“Strengthen your core,” what does this really mean? We hear this phrase all the time, yet seem to have very little understanding of its practical use. After thirty years in the fitness industry and seventeen devoted to studying and teaching Pilates, I think it’s about time to make sense of the core – or – to make sense of the core as our floor.

So we ask, what is considered “the core”?  When I say “core”, I am not referring to those of you lucky enough to have a “six pack”, even though it looks good on the surface, there are no guarantee that you have a strong core.  When you hear the phrase, strengthen your core, it doesn’t refer to the six packs, it actually refers to a muscle that gets very little credit: the transverse abdominus (TA). TA, as I will refer to it, is actually the most important “core” muscle you have! It is the only cylindrical muscle in your body which means, it wraps around you like a girdle or a tube sock. TA begins at the bottom of the ribs and ends at the top of the pubic bone.  TA is very deep, very large and very difficult to access.  It’s the very first layer of muscle tissue just beyond your organs and it’s designed to keep everything inside of it strong and in check, including and most importantly, your spine/vertebrae. Obviously there are other muscles that comprise “the core”, like the six packs, but when strengthening the core, TA should be the starting point, and strengthening the other muscles that comprise the core secondary.

Your core is your center, your arms and legs require the engagement of your core for every move they make.  When TA is strong, every day body movements are supported from TA.  The problem with TA is this: because it’s so deep, large and thick, it’s a very difficult muscle to access and activate and the standard crunch won’t even touch it. TA requires love and care to reach and engage it properly.  There are many ways to trick the TA into engaging, and one of the many ways to do that is to engage the inner thighs. Pilates teaches us how to access and engage TA and all other layers of core muscle as well as the entire body. If your arms and legs are moving then your core should be strong and engaged.  I tell my clients to think of their core as their floor, because much like standing on a stable floor, the stronger your core, the better balance, posture, strength, and tone you will achieve.

After years of teaching Pilates and strengthening cores all over the North Shore, the results I’ve seen are astounding! I’ve seen people go from not being able to stand up straight, to growing an inch at their next doctor’s appointment due to change in posture. I’ve seen bodies transform and I’ve seen clients riddled with back pain for years become completely pain free.

Pilates will change your core strength, your posture, your tone and your body, but most of all, YOUR core will become YOUR very strong floor!!

Originally published on

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