What Your Pilates Instructor May Be (Inadvertently) Doing Wrong

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Deep Core Series – Part 2

Here at Making Mom Strong, we are dedicated to bringing you accurate information about your body, your muscles and postpartum abdominal exercises that are effective and safe.  This is not super trendy – but hopefully this more accurate way of approaching your core muscles (research based!) will be known by everyone world wide one day.

This blog is part of our mission to help women get back to the life they love after having babies.


Please don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Pilates!  This is not a post against Pilates in any way.  But, we do have a useful lesson involving Pilates instructors.

First…congratulations on spending the last two weeks finding and waking up your deep core! 

I know it can be hard and you may not have felt successful, but keep practicing and in a few weeks (yes, that’s right) you’ll have found it for sure.  (If not, find a physical therapist near you for hands on guidance).

Next, now that you can activate your deep core, you’re going to start making sure you’re hitting a key point for success- proper use of your abdominal and pelvic pressure systems.  When your core muscles engage, you should be gently drawing up and in (which is very different than sucking in your belly), making sure that you’re not bearing down at all.  If you’re gently drawing up your pelvis and body will feel more supported, you’ll get stronger, your abs will get flatter. In contrast, when you bear down into your pelvic floor you increase pressure on all your pelvic organs which can lead to prolapse and incontinence. This can be a hard thing to understand, so think of it like this…

Your core is like a tube of toothpaste, working hard to keep everything contained.  Squeeze it from the bottom up and all your insides stay right where they should be.  Squeeze it from the top down and all your insides come out the bottom.  Simple as that.  And I KNOW you don’t want that.

So let’s make sure you’re REALLY doing it right.

  • Lie on your back, rest your hands on your ribs, and engage your deep core.  You should feel that your ribs stay relaxed and that you can continue to take deep breaths while keeping your core on.  This is often one of the hardest things, so just keep practicing.
  • Why does it matter?  If you’re ribs and upper abs are tightening down you are squeezing the top of the tube of toothpaste, putting too much pressure on your pelvic organs and your pelvic floor muscles. We call this chest gripping, and you can read all about it in our blog “Are You a Butt Gripper or a Chest Gripper?”.
  • Then practice in different positions (sitting, lying, standing). Engage your deep core and make sure that you sense your pelvic floor lifting up into your body (small motion here ladies).  Also make sure you do not feel any downward pressure in your pelvis or vagina. Then make sure you can still breathe at the same time, and don’t be surprised if it’s hard for you to do.

It’s that simple!  Engage, Lift, Breathe.



If you’re having a hard time lifting as you engage your core as opposed to pushing/bearing down,  you’re not alone. Here is a video of the founder of Polestar Pilates, doing ultrasound on the core muscles of his Pilates instructors at a national convention, and finding that about half of them actually bear down on their pelvic floor with core activation (watch what happens to the bladder, yikes!!). This video can help us all understand that sometimes it’s harder to properly activate the deep core than we think.

If you’re already doing a regular pilates program and realizing that you may have been improperly activating your core, or you’re just starting back to pilates and want to progress yourself safely, Jen has created a video for you. Click HERE to watch it now.

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Pilates or not, your challenge this week is tune in and make sure that your core is lifting when you’re using it, which may be easier said than done. You’re having specific problems or real trouble with this, let us know in the comments and we can help you.

If you love this info, share it with your friends!

Stay tuned next week for the next step in deep core training and some real exercises.




Click here to read Deep Core Part 3!



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