Every month at Via Pilates we try to have a theme or focus...for our instructors, for our clients, and so we can tailor our group semi-private sessions. With "sharing knowledge" as one of our core values, helping clients understand their bodies beyond simply how to perform a Pilates exercise is an essential part of the Via Pilates method.
The four parts of the "inner unit" - also called the powerhouse - the deep core muscles that together help support the spine, are:
The transverse abdominis
The pelvic floor
The "outer unit" of the core, made up of the internal and external obliques, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, glutes, quadratus lumborum, thigh adductors and hamstrings, is what helps you move, flex, extend and twist the spine. To have good functional strength and movement, both the inner and outer unit to work well together. If your inner unit isn’t working efficiently, you are more likely to lack segmental control and stabilization of the spine, even if your outer unit is strong.
Issues with the inner unit often show up as the abs "popping" out during supine exercises like chest lift, or sensations of needing to urgently use the restroom during a roll down. Abs "popping," for example, is often a demonstration of the inner unit not functioning as it should, and can be an issue of a client "bracing" the spine (due to a history of back pain, etc.) which actually inhibits rather than supports proper movement of the outer unit.
Foundational Pilates exercises like marching, toe taps, opposite arm/leg reach, dead bug and others which focus on pelvic and spinal stabilization - when combined with proper breathing focus and movement timing - can help properly train the inner unit. If you've noticed any of the above-mentioned issues during your workouts, check with your instructor to find out if you need to spend some time focusing on your "powerhouse."