something else, the majority of the exercises are there for something else than the damn stomach muscles. If you are only going to concentrate on that moment of initiating with the Powerhouse, well, you are turning the ignition on and going NOWHERE. Like the exercise in the picture: you are going to need strong arms and legs, no amount of “core” alone is going to get you there, in fact, to strong a “core” will only get in the way…
Core workouts, especially when done without other kinds of exercises/movements to counter their abuse, are BAD for you. They throw you totally out of balance ( a part of the body is way more developed than the rest) with all the problems that that creates. And if you succeed in creating a mighty “core” your back probably wont be very happy about it. They don’t actually promote movement and length, like the stability ball, they work the person by holding rather than by moving them. (Hence Pilates on the Ball is akin to Skating On Buckets) Yes Pilates strengthens the torso muscles but for their UTILITY not as an end on itself, and yes at the beginning most people usually need to make up for years of disuse and concentrate a little extra on them, but why service a car if you don’t intend to use it?
Sure you can do just the Pilates exercises that relate to a particular part of the body and even perform them on a Ball, with a Stick, hell, as you walk your dog too! (Walking the Dog Pilates, watch out for that one…) but Pilates is above all “movement” and it does its magic through movement and it tries to move absolutely the whole body. Including the so called “core” moves. And that is not to say at all that working on the ball is bad, boring, not useful or that is doesn’t produce results… IT does. But we are all drifting away from the CORE of Pilates: MOVEMENT. After almost 30 years doing it and more than 10000 teaching it I can attest to this: the best that Pilates has to offer happens when the client moves for the sake of movement itself. Even when performed wrong.
Some people equate it to the Powerhouse but In Pilates/Contrology the Powerhouse actually expands further than the stomach muscles so again not really applicable or the word “core” means a lot of different things to different people. I personally prefer “center” since it is rather undefined and it makes the individual focus on what he is trying to achieve rather than with what he is achieving it. We are building bodies which work as a unity, any dismemberment that goes beyond a simple momentary realization of how the body works is not only maybe a waste of time it doesn’t produce what we are looking for. Fabulous use of the body.
But we got to sell and the word is short, sexy and SO nice to pronounce: COOOOORE… but while it seems a good idea to actually use it to “sell” Pilates it is inaccurate, unhealthy and will eventually only bring harm to the method because core work outs are not that good for you and when people will realize that then you will have to pay the price of having used the term.
Together with a whole bunch of definitions such as integration, dynamic alignment, core stability, propioception, pelvic floor, closed/open chains, etc… core is one of those many “labels” that create a pseudo intellectual picture -though distorted- of Pilates, which in short is more based on “get with it” and then talk about it -if you must- than on trying to place every in pigeon boxes. All this terms, which mediocre trainers can’t help but overuse (and often not even really understand) in their quest for professional appreciation, and all the name dropping in the world won’t really make your client move better or even move at all. You may impress quite a few of them, but maybe the time is better spent doing something else and is it really our job? Is Pilates Trainer such a lowly profession that we need to pump our status in front of the clients so much? Well, on the other side of the spectrum, I like pimping my clients bodies… and won’t call myself a “Body Tuner”… after all my clients come to get stronger, longer and leaner, mean little machines, not to get smarter… maybe I have really weird clients…
Know-how is the new gold, if I know something you do not know you may be ready to part with your ca$h in order to acquire it. So everyone will try to come up with “new” stuff so they have something to sell that others don’t have and MUST acquire, lest they want to burn in the fires of “Not In The Know” hell. People will go to all lengths to “create” new stuff and if one doesn’t take care one can end up paying good money to learn how to walk again!! Though it most probably won’t be called that way, it would just be a tad boring, don’t you think? Human Horizontal Translation Techniques, otherwise know as HHTT, sounds so much better.
This people will turn a simple spoon into a Soup Transfer Device and proceed to sell you a course on their use: how to Safely Perform Liquid Transfer and Ingestion of Hot/Cold Liquids.
Stop using the core of your torso (the stuff you usually get rid of) and start using the core of your skull.