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Why is clinical Pilates so effective?

Published: 15 January 2018 - Injury Treatment and Prevention

Image of female doing Pilates

What is Clinical Pilates?

Pilates is a special method of exercise that focuses attention on the core postural muscles which help keep the human body balanced and provide support for the spine. The method was developed by Josef Pilates in the early 1900s to assist dancers in their performance by improving their muscle balance, flexibility and coordination. He also found it very useful in the rehabilitation and prevention of injuries.

Pilates exercises teach awareness of optimal alignment of the spine and strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles. The exercises integrate whole-body movement, postural alignment, breathing control, coordination and spinal stability. They are performed on the floor, physio-ball, Pilates roller or Pilates reformer.

Further reading: Pilates classes and clinical Pilates at Back In Motion

What is the difference between Clinical Pilates and gym-based Pilates?

In gym-based Pilates usually all participants are instructed to perform the same regime of exercises together, without tailoring to the needs of each class member. Clinical Pilates is conducted by a qualified health professional (ie. physiotherapist) and involves a tailored and individualised program based on specific assessment findings and goals. As clients improve, the intensity (complexity of movement and resistance) of their program is safely progressed.

Further reading: The difference between Pilates and clinical Pilates

What are core muscles?

Core stability is mentioned frequently in gym and Pilates programs. Previously core muscle training involved strengthening of the global muscles; the large abdominals (six-pack muscles), obliques and erector spinae muscles (large rod-like muscles either side of your spine). However, more recently research has shown that it is the deeper abdominal and spinal muscles that provide stabilisation to the spine. The global and the deeper muscles must work together to protect the spine from injury.

Image of multifidus muscle and transversus abs

Core stability refers to muscular control around the lower back/hip/pelvic region. In the past it was believed these muscles needed to be strengthened to provide stability. However, strength is not the only, nor the most important quality of these muscles. Correct activation, isolation and endurance of these muscles is much more important.

The most important core muscles are transversus abdominis (TA), multifidus and the deep neck flexors (see picture, right). 

Why are the core muscles important?

Evidence has shown that just one episode of back or neck pain inhibits (switches off) the core muscles. These muscles lose strength and activation and therefore fail to provide adequate core support to the spine. Without support from these core muscles the spine is vulnerable to further injury.

What do I wear to Pilates?

To ensure you are comfortable during your clinical Pilates sessions, you should wear something loose fitting and easy to move in as well as socks for health and safety purposes.

Find your local Back In Motion to book your Free Initial Pilates assessment today!


Sophie Woodhouse, Physiotherapist at Back In Motion Camberwell

Images courtesy: Healthwise Incorporated