Look at this hilarious video to show what unsustainable “stabilisation” is (this may look like it has nothing to do with Pilates, but it has everything to do with applied Pilates):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJCLKenykco

We often see people who have been doing Pilates, but not been getting the benefits, due to missing the point and not doing it correctly.

Our stabilising muscles should work at 10-30% of (MVC) Maximum Voluntary Capacity – not at 70-100%!  The 70-100% MVC work is meant for our movers like Biceps, Triceps and Rectus Abdominus (our sit-up muscle).  Our stabilisers are our “Comrades muscles”, our slow twitch, endurance muscles that fire gently in the background all day long to protect our joints and help us to maintain optimal posture. The stabilisers help to keep our joints centred in the mid zone and prevent the mover muscles and/or gravity from pulling our joints out of ideal alignment. In this way our stabilising muscles protect us from injury.

Muscle sequencing is important.  Our stabilisers should contract split-seconds before our movers for any movement.  If that is not happening one is at a higher risk of injury.  If people overdo these stabilising contractions it is not only unsustainable and exhausting (like the tuna-girl in the video), but it also leads to a range of other problems.

Francie Bührmann and Mandy Marsden went on a very informative Lower Back Pain course by the well known Australian researcher, Paul Hodges.  They did research with ultrasound video technology to learn what one sees and feels from the outside when a patient stabilises with Transversus Abdominus before Internal Oblique Abdominus.  We really honed our skills in teaching muscles sequencing correctly.

It is also important to integrate correct gentle stabilising into more complex movement.  One should not become rigid and robot-like in ones movements.  One should be stable and strong, but totally free at the same time.

It is best to learn to use these muscles correctly with individual/one-on-one teaching by an experienced physiotherapist. If you have a motor-control problem you can often learn to use your muscles correctly within 24-48 hours and then you can apply these principles straight away in activities of your daily life.  If the problem is lack of strength you might have to work a bit harder at it!

We offer Pilates classes at our Physio Active practice where you could continue practising if necessary. We also work closely with very experienced Pilates teachers to whom we can recommend you.